Fear Conditioned

While it crossed my mind ever so briefly to reflect on the past year and decade of accomplishments, my first post of this new year is timed almost a full week in, and by now I hope you’ve done this fun exercise! I mean this with all sincerity. It’s a meaningful process that one can and should do any time.

Instead, I decided to dive right in to the fear factor that seems to be running our lives. It has me curious, and so I’ve given the topic most of my attention – indeed my focus (which is my word for 2020, by the way) – of late. That makes it the winner. Yep. Fear for the win!

This comes up for all of us on a daily basis. Fear presents in my clients, and it projects back to me when I delay taking action.

That’s not usually the label we give it, mind you. No, we sugar-coat it with phrases like,

“I’m not ready.”

“I need to learn a little more before I do this.”

“The timing isn’t quite right,” and my all time favorite,

“I don’t know…[everything, how, yet].”

Just stop it.

Stop lying to yourself and everyone else and just admit that you’re afraid of the f-word: failure.

Here’s the rub, though. Failure is a mindset.

Yes, you read that correctly. Failure is a fucking mindset.

It’s a heavy word, though. Failure. One that sometimes has significant consequences. It’s right up there with fear. Combine the two with a mind that is stuck in emotional childhood and you have a recipe for ensuring your stuckness is going to taste exactly as you planned it to taste. Safe and secure.

You see, we’ve been fear conditioned to avoid failing our entire lives. It started when we were children. We are learning from all of the adults around us how to navigate this crazy life of ours. Most parents and teachers want us to succeed, right?

If you fail in school, you may be held back from promotion and have to repeat the same grade over.

If you fail to make the JV team, you may not have the future in the pros that your parents had hoped for.

If you fail to get accepted into your college of choice, your entire adult life could be jacked.

If you fail to keep your marriage together, you have disappointed others.

You get the idea. The only scenario that states a fact is repeating a grade and ultimately, that comes down to what we make that mean about ourselves.

If we are living in emotional childhood, we can make all of these examples mean quite a bit. All negative, of course.

We don’t look at any of these scenarios as actual life lessons and what we could possibly learn from them. No, because the fear conditioning is strong.

When we are living in emotional childhood, we are constantly seeking approval of others. When we were children, we wanted the approval of the adults in our lives. That felt good. It felt right.

When we started making mistakes, instead of taking the approach of learning and pivoting, we mostly received disapproval – sometimes even punishment.

We were likely told to never do it again. Straighten our act up. Shape up or ship out. I don’t know about you, but those were the things that I heard.

We were fear conditioned.

Now, it’s not our parents’ fault. They learned from their parents who learned from their parents. It’s not our teachers’ fault. Layered on top of the same parent circumstances was a lot of bureaucracy in rubric form by which a child’s progress is to be measured (and in turn by which the teacher’s effectiveness will be measured).

The adults around us were fear conditioned too. They couldn’t fail at the achieving of our success.

Whatever that means!

The good news is that it’s never too late to try new thoughts, to form new habits, and to apply new conditioning with different words.

What if we viewed the things in our life that didn’t happen exactly as planned (because that’s what failure is) instead as merely blocks? This is a concept I recently learned from Gabby Bernstein, and I’m absolutely here for it.

It’s very easy to apply this in terms of sports and since that’s a major theme of every Sunday in my world, let’s give it a whirl.

woman leaning on foosball
Photo by Bran Sodre on Pexels.com

If the goalie blocks your puck from reaching the net, did you fail to do your job and score? Taking an objective point of view, of course not. The goalie did his job. You also did yours by making the attempt in the first place. But now it’s time to pivot and try again – this time, from a different angle.

By the way, you do this rapidly, you don’t crawl into a corner and ponder the meaning of your existence.

Move on. Fast. Pivot. Try a new angle.

If the quarterback’s intended pass is blocked by a defender, is it automatically game over? Of course, that depends on many factors like the down, field position, and game clock, but the short answer is no – it’s not automatically over. There could be many more chances to win or lose that game with many more blocks and unintended outcomes along the way.

What if you didn’t land the job you wanted after you went for a second interview and were told you were in the final three? That’s a different block, yet one where you need to tell yourself, “everything happens as it should.” If you didn’t land the job, there’s a reason for that. You likely have something much better waiting in the wings that wouldn’t be possible if you had been selected.

Here’s what is happening in every example: attempts are being made. Action is being taken. Does every action achieve its intended result? Of course not! How boring would life be if everything fell into place exactly the way that you expected it to in every scenario? Well, I can tell you for sure that sports wouldn’t be worth watching.

Here’s how you don’t learn and grow as an amazing human: you allow yourself to stay stuck in your fear.

Contrary to what you may have learned in life thus far, you cannot and should not expect everything to go exactly as you plan for it to, how you want it to, how you wish with all of your heart for it to.

You will get what you want out of your life or better when you acknowledge that how you get there is not for you to decide.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one way to fail and that’s to not even try.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

So get out of your head, let go of your fear conditioned paralysis, take a chance, make a move, and then…pivot.


Would you like to be coached on this or another area of your life? Book a free consultation with me here.

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