Matt is desperately in search of a girlfriend. He forces himself to go out to bars to meet someone. Yet when he sees an attractive woman, he never talks to her. He goes home miserable and dejected night after night.
Judy wants to expand her small business by bringing in a partner. She just needs to prepare an analysis of her income and expenses to share with her prospective partner. But every time she sits down to write it, she finds something – anything – else to do.
Simon hires a life coach to help him develop his career. The coach tells Simon to solicit feedback from his boss on Simon’s strengths and weaknesses. Simon knows such feedback would help him propel his career forward, yet day after day, week after week, he can’t bring himself to start the conversation.
What’s going on here?
The Force Field of Failure
As Matt, Judy, and Simon, begin to act on the thing they know they need to do, it’s as if invisible force field springs up, pushing them away from the person or activity.
Each time Matt considers approaching an attractive woman, he convinces himself that she wouldn’t be interested in him, or that she’s not really that attractive, or it’s a bad time because she is busy talking to somebody else. The closer he moves to actually talking to her, the stronger his justifications get, as if she is surrounded by a force field of all the reasons why not.
For Judy, sitting at the computer, the mere thought of starting the business analysis spins her out of her chair. She feels an almost physical aversion to the computer and she obliges by cooking a meal or doing some yoga. They are healthy activities, she tells herself, trying to balance the guilt of not doing the hard work she knows she needs to do.
When Simon goes into his boss’s office, intent on starting the feedback conversation, he quickly abandons his plan because he thinks his boss is too busy, they need to discuss an urgent project or Simon shouldn’t be taking time away from his real work. The more he thinks about it, the more he decides it isn’t appropriate to ask his boss these questions after all.
What about you? Think of something you have been avoiding and take a moment right now to imagine yourself doing it.
Really picture yourself moving towards that action. Focus your awareness internally. Do you feel a barrier – like a force field – pushing you away? It might be an emotional resistance or self-talk convincing you it’s a bad idea.
Bad Advice: “Just Push Through”
A lot of personal development advice will tell you to simply push through the barrier. That can be good advice and it does work for some things. But just pushing through can be problematic. You might succeed but pay dearly for exerting the effort. Matt may force himself to talk to an attractive woman despite his insecurities, but he’ll stutter and stammer, embarrassing himself, and coming across as a nervous person.
In my case, I was like Simon. Early in my career in the software industry, I hired an executive coach. His approach was to push me really, really hard to complete certain tasks regardless of my fear. I got a lot of experience and I did have career growth. But the price was exhaustion and being sick with psychosomatic symptoms from constantly pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone. I had chronic diarrhea for a year and, equally embarrassing to admit, I also had chronic bad breath. It was as if my nervousness even affected the air I breathed.
With some issues, the harder we push and the closer we get to actually reaching our goal, the stronger the aversion becomes, creating an even bigger barrier to overcome. The more Judy tries to push herself to look at her business plan, the stronger her aversion gets and the stronger her rationalizations and justifications become that she should be doing anything else except writing the business plan.
At an extreme, the force field can seem so powerful, we give up altogether.
The Problem Is Not the Problem
But here’s the key: The problem you think is the problem is actually not the problem. It feels like the force field is around the other person or activity pushing you away. But if you slow down and pay close attention, you’ll notice a very subtle but crucial variable that you’re missing in the equation.
Right before Matt fills his head with all the reasons why he shouldn’t approach a woman, he gets a feeling. It’s so subtle he barely registers it, but it’s there – the feeling that he doesn’t deserve a great woman. That fleeting “I’m not good enough” is a visceral body-felt sensation, almost entirely out of a conscious awareness. Immediately after that comes all the justifications projected out onto the woman. Consciously, Matt thinks all of his thoughts and feelings are about the attractive woman but what’s truly driving his behavior is the discomfort from that fleeting moment of feeling not good enough.
Similarly, Judy thinks that she doesn’t want to do the business plan because it’s very complicated, but in that fleeting moment before the rationalizations, there’s fear – fear that when she studies her business, she’s going to discover it’s not doing as well as she wants to believe.
In Simon’s case, there’s a momentary terror that his boss might say he’s doing a really bad job and give him all kinds of negative feedback that Simon doesn’t want to hear. Again, there’s that momentary subconscious driver of an internal fear that’s actually driving the negative behaviors and Simon projects that out onto his boss.
The Force Is in You
Pause now and think again about that thing you really want to accomplish but have felt that force field pushing you away. Even though it seems like the force field is around the thing or person, it’s actually generated by you.
These force fields are generated inside ourselves and we create them to protect ourselves from feeling deep, negative emotions.
Our force fields of failure are fueled by our unresolved wounds.
But when you find the power supply of the force field of failure you can turn it off. And when you turn it off, everything changes.
Guided Meditation to Find the Power Supply
I’ve created a guided meditation to help you find the power supply to your force field of failure.
You can find the guided meditation here.
The Tractor Beam of Success
Unhealed wounds will always dominate our behaviors. I explain why in my article Embracing The Dark Side, which addresses the power of subconscious programming deep in our evolutionary psychology. Therefore, it is essential to heal the wounds that fuel our force fields of failure before attempting to create the positive behaviors we want.
Having said that, once we do remove those negative fuels and our own aversions to success, we unleash natural, positive motivations.
Matt really does want to find a fantastic girlfriend and have a great, satisfying relationship. Judy really does want to be an effective business manager with deep knowledge to create a business with the impact she dreams of. And Simon really does want the career success he’s seeking and he knows he needs the feedback from his boss in order to be successful.
We do have the intrinsic motivations be successful in these endeavors. When unleashed, these intrinsic motivations create our tractor beams of success.