Today's blog is a rerun from October, 2011 but the message is very timely for all those looking to make major life changes this summer, be it due to graduation from college or high school, or planning a big move or other major life event! Don't let fear and the saddlebags of pessimism weigh you down!
Today I describe some strategies to "Busst-Up" any pessimism associated with the mental weights and self doubts that interfere with optimism, motivation and goal accomplishment. This mental weighting is called “self-handicapping.”
First, what is handicapping?
- Handicapping is a term used in horse racing in which the speed of the horses in a race with jockey aboard is equalized. Factors taken into account include weight of horse and jockey and speed from prior races. The term “impost” is used to describe the extra weight a horse must carry. The jockey’s weight is supplemented with lead weights placed in saddle pads with pockets.
- Such handicapping is a way of slowing down faster and lighter horses so the slower and heavier horses and jockey have a theoretically equal chance of winning. Then, the outcome of the race is more likely to be a function of the Jockey’s ability to get the most out of the horse.
- A psychological term that implies weighting ourselves down with negative mental attitudes that slow us down and make it more difficult to maintain a positive attitude, motivation, take a risk, and accomplish a goal.
There may be many reasons for self-handicapping but here are five common ones that I frequently observe.
- Low Self-Esteem – A belief that a needed skill or ability is lacking and therefore positive action is limited in order to avoid looking unable or “stupid.”
- Fear of Rejection – A belief that it will be less emotionally trying to stay isolated than to go out and meet and greet people and risk rejection.
- Fear of Failure – A belief that it will be less emotionally damaging to not try than to try and fail again.
- Fear of Success – A belief that says: “If I succeeded, I would have to keep on succeeding. I don’t know if that is possible; might be too much responsibility.” There is an anticipation of feeling worse about failure after a success than just to keep on failing or not trying all.
- Guilt – A belief that says: “I don’t deserve more; should be punished for some past error, mistake, or wrongdoing,” and therefore the individual sets lower goals and aspirations; puts forth less effort.
Bussters to Overcome Self-Handicapping
1. For Low Self Esteem: Learn to believe that looking unable or “stupid” is an asset as it provides a diagnostic “printout” of errors and mistakes that can be corrected.
2. For Low Self Esteem: Learn to believe that skills and abilities are NOT static but “FLUID” and can be improved with effort, training and practice.
3. For Fear of Rejection: Learn to view rejection as another source of information and feedback about what works and doesn’t work when trying to influence, network, collaborate or friend others. Use the information to modify your approach and/or interpersonal skill.
4. For Fear of Failure: Learn to believe that mistakes and errors are to be embraced and enjoyed as part of an ongoing, lifelong learning process. If you can find an innovation or advancement that made a difference in the world without going through a process of making mistakes and learning from them, let me know.
5. For Fear of Success: Learn to adjust your expectations after a success; failure is still a possibility and likely will provide more learning opportunities. Yes, we would all like to have an undefeated season; success after success without a single mistake. While we occasionally get a “perfect game” in baseball, there has never been a professional baseball team that had an undefeated baseball season. There has only been one undefeated basketball season for an NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball team in the last thirty years.
6. For Guilt: Guilt is perhaps the most difficult emotional handicap to overcome. Even when you have verbalized repentance and others may have forgiven you, you may not forgive yourself. It is the self-forgiveness part that presents the biggest challenge. This one takes a lot of time and daily practice of “positive self affirmation bombardment:” mentally listing, reviewing and rehearsing all the reasons you are worthwhile. Eventually the positive pushes out the negative. Sometimes it may be necessary to engage in a little personally assigned community service as a way to give back and carry out an action oriented repentance – a Golden Opportunity to Serve – if you will. Spirituality involving prayer and communication with God can also be exceedingly helpful.