Are you hard on yourself when you make mistakes? Do you tend to stick to your comfort zone rather than take risks? If so, you might be seeing life as a test that you either pass or fail. To start seeing it for what it could be — an experiment you can learn from and have fun with — we recommend trying one (or all) of the three things below:
(Writers’ Note: We think you’ll enjoy them even if you’re pretty good at failing).
1. Read a biography
There’s an old cure to beating yourself up for not being really good at something: it’s reading your hero’s —or anybody’s— biography. Biographies tend to be perfect illustrations of Thomas Edison’s mantra (“genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration”) and Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule. By narrating the countless times successful people have struggled, failed, and (most importantly) persevered, they help us all put things in perspective.
2. Get good at positive self-talk
People who are scared to fail listen to the voice inside their heads that tells them they’re not gifted, clever, creative, young, or (insert desirable trait here) enough to do whatever it is that they would secretly love to do. That is the voice of their inner critic. Creativity expert Julia Cameron recommended that her students work with their inner critics instead of shushing them completely. She gave them the following exercise: whenever you hear your inner critic, take note of what it’s saying. Then, convert each nasty statement into something positive (“I, Jessica, am stupid and lazy”, for example, into “I, Jessica, am capable and determined.”)
3. Do something challenging
When it comes to taking on challenges, you were likely a lot braver as a baby than you are now. Think about it — you took on the inconceivably humongous challenge of learning how to walk, and you failed (in public) hundreds of times before you finally succeeded. To become as curious and eager to learn as you were when you were an infant, embrace a new activity, like learning a new language or an instrument. Allow yourself to make plenty of mistakes. Watching your slow, steady progress will motivate you to take on even greater challenges.