Off the Table

No matter what you’re doing in your life, you probably have some fear. The little voice in the back of your head is telling you that you can’t achieve your goal, you can’t make it work, and you are going to fail – hard. For example, sometimes I get through the laundry chores without a problem washing, drying, or folding, but the moment it’s time to put the clean clothes away, I freeze and can’t finish. Something holds me back from finishing a simple task, even though I know better. I usually put this down to being in a depressive episode but it’s so confusing to me that I get so close to finished and then freeze and just can’t go on.

If our subconscious can get the better of us and cause us to fear failure on low-risk tasks, imagine the impact when your fear and ego blocks you from going after even bigger things.

Failure is no longer an option

We default to thinking that failure is an option in our every task. We can either do the thing, or not do the thing. If you believe that there’s an option to fail, then you leave yourself open to failure. To get through this fear, you have to really commit to the fact that you’re taking the option to fail off the table. Somewhere along the way, we were taught that to do it right, you had to do it perfectly, and you had to do it on the first try.

I don’t know about you, but I remember learning to ride a bike and my parents telling me to get back on it when I fell over. Get back on it, guys. It’s not failure, it’s growth.

This brings me to a favorite quote about failure (even if Edison was a jerk):

Thomas Edison "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

 

When you take failure off the table, you cannot help but see every challenge as an opportunity for growth and a step in the path to the right answer and success.

Whether you are facing challenges with business, relationships, finances, health, or anything else in your life – take defeat off the table. Trust in the fact that the right answer is out there, waiting for you to find it. You must take action to find it. Nobody just hands success to you on a plate, but you can and will achieve your goals if you put the work into it.

In relationships

I am constantly trying to improve my relationship skills so that I don’t make the same mistakes that I did in my first marriage. A big part of this is taking divorce off the table.

Barring abuse or dealbreakers like infidelity, if a couple can have an honest discussion and take divorce off the table, it will have an immediate positive effect on their relationship. When you’re worried your partner will leave you, or you’re worried that any fight could be your last, you hold back honesty. You hold back fear. You hold back truth. You don’t want to rock the boat because oh god, what if she leaves? or I don’t want him to be angry because when he’s angry I want to run away from this relationship. 

This was totally me. I was hiding feelings from my husband (at the time, boyfriend) because I was afraid he’d wake up one day and think I was too much work and too much crazy and too much SOMETHING and he’d decide he was tired and couldn’t do it. And I would sometimes have a moment of panic and try to find something wrong that was a signal I was in a doomed relationship again — I was trying to find any way to not end up in my first marriage all over again.

Taking divorce off the table means that you are safe. You don’t have to fear the end of your marriage because you were trying to be a better communicator. If you have a need that isn’t being met, you can tell your partner, because there’s no way they are going to get upset and leave you over it. Failure is not an option. Every conversation, discussion, or argument is now a stepping stone to a more solid, open, and communicative marriage in which both parties are confident and comfortable in sharing their needs and feelings.

It is not enough to simply know in your brain that you’re not going to leave your partner. You need to discuss it together and say out loud to each other that divorce is NOT an option, at all, ever, period. (Obviously leaving out cases of abuse or dealbreakers – GTFO if you need to).

Knowing we never intended to get divorced again actually whipped my current marriage into shape before we even got engaged. We went to premarital counseling to work out our communication issues, leftover baggage from our first marriages, and our basic expectations of each other. Because we knew we had no intention of getting divorced once we tied the knot, we made damn sure we were ready to be with each other forever. When I get anxious and my fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, knowing he’s in it for the long haul with me makes me feel safe. I can talk to him about my worries without being afraid he’ll decide I’m not worth the effort.

In wellness

I have lost count of the amount of times I started to work out or eat a better diet and then stopped because I got derailed. Someone even told me once that I had failed because I had one scoop of ice cream. That single offhanded comment still sticks with me because it came from someone whom I trust to support me.

I didn’t fail. I learned. I learned that sugar is a slippery slope for me and that I need to be very careful not to bring it into the house or else I will allow it to derail my goals. I learned that other people’s opinions about whether or not I fail don’t matter because as long as I am my own cheerleader, I don’t need other people’s approval.

People slip up and make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from it and find a way to correct and focus on the goal again. For example:

  • If I don’t work out in the morning, I tend to skip my workout and this can snowball into days at a time without exercise. Correction: make time to schedule morning workouts.
  • If I eat something sugary, I go into a mad sugar binge. Correction: Don’t make sweets and don’t bring sugary food into the house.
  • If I participate in a diet bet program or “Biggest Loser” competition, I stress out and go crazy and don’t win anyway because I’m too busy flipping out over every pound on the scale. Correction: Stop participating in these programs.

If you don’t like the workout you are doing, don’t give up on exercise! Find something else you like to do. Keep your focus on the goal: improved health and wellness. The rest will fall into place as long as you continue to take appropriate action.

“Never working out again because this sucks” is off the table. Do something, anything, to move toward your goal. Even if it’s tiny.

In business

How many people have had a great idea for an invention, a service, a product, or a business but didn’t know where to start? Of those who do start, how many actually achieve their goal? There are a ton of books out there to motivate business-minded folks and keep them focused on the goal on the horizon instead of the stumbling blocks on the way.

Let go of the fear of failure. Failure is officially off the table. Instead of failure, you’ll have experience and research. You’ll find your own 10,000 ways that don’t work. Get back up, dust yourself off, and try it differently next time.

I start and stop business ideas all the time, finding my own groove and what works for me. What works for me might not work for you, just like what works for you might not work for me. But when we both keep at it over time, we’ll find what works for each of us to succeed. Or we’ll move on and find the next project.

A word to the wise: Don’t go into debt to start a business. That is the one way I can see a failed outcome. If your business doesn’t succeed and you have debt, that’s one big mess you’ll have to clean up, and you’re more likely to rush into the next deal without thinking about it rationally. Don’t be broke and desperate. Work at your own pace and at the scale your business can handle with the resources you have.

Keep Moving Forward

No matter what aspect of life you’re working on, take failure off the table. See how freeing it is to know that each challenge will be overcome. It will take effort and time, but you will overcome.

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6 thoughts on “Off the Table

  1. zseckley says:

    Yes! I’ve just had these kinds of revelations lately, but it’s really helpful to see someone else spell them out (and so closely to how I worded them in my head). I have a novel that has been going through a drafting process that’s kind of died off; it was a combination of fear of failure and losing sight of the reason for writing it. The other day it occurred to me that if I’m going to finish, I need to enjoy the process – essentially, write to entertain myself. If something comes of it, like publication, that’s fine, but slogging away with publication as the reason for completion is not going to motivate me. Plus, I should end up with a better end product because I wasn’t trying to please some imaginary editor.

    • Caitlin says:

      This is a great way of looking at it. I have a book proposal I’ve been neglecting, but I finally finished my latest draft and sent it off last night… and it felt GOOD to write again! Good luck with your writing 🙂

  2. daypilgrim says:

    You make sense! In certain situations, like business, I’ve also learned it is okay to quit when you’ve tried long enough. There could be something better to discover.

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