Managing and Learning from Fear and Failure

Managing and Learning from Fear and Failure

I’m willing to bet that you have experienced failure. In fact, you have probably had some real showstoppers. I can relate.

We all want the experience of success whether it’s in our relationships, careers, academics, finances, safe-driving records- whatever. Failure isn’t usually one of our goals. It’s a funny thing about failure, though; we go from “not counting failure as a goal” (reasonable), to “failure is the worst thing that could ever happen.” How… did we get there? And more importantly, why?

Perhaps some of us grew up in an era during which undiscerning praise and awards were given to us for merely showing up. Perhaps, through that, some of us now believe that there is no failure or that failure is not our fault. Others might have understood those trophies and awards, as a sort of “Hail Mary”, deliverance from such failure that is a dark abyss of shame into which we would fall and never get out. Maybe some of us were intentionally taught that failure is an outcome worse than death, and we still believe it. Maybe we’re afraid of failure for other reasons.

Why? What does failure mean to us? Some people overidentify with failure- failure means “I’m not a good (fill in the blank).” Others become overwhelmed- “I just can’t handle going through that again,” and attempt an escape in various ways. It’s easy to be blinded by our pain and forget that these are stories we tell ourselves, not facts. But we believe them. We believe that if we fail a test, we’re (feel in the blank); if we end a relationship, we must not be (fill in the blank); if our business isn’t thriving, it’s obviously because of (fill in the blank).

Failure is a lot less powerful than that, although we can find our power in experiencing it. Failure does not define us. It communicates to us.

If we failed that (again, fill in the blank), maybe it means that we didn’t use the best form of preparation, that we need to learn how to manage conflict better, that we didn’t have all of the information we needed.

Maybe it wasn’t a failure at all, and something was incompatible for or with us. When we experience something as failure, we get to ask ourselves “why?” We get to find out what we need to do differently and how we can produce better results next time. We have the chance to learn, get smarter, get better.

When we fail, we can connect to our resilience. We get to see that, after all, the hardship, pain, and rejection we’re still standing. We’re given the chance to learn that we are our champions. We get back up after each fall, and continue with more knowledge, courage, and perspective, each time less controlled by our fear.

With that kind of perseverance, self-trust becomes increasingly available to us. We begin to realize our potential. We need less external validation. Reassessing our parameters, lifting a boundary here while strengthening a boundary there seems more doable for us… because we’re more comfortable with the truth about who we are.

This week, let’s be curious about our failures. Hey- and whatever you do? Don’t fail. Just kidding.

Love and Be Loved,

Motivate Yourself from Stuck to Successful

Motivate Yourself from Stuck to Successful

There are a lot of different aspects of our lives in which we can feel that we have fallen into a rut. We can go through periods during which time we feel like a relationship is in a ditch, our job is humdrum, we can’t budge a project we’ve been working on, or we feel like we’re in a general funk.

We start to say things like, “I’m stuck,” “I don’t know what I can do,” and “I’m running out of options.” We feel desperate, frustrated, and anxious. This can be a bit of a rabbit hole, and we find ourselves in the dark without a light.

So, what do we do next? How can we step out of this rut and get back on track?

First, clarify your goals. Write down what you want your outcome to look like. This can be anything from “I want to like my job,” to “I want to have a satisfying relationship,” to “I want to produce a product of which I’m proud”. The goal can start out abstract or concrete.

Second, ask yourself a few questions:
a) Why is this goal important to you?
b) What will be made possible for you if you achieve your goal?
c) What is at stake if you don’t achieve your goal?
d) What will you have to give up to achieve your goal?
e) What would have to be true for you to achieve your goal?

Here is an example of how to use these questions. Let’s say you have identified a goal to run a marathon. It is important to you because you want to feel that sense of accomplishment and because you want to see how far you can push yourself. What will be made possible by running a marathon is a new sense of your abilities and a deeper understanding of how you work. What’s at stake if you don’t achieve this goal is the feeling of a lack of discipline, inexperience of your abilities, and reinforcing the belief that you can’t accomplish a goal you set for yourself. What you will have to give up to achieve your goal is some of your free time which you will spend training and the freedom to eat whatever you want whenever you want because you will need to take excellent care of your body. What will have to be true for you to achieve this goal is that you are committed to your goal and yourself, that you are going to train even when you don’t feel like it, and that you are going to eat a healthy diet.

Third, break down your starting goal into smaller goals to be met within shorter time periods. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a goal. The more intimidated you are, the less likely you are to feel confident about achieving your goal. Figure out smaller versions of achievement within the same big picture. About the marathon example, you might set a smaller goal of eating one healthy meal today/ running two miles today after work- something that you need to do to help get you achieve your goal, practice your self-discipline, and that feels doable.

Fourth, anticipate obstacles so that you don’t use them as excuses. Every path to a goal contains obstacles. There will be times when you have to be more flexible within the parameters you have set. There will be times when the person who wants to run a marathon gets sick, has to take a few days off from training, and must motivate to get back on track. You know that accomplishing something can be hard- you’ve been in a rut! You also know that there will be days when you’ll feel less motivated, experience discouragement by something that doesn’t go your way, and doubt yourself in various ways. None of this means that you’re on the wrong path or that you won’t/can’t achieve your goal. It means that you have to build up to it, be persistent for yourself, and think of the obstacles as valuable lessons.

Fifth, remind yourself of accomplishments past and present. You have faced obstacles and hardship on your way to these accomplishments. You can do it again. Remind yourself of what it took for you to achieve prior goals.

Sixth, keep yourself on track by regularly reviewing your goal. Orient yourself to your current progress, where it needs to be, and what else you can do to improve your progress. This will also help to validate how far you’ve come.

Try out these steps with a small goal and see how rewarding your effectiveness feels. This will whet your appetite to apply it to more complex goals. Now, go out and conquer!

Love and Be Loved,

Falling in Love- Again

Falling in Love- Again

Feel like you need to reconnect? With the responsibility to work, family, chores, and any other commitments you have, it can be easy to find yourself spending less and less quality time with your partner. You feel tired, stressed, and stretched thin. You start to feel like you’re energy level allows you to merely flip on the T.V. and fall asleep in front of it. With this kind of pattern, your relationship can start to feel less rewarding. You want to feel closer, but you can’t seem to find the time.

While it’s great to share stories about your day, catch each other up on the latest who-did-what and your experiences, there are other, more intimate ways to ground your relationship than the standard “how was your day?” approach. Here are a few simple strategies that can yield increased positivity between you and yours.

After your long day, when you get home and see one another, initiate intentional physical contact with one another. Sometimes it might be in the form of a sustained hug and a kiss. Maybe other days it will be something more playful and light-hearted. Experiencing one another’s touch, smell, and physical proximity in this way is a powerful catalyst for reconnection.

Another impactful technique you can use is to let your loved one know how much you’ve missed them, thought about them, or how glad you are to see them. Saying the words, “You’re home! I missed you today,” or “ Oh my gosh, I’m so glad to see you,” can express to your partner the appreciation you have for them, the warmth you feel, and your desire to feel close. What they can experience after hearing those words is powerful- an experience of being nurtured, wanted and held. (And who doesn’t love feeling that?!)

Eye contact is another simple way to reground yourselves in your relationship. During an embrace, gazing into one another’s eyes can heighten the feeling of intimacy at that moment. Talking with one another about your day, how glad you are to be home with one another while making eye contact engages more of your whole self. So much can be communicated through eye contact- their appreciation for you, your need for support, mutual admiration, and so many other feelings. This can strengthen the connection between you and allow both of you to feel more held in the relationship.

Set aside technology at some point during the evening. Agree to an amount of time if you wish 20, 45, 60 minutes- whatever seems feasible, and turn off your T.V.; silence your phones, tablets, computers, and other devices you have. Turn them over or put them in the next room and focus on one another. We compromise our connection and ability to be present with one another when we split our attention. Sure, multitasking has its place, and that place is not between you and your partner as you spend quality time together.

These are just a few strategies that you can put toward reigniting the intimate connection between you and your partner. Maybe you can’t find more time, but with a few tweaks here and there, you’ll see that you can make some. And a little quality time can go a long way.

Love and Be Loved,

Are You Sex Positive… Or Sex Reckless?

Are You Sex Positive… Or Sex Reckless?

People ask me a lot of questions about sex positivity, what it is, why it’s important, and how they can begin to lead a sex positive lifestyle. I like to make the distinction about what sex positivity is and is not. A lot of people have made and live by decisions about sexuality based on misinformation. They have experienced a lack of critical information.

On another hand, sometimes people believe that they’re already living a sex positive lifestyle when they’re living a sex reckless lifestyle. They have difficulty acknowledging that boundaries, limits, awareness, and safety play an essential role in sex positivity. So, what is the difference between sex positivity and sex recklessness? Let’s cover some of the important basics.

At its foundation, sex positivity is a desire for awareness of and an authentic respect for sexuality. It expands to said respect for and awareness of your sexuality and others’. The ability to be sex positive is informed by an ability to acknowledge your fear and the judgments, inhibitions, and missteps that can come from fear.

Being sex positive means discovering your sexual needs and wishes, gaining awareness of your sexual boundaries and limits, and using this information to enrich your sexual life and relationships. Sex positivity also means engaging in healthy and safe behavior including (but not limited to) getting tested regularly for STIs, using proper barriers such as condoms and dental dams, being honest with partners about any STI status, engaging in consensual sex with people after trust and safety measures have been established, and respecting everyone’s boundaries including your own. Honesty is a mainstay when it comes to sex positivity. Whether it’s planning a vacation during which you know, you will be using substances that alter your judgment and planning accordingly or attending to responsibilities after the fact, the more honest you are with yourself, the better your outcome.

Being sex positive means abstaining from slut and sex shaming others whose desires, activity, and behaviors are different from your own or those whose desires, activity, and behavior you believe to be different from your own.

Sex recklessness is engaging in unsafe sex (not using barriers with those whose STI status you don’t know or with those who are positive for STIs, engaging in sexual activity with others where trust has not been established, using substances while engaging in sex without established trust, and not exercising respect for your own and others’ boundaries, just to name some basics). Sex reckless behavior is manifested in the unexamined fear that you hold about aspects of sexuality which you use to avoid the conversations, precautions, and awareness that are needed to establish and maintain a safe and healthy lifestyle. The more you talk about sexuality in a way that puts you in touch with your insight and reflection, the less likely you are to put yourself (and others) at risk.

Not everyone uses the best methods for safety and makes the optimal choices in every single sexual encounter. If you are sex positive, you will be honest with yourself about these occasions, take responsibility for your part in them, and allow yourself to learn from them.

If you would like to know more or discuss this with me, please feel free to email me or call me (415) 794-5243.

Go on. Your sex-positive life is waiting for you!