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As a college student, I had my shares of failures in exams, courses, quite a handful of it, so much that it resulted in my one year extension in the university. With this I feel that my past failures are taking its toll on me, making me feel like I'm worthless to even try because I'll only fail in the end. How can I rid myself of this mindset?

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Do something you are already good at, and try to learn something new related to it? –  Juha Untinen May 16 '13 at 8:27
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3 Answers 3

Here are some techniques to help:

The first is the easiest. Keep a daily journal and write what you are grateful for every day. This starts to refocus your mind on the positive. If you feel able to do this, writing what you are grateful for in a public forum like Facebook or a blog is even better becasue you will get amazing feedback and inspire others to consider what they are grateful for in their lives. At first this will be hard but set a numeric goal (say ten to start with) and force yourself to get ten items even if they are "I am grateful for chocolate chip cookies." In the journal you can also record all accomplishements that day, no matter how small. Write in the journal last thing before bed or first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.

Next you need to stop the negative chatter in your head. YOu start by mnonitoring it it to realize what you are doing. You will be appalled, I promise you, at how badly you talk to yoursefl. You say things you would never say out loud to another person!

Now that you are aware of the problem, it is time to fix it. Create a list of postive things you can say about yourself even silly ones like "I have very nice elbows." LOok at your gratitude lists to think of some things that you might have forgotten, ask friends and family and co-workers if you can't think of anything. Every time you catch yourself thinking something neagative about yourself, mentally yell "STOP!!!" It can also help if you wear a rubber band on your wrist and then snap it every time you start to mentally say something negative. Then immdeidately substitute one of the positive things from your list. So a typical mental conversation with yourself could go like this:

"I'm such an idiot for doing...."

"STOP!"

"My friends think I'm funny."

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The first thing to understand is that you can get over your past experiences, and you will get over them if you take the appropriate steps. It may take time, and might not always be comfortable, but it will be easier than you expect. Note that this is not empty encouragement: I've been in a similar situation to you, and I'm now making a success of my life. Furthermore, I've spoken to numerous other people who have been in the same boat and who are now doing very well indeed.

Secondly, take things a step at a time. It took a while to build up a stock of negative experiences, so it may take little while to demolish your current mindset. Nevertheless, every step you take will be worth it, and each step will make the next one easier.

So, what steps should you take?

Well, what worked for me might not be identical to what will work for you, but I suspect that the principle will be the same.

What worked for me was this:

  1. I focused on the things I could do rather than the things I couldn't
  2. I did them to the best of my ability
  3. I celebrated my success
  4. I helped other people where I could

For example, back in the early days I realised that I have two basic strengths: I'm not completely stupid and my body mostly works (and I note that there are plenty of successful people who don't have even those basic assets).

So, one day one of the buttons came of an article of clothing. I wasn't sure I knew how to sew it on, but I had a go, making the best of my limited skills and knowledge. The result wasn't exactly pretty, but the replacement button worked. I felt reasonably satisfied that I'd done something useful.

Now, I'm not saying that buttons are a major achievement. Rather, by successfully tackling little jobs like that I taught myself that I was able to achieve things, that I wasn't completely useless. So I built up my confidence, quite consciously and deliberately, and found that my mindset changed for the better. With practice, I've become quite good at sewing on buttons... and at all sorts of other things, too. Because big successes are made up of small successes.

The basic principle is this: success breeds confidence and confidence fuels success.

By setting yourself up on virtuous circle of success you'll certainly get over your past failures.

The result? For me: a reasonable husband and a good father, a home-owner, a car-owner, a valued employee and respected college. A blogger with something valuable to say. Someone with a leadership role in my local church. Someone whose opinion is valued by others... I could go on, but you get my point. I'm not defined by my failures anymore...

Finally, if you're in to reading / audio books, I recommend John Maxwell's "Failing Forward". It has lots of wisdom on handling failure effectively, in making it a stepping stone to success rather than an anchor that holds you back. I've certainly learned a lot from it.

I wish you the very best on your journey.

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As Juha Untinen asked you question, you should involve yourself in activities at which you're good. Try to learn new things & enjoy the success, no matter how small it is. This will help you to forget bad experiences from past.

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