You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  … You must do the thing you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

Confidence exists on a continuum. Just as an eldest child will always push parents into fresh territory as ‘first timers’, the next step up in other parts of our lives seems daunting, no matter how much experience we tuck under our belts. Often the people ahead of us seem way ahead of us. While there are things we work on now that we feel comfortably competent in and confident about, there’s also all this ‘new’ stuff! It’s exciting, terrifying and confusing. Because the moments where we want so much to step up and outwards into something new and big seem to waltz with moments where we don’t want to do those things at all — where it’s more attractive to retreat to the safety and security of a quiet life with little risk.

It’s worth connecting the dots between your earlier experiences and the way you tackle things now. Whether or not we’re consciously aware of it, we’re all getting through the world driven by a set of beliefs about how the world is and how we are — some of which are resourceful and lead us to great things, and some of which hold us back.

If we don’t question the beliefs that drive us, we can become like an elephant tethered to the spot by a small chain pegged to the ground. The elephant stays stuck because it learned as a baby that it wasn’t strong enough to pull away from the peg holding it. Eventually it gave up trying. Years of conditioning gave it the belief that it was trapped, despite its growing strength.

When we tell ourselves that we’re trapped in a situation and can’t move on, change or make different choices, often we’re pandering to the expectations of people who hammered a peg into the ground and chained us to it when we were too young to understand that one day we’d be strong enough to break free. Or we’re trapped by our own misunderstanding or misreading of a situation in our past, failing to entertain other perspectives. We can be unaware of our own strength and potential, trapped only by our mindset, standing incredibly close to the freedom we desperately long for.

A 15-minute experiment to try today:

Find your failures

‘You may encounter many defeats,’ said Maya Angelou, ‘but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.’

Failure takes on many shapes and forms. Sometimes failings are small and inconsequential. Other experiences of failure are life changing milestones, creating unexpected outcomes. Regardless, accepting — in fact, embracing — failure as a natural occurrence, and one which can bring growth and new opportunities, is essential if we are to reach our true potential.

Earlier, we shared with you some of our failures, and there were many more we didn’t include. Now it’s time for you to shine a light, albeit briefly, on your failures and look for the humour and lessons, noticing how far you have come.

Spend 15 minutes considering the events, decisions and actions that you would classify as failures in your life. Grab a pen and paper and make a list of these failures. Once you’ve done this, reflect on how easy or difficult was it for you to create this list. How many of the items were truly failures and how many ultimately led to better outcomes for you? Which of them has lessened in potency or seriousness as time has passed?