Good memories are precious and warm us, if we’re lucky, all our lives long. But bad memories can have an even more powerful stranglehold on our hearts. They weigh us down emotionally, they stand in our way when we’re contemplating life changes, and they can even be passed down to our children and grandchildren if we’re not careful. That’s no kind of legacy to share with the people you love, is it?
If you can identify with the notion of a history of failure, welcome to the club. We’ve got millions of members—but if we work together on this, I hope we can find a way to put that part of our history behind us, maybe silence it altogether.
First, we have to face the enemy and give it a name. Grab a pad of paper and begin by writing down the first ten things that come to mind under the heading: “I Have a History of Failure.” Yes, you may feel some very painful twinges as you even scribble that line down, but they will soon pass. On your list, write down ten (just ten, that’s plenty) recollections you have about failing to do what you wanted to do: the time you flunked your driver’s license test (for the second time!), the experience of losing a job you enjoyed to downsizing, the pain of gaining back a lot of weight you lost for a special family occasion, the heartbreak of accepting that a marriage had ended. Can’t think of ten? Well, you’re a very lucky person! Most people who’ve survived a certain number of years on this earth have a history of failure that provides plenty of material for this exercise; life just isn’t easy, no matter how hard you work at it, and setbacks and disappointments are part of it.
Okay, you’ve got your list? Now take a deep breath and study it for just a minute or two. Yup, I remember how terrible that one felt. Uh-huh, I cried for a week after that happened. Wallow for just this short interval of time in how failure makes you feel—hopeless? exhausted? depressed?
I’m certain you’re feeling all of the above and more. Now don’t despair, I’m getting to the point of all this “excavation” of the darker moments in your past.