Every once in a while, do at least 1 thing that makes you move out of your comfort zone. Within a few months, you will be a different person.
I can’t go up and speak to a potential client at a seminar. I am a shy person and networking is not my thing.
I can’t go up and speak on stage. I am not a good public speaker.
I can’t try adventure sports. That’s just not ‘me’.
How many of you have not taken action because of similar arguments that have come to our minds? How many of you have heard others use such arguments to justify not doing certain things?
This post is about the strongest barriers – about doing things that you thought you could never have done. It is about being the best person you can be. It is about achieving what you really want to.
Why do we face these barriers?
Human beings have their own mental image of themselves – it’s like everyone stereotypes his own self in his mind. For example, while doing an internship, if a law student is asked to frame arguments for or against an issue, he might think, “I can’t think of arguments. I have never been a good mooter in college. I like to find and learn about obscure regulations and circulars that nobody can find. I love assignments which are like that. I can’t do this, and I don’t want to do this kind of work.”
Let’s discuss how ‘confidence’ and ‘nervousness’ can impact your ability in a given situation.
Imagine that some really important competition is going to take place, and you’re participating in selections for a university. This is a big competition, and you have never tried out for such a big event.
Now, would you feel confident in such a situation? You can be nervous, but are you confident and excited enough to give it your best shot? Or are you so nervous that you can’t even try or make a half-decent attempt (as per your own judgment)?We have all been confident at some point of time or another. We have all done wonderful things at some point of time, things that were brave, that surprised us, etc. It’s just that most of us are not used to doing them all the time. Since we are not accustomed to making continuous and frequent attempts towards extraordinary things, we spend most of our time in feeling ordinary, and that reinforces the mental self-image that we are only ordinary and that some things are really not made for us. We are going to try and break that here.
Re-engineering the mental image
We are all continuously evolving – emotionally, mentally and physically. Yet, often our mental image does not necessarily evolve with our experiences. We need to ensure that our mental self-image evolves with us, and next, we need to go a step further. We need to try to ‘over’-imagine, over-believe, over-estimate our abilities, so that our mental self-image causes us to evolve even faster, so that we are able to exceed our own expectations of ourselves.
The ‘bad experience’ excuse
Now, there many of us have also tried to re-engineer our own self-images sometimes but have not been able to do it on many occasions. We have had bad experiences or drawn conclusions from failure.
Maybe you were nervous, so you faced a lot of anxiety. Or maybe you did not try hard enough.An example of this syndrome could be the following thought process – “I am not a good speaker. I tried out for the university debate team but did not get selected. So I never debated again.”You can’t break barriers in one go. Re-engineering your mental image is one step, which challenges your body to outdo itself. Actually increasing your physical, mental and other abilities is the next, which does not happen simply by believing, but by practice and effort.
Or, maybe you never gave things a shot, say for example – “I am a shy person and it takes me a lot of time to get familiar with and open up to a person. So, I have never tried to speak to anyone new, whether it could have been a potential contact, or an extremely pretty girl whom I would have liked to know.”
Mental self-image redesign – Enter Creative Visualization
Each time you try to do something you haven’t done before you are likely to face anxiety. Anxiety makes you delay more and more, and it can completely stop you from trying things. I have thought of some tools that can help in preventing anxiety from stopping us, or even delaying our attempts. Here is a tool that really helps in fighting it.
Before you begin the task that is a challenge for you, imagine that you have accomplished it, and accomplished in style. You can imagine hearing a loud audience uproar, cheering, or receiving compliments from your seniors, loved ones, etc. Imagine everything that means success to you, till you feel a rush of adrenaline.
This is tested before – the tendency was seen in some of the most successful athletes. They were able to visualize themselves in the ‘victorious’ state before it happened. They imagined themselves as having run the race even before the race began. Or, if a candidate was going to give a presidential speech, he would imagine having radically charged up the audience emotionally, or he could imagine having won the election, even before he started speaking.
There is nothing more to it. It is a simple concept. It is an imaginary state, but it leads us to act in a manner that makes us be in the state.
Creative visualization vs. delusion
Creative visualization is not a delusional or a presumptuous state. It is not a false or rude state to be in. Bragging about your achievements is very different from visualizing a successful image of yourself before approaching a testing situation, so that you give it your best shot so that you challenge your body and mind to outperform.
2 ways to dealing with failure
Is creative visualization enough? Creative visualization only helps in ‘breaking the barrier’. It removes the mental block that you have in crossing over to the other side. It does not take you there. You still have to work hard at it. You might just succeed in making a brilliant speech because you deployed the tool before you started speaking and it led to a surge of positive emotions. Not everyone will face equally wonderful results.
1. Put in more effort, improve yourself
Failure must not lead you to reinforce your old mental self-image. It should make you to work harder to destroy it. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, The Outliers, relied on an article in the Harvard Business Review, to argue that you need upto 10,000 hours of work (that usually takes about 7 years of experience working 8 hours everyday) to become an expert at anything. This is true for the most gifted people as well – say for example, the Beatles, or Bill Gates.
2. Learn what not to do, how to fine-tune your offering
Failure teaches you many smaller nuances (things you must not do, things that you can fine-tune), that go into making the final success. If you learn your lessons well from each failure, success is more likely.3. Identify mini-milestones that motivate
There are always smaller tasks which you can learn with a few hours of work – say for example, if you want to become a great blogger or graphics designer, creating a functional and reasonably aesthetic blog for the first time, learning elementary photoshop, etc. could be the smaller milestones. The smaller milestones will act as motivation for the bigger milestones. When people contact me for guidance on internships, or if clients ask for legal work after reading a blogpost, it acts as a huge confidence booster.
Your challenge today
I would like each one of you who reads this post to identify any three traits that you feel are a part of your own mental self-image. Write them down. Over the next month, try and do as many things as you can to shatter that self-image.
Whether you succeed or not at the first attempt should not matter. Each time you make an attempt, congratulate yourself. You should start noticing positive results with time. There is nothing as wonderful as seeing yourself evolve through conscious effort.With time, you will be able to identify and do more things and activities than you ever thought you could have done.Do write below about how you have been able to change any aspect of your life. We would love to hear it.