How to Beat Your Fear of Failure

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They key is to try. Just keep trying.

I want so much to know God better; to become more organized; to practice healthier habits; and to keeping moving steadily toward my future goals.

I am also so very afraid.

Much like everyone else on this planet, I have trouble maintaining momentum. I do really well for a few weeks, and then I realize that I haven’t exercised or written a blog post in days … and then weeks. Heck, I even follow a blog about how to write a good blog, and the author warned me about that very problem.

Because of my pride, I hate to acknowledge that I’m one of “those” people who sets a goal and then gets tired. As soon as my excitement and motivation wane, so do my efforts. Enter discouragement. Enter self-doubt. Enter fear.

Strange, isn’t it, that while engaged in trying, I don’t feel scared? The moment I stand still, I start to wonder about the future, imagining an endless series of false starts. Then I attempt to mask my sense of inadequacy with excuses. It’s not a big deal; I’m doing fine. That goal didn’t matter very much anyway. I’ll get better. I’m just stressed out today.

What if, instead of assuaging my guilt with meaningless self-talk, I chose to silence my worries by trying again? Push “play” on a workout video. Open a new tab. Channel the mental energy I’ve been wasting on shame into trying.

Suddenly I’m back in college, listening to my classmates fret about upcoming assignments instead of working on said assignments. I pleaded guilty to the same crime on many occasions. Almost always, opening a book calmed my fears enough to help me focus. Turns out trying is an instant morale boost.

Trying is an instant morale boost.

Not only do I forget my fears while trying, but I also stop obsessing about the outcome. Stuck in a state of nervous inactivity, I create elaborate plans about what I will accomplish once I finally [get motivated] or [get over this cold] or [get back from this trip] or [insert other excuses].  In the midst of trying, however, my goals automatically shrink to realistic sizes … and I don’t mind so much.

I am often surprised to discover that when I actually try instead of berating myself for not trying sooner, I start to enjoy the process. As much as we avoid work; as much as we complain about work; as much as we dread the work ahead of time; effort feels good.

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So don’t worry about the times you didn’t succeed in the past. Just try again. Simply by trying, you can let go of the shame of previous inconsistency, silence your inner critic, applaud the courage it took to try one more time — and there it is!

The elusive motivator you’ve been seeking.

Trying makes you want to try again.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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You Might Mess Up

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I have an embarrassing story to tell you.

The other day, I auditioned for a musical performance with a local theater company. I’m a decent singer and actor, so I figured I had a shot. Unfortunately, the show involved tap dancing, which I’d never attempted. Truthfully, I’m not a great dancer, but I gave it a try.

It was, simply put, an unequivocal disaster.

That tap audition reminded me of some very vivid and terrifying dreams from my past, in which I’m standing on an empty stage while an audience stares at me in silence, and I can’t remember any of my lines or even the name of my character. I made a fool of myself in front of a roomful of people, surrounded by mirrors, wearing the wrong shoes.

You don’t want to face the reality that you might fail. I know. Neither do I.

You don’t want to face the reality that you might fail.

I’ll admit that failure does feel pretty awful … for a little while. After that, you laugh.

Let’s take a brief look at my biggest mistakes: blowing things out of proportion. Getting way too worked up about small issues. Letting my emotions run amuck. Delaying out of fear and indecision. Speaking hastily; saying too much; snapping at someone who doesn’t deserve it; flinging cruel words at the people I love — I’ve done these and more.

Would I list my recent tap audition among those failures? No, probably not. In my experience, many of my most shameful mistakes occur because I dread some supposedly worse outcome. Ironically, my resistance to failure often becomes my greatest sin.

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

She greeted me, a nervous stranger, during the preview weekend for Colorado Christian University, before I became an official student. Her question made me uncomfortable.

“Um … I don’t know. Write a book, I guess.”

“So why don’t you write a book?”

“Um … I don’t know. It probably wouldn’t be any good.”

There it was: the fear. I didn’t want to begin because I might mess up.

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You will mess up. I wish that you and I could take a deep breath together, accept the inevitable mistakes that await us in the future, grieve for a moment, and then relax. You won’t gain anything by avoiding failure, but you could miss out on a lot of joy. Maybe you should ask yourself which would bother you more: messing up or missing out.

I’d hazard a guess that messing up won’t hurt as much as you think it will. Either way, since no one can avoid mistakes altogether, you might as well give yourself a break. That tap audition bruised my ego, sure, but my life didn’t end. Honestly, it’s empowering to discover that I can handle a little bit of failure. Plus, now I have an uncomfortably amusing anecdote to share.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Daniel Swanson Photography

How to Set Smaller Goals and Make More Progress

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I’m talking about ridiculously small goals … ones that feel so pathetically insignificant, you doubt that you’ll see any results at all.

Trust me. You will surprise yourself.

I had two problems: dishes piling up in the sink and laundry piling up on the floor. I wanted an empty sink and a clear carpet. Unfortunately, I also knew myself well enough not to attempt sudden, drastic improvements.

Instead, I set two goals that seemed embarrassingly easy: switch a load per day. For me, that meant moving dishes from the sink into the dishwasher and going to bed, not waiting for the cycle to finish. It meant transferring wet clothes into the dryer without worrying about folding. The next step could wait until tomorrow.

To my utter astonishment, within a few days, my sink emptied and my floor cleared. I didn’t procrastinate because my tiny goals didn’t feel daunting. As soon as I got home from work, I switched a load of dishes and switched a load of laundry.

It took about ten minutes, and my house became a much nicer place to live.

Not only did my baby steps turn into substantial progress, but I inadvertently tricked myself into becoming motivated. Since switching loads didn’t feel difficult, most nights I thought, “I could do a little more.” I’d spend a few extra minutes running upstairs to grab another armload of clothes or scrubbing a pot that didn’t fit in the dishwasher … because I wanted to keep working!

What sort of sorcery was this?

This probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but I discovered that most of my laziness stemmed from fear. I feared failure. By setting minuscule goals, I removed the intimidation factor, and suddenly I felt free to accomplish more. On the nights when I didn’t have the energy for anything extra, I went to sleep guilt-free because I had accomplished my minimum.

Most of my laziness stems from fear.

Here’s my advice: Choose a goal, and then divide it into pieces. Pick one piece, and start there. Maybe you want to get in shape. Instead of planning an hour-long workout, do sit-ups for five minutes before bed. Write 5 Minutes of Sit-Ups in your planner every day. It will feel silly. Do it anyway.

Little goals work better long-term because they’re so repeatable. Today, for instance, I’ll admit that there are dishes in the sink and laundry on the floor. I’m not overly discouraged, though, because I’ve seen how quickly small goals can become big progress–and I know I can do it again.

Start today with one small goal. When you lose the habit, start again. Don’t get discouraged. Over time, setting smaller goals will help you to develop confidence in your own ability to make lasting change. In my experience, that is the real victory.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

P.S. I’d love to hear how you break your goals into more manageable chunks!

Your Life Isn’t Boring

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I did not want to come home from Christmas vacation this year.

As my husband will attest, I grumped my way through long stretches of the thirteen-and-a-half hour drive through the snow from Deming, New Mexico to Littleton, Colorado. Going home meant returning to responsibility, which felt overwhelming. Dishes, laundry, cat litter, weary days at work, grocery shopping, lonely nights when my husband had to work late, and much-needed home repairs stretched before me with depressing certainty. I preferred to stay at his parents’ house, sleeping the mornings away and watching Christmas movies endlessly.

Then I actually got home.

Turns out, I missed my sweet kitties. It felt really good to exercise again. My stomach thanked me for a break from the rich food. I enjoyed my first days back at my job, and I discovered a fresh wave of motivation to get started on my goals for 2019. My husband even surprised me with Wicked tickets as an early anniversary gift, and then we watched a movie on the couch together.

So … what was I dreading, exactly?

Instead of boring, mundane, or difficult, my ordinary life turned out to be full of delightful moments. I loved my routines — even getting back to my own toothpaste made me smile. How had I forgotten so quickly? Feeling foolish, I found myself thanking God for this lovely life that I live.

My ordinary life turned out to be full of delightful moments.

Your life might not look anything like mine, but I’m guessing that you have plenty of reasons to appreciate your daily routines, too. Instead of complaining about tomorrow, maybe you could learn from my mistake and make up your mind to notice the little blessings. As I’m discovering, the day ahead is rarely as difficult as I imagine.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

5 Good Things About Today

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Tonight, my spirit wants to complain.

There are a couple of stressful areas of my life right now that I am trying to solve, and my natural self wants to obsess about those problems until I conquer them with pure willpower. If I’m honest, though, fixing those issues won’t make me happy because two equally urgent conundrums will instantly take their place. We live in a broken world surrounded by imperfect people, and while we should continue to take concrete steps toward progress, sometimes we need to take a break and count our blessings.

Here I go:

  1. Today I shared my commute with my dad.
  2. Today I laughed with my coworkers.
  3. Today I ate lunch with my husband.
  4. Today I discussed movie theme songs live on the radio.
  5. Today I drove home to a hot dinner waiting in the crock pot.

Sometimes we need to take a break and count our blessings.

You know what?

That actually sounds like a pretty good day.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

Tell Yourself Something True Today

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Today I feel overwhelmed by the apparent chaos in the political sphere.

Normally I don’t pay much attention to politics, other than the limited and heavily biased information that I glean from my coworkers, but I recently spent nearly an entire workday watching the live, televised streaming of a hearing before a Senate committee for a Supreme Court Justice nominee, and since then I have read countless headlines and innumerable strings of social media commentary, and I feel afraid.

I don’t know anything about the judicial system, but it appears to me that a man’s future is currently being determined, not by any sort of reasonable process, but by the uninformed opinions of millions of Americans like myself. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps justice will prevail. I hope so, whatever the truth may be. At the moment, though, my mind and body are faltering beneath the burden of uncertainty.

Probably I am behind the times, and you have been experiencing this oppressive, panicky feeling about our earthly system of government for years. Most likely I’m naive to argue, “Surely there’s a way to know who’s telling the truth. There must be!” All I know is that I need something to be true, absolutely. On my brief jog around the pond tonight, trying to calm my hectic thoughts, I searched for something undeniable — something unchangeable — to which I might cling for solace. Here’s what I came up with:

There is a God. He loves me.

I need something to be true, absolutely.

Those two statements remain true whether I believe them or not. Tomorrow I might change my mind about God’s character, but He would still love me. You might try to tell me God doesn’t exist, but you would be wrong. Some things are really, really true. Lots of other things are undeniably true, too, but those two have imprinted themselves on my heart like a brand. No matter what happens, there is a God, and He loves me.

Psalm 46 says, essentially, the same thing. No matter what terrifying and confusing events surround you, God is with you. He will prevail in the end. He will not let you fall. He’s much more powerful than the natural world. “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (vs 2, NIV). I just have a slightly different way of expressing my confidence in God’s immutable character:

There is a God. He loves me.

We can, in fact, know some things for sure. We don’t need to walk around in a cloud of confusion, wishing for something solid on which to stand, feeling desperate. I simply needed to turn my gaze toward the rock instead of staring at the sand. My heart feels calmer tonight. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (vs 4).

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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Have Something to Look Forward to

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Everything’s more fun when you’re planning something.

My husband and I are flying to Florida for a few days, partially to visit family and partially to go to Universal Studios. I’m noticing that my daily routines are more enjoyable simply because I’m completing them in anticipation of something else.

For instance: shopping. My new swimsuit, which I’ve been wanting for a while anyway, is for Florida. I’m getting my hair and nails done for Florida. This umbrella is for Florida.

Also, chores. I’m keeping up with the dishes so we won’t leave behind a full sink. I’m vacuuming so we’ll come home to a clean carpet (unless the cats keep throwing up while we’re gone). I’m doing laundry so we’ll have clean clothes to pack.

Work becomes more fun, too. Completing these tasks now will help my coworkers handle these shows in my absence.  Scheduling these social media posts will keep the momentum going while I’m gone. Writing this ad today will prepare me to produce it as soon as I get back.

I’m fully in favor of looking forward to something, even if it’s not something as big as a vacation. When I’m engrossed in a novel, I can’t wait to take my lunch break so I can read the next chapter. When we find a thrilling new show on Amazon Prime, I’m eager to get home so we can watch the next episode. Normal activities take on a fresh glow when there’s something happy ahead.

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Normal activities take on a fresh glow when there’s something happy ahead.

I’m one of those people who gets excited easily, and that’s something I like about myself. I’ve been told that birthdays are more fun with me because I tend to exclaim delightedly over every gift — even when they’re not for me. When my grandparents meet me for lunch at work or my parents offer to buy coffee for me over the weekend, I smile more often throughout the day and feel more relaxed. Something about an out-of-the-ordinary treat — even if it’s actually something ordinary — lifts my spirits.

I’m guessing that there are actually a lot more things to look forward to, and most of the time I just don’t notice them. Even when some things are going very wrong, there’s almost always something to get excited about. And when there isn’t — why not try creating one?

For instance: today is exhausting, but tonight I’ll take a bath with a glittery bath bomb. Now I can look forward to that when my eyes start to get tired staring at my computer screen. Another example: my husband is working late tonight, so the thing I was excited about won’t happen after all. I’m disappointed, but instead of moping, I’ll head to a coffee shop and work on my blog. Now I can look forward to that instead!

There’s probably more to say, but I’m too busy getting ready for Florida.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

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