THE WORLD DEMANDS SUCCESS BUT IS FAILURE ESSENTIAL?

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about a friend and comments she made to me over dinner a few weeks ago. As a counsellor I’m used to friends sharing their thoughts and fears with me, it comes with the label of the job I do but every so often it throws up things that make me think that bit harder.

She had her first child a year ago, is now coming to the end of her maternity leave and the thought of returning to work fills her with dread. She’s loved being at home with her son for the past year and after being so happy she is scared stiff of what the next stage in her life will bring.

The more we discussed it the more she started to say that she’s never really enjoyed her job, like many people it was never her dream to work in the industry she found herself in, it just happened and 15 years later she’s still with the same employer. The more she talked the more it became apparent to me that her problems are much deeper than a fear of returning to work. She had got used to the comfort of the same job, the safety having been there for so long brings and the fact that she is familiar with the surroundings and her colleagues.

As we continued to talk (well she talked and I listened!) she eventually admitted that what she is really scared of is failing. She found a job that she is good at, one that she can do without having to worry about failing at because both she and her bosses know she is very capable. The idea of doing something different, taking a risk at something she may not be very good at seems abhorrent to her. In fact it turns out this fear of failure pervades every part of her life, she won’t take risks, won’t try something new and just continually does the same thing again and again safe in the knowledge she will succeed every time.

Human nature is to do the things that we do well more often than the things we don’t. If you are good at maths at school you are more likely to be a mathematician, if science was the subject you get A’s in then I bet I can guess which subject you studied at college.  Society loves success and pushes us to strive for it, tells us that if we are good at something that’s the path we should take.

How many kids though loved a subject that they didn’t excel in and so dropped it at an early age for one they had a better chance of success in? I for one loved tennis, I dreamed of being a professional player but the truth of the matter was that I wasn’t very good at it, I persevered for a while (thoroughly enjoying it the whole time) but when it became obvious I would never be very good at it I gave it up and took up running, a sport I thoroughly disliked but one I excelled at nonetheless.

What if we do this every time though?

What if we carry on in the career we dislike, study the subjects we have no passion for and partake in a sport we hate every minute of all because they are the things we are good at and are least likely to result in failure? Boredom that’s what, a sense of being unfulfilled and the looming day when we ask ourselves “what is the point”. The danger of course being that when we reach that day avoiding failure has become so ingrained in our psyche that we couldn’t take a risk to change things even if we wanted to.

Why do we do this? Do we not only truly learn when we fail? Certainly failing at things taught me a lot more than succeeding ever did. It is only when facing up to failure that we question what we did wrong and how we could have done things differently. It is the time when we learn the most about ourselves and our ability to get back up and try again.

So how do we avoid the next generation, our children, being so risk averse, so scared of failing that they won’t consider taking a risk to achieve happiness? The answer is surprisingly simple but by the same token not necessarily easy to do. Children model their parent’s behaviour, they learn through repetition so all they need to see is their parents being willing to take risks, not afraid to fail, not afraid to try and try again until they eventually succeed. Through this simple act they will intuitively start to understand that failure is a beginning not an end and only then will they will stop being scared of it.

Losing is not the end, failure is not the worst thing that can happen, it’s simply a step along the path to learning a genuine way to deal with life’s problems.

Thomas Edison so famously said “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up”.

Take a risk, accept failure is a part of life, take a chance things may work out and you may be surprised by quite how much you can achieve.

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Design in Mental Health

We are extremely pleased to announce that Mark Gatland, our Lead Psychotherapist, will once again be presenting at this years Design in Mental Health Conference, discussing counselling provision in the NHS and the effects of recent policy changes.

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SELF-ESTEEM – HARD TO FIND BUT EASY TO LOSE

Who’s the most important person in your life?

Your wife, your kids, maybe you even answered Fido the dog.

Whatever you said unless the answer was “I am” then you’re wrong!

“How selfish” I hear you say, “I always put everybody before myself” and this may very well be true but if you and your happiness aren’t the most important thing in your life then you are doing all the other people you care about a disservice. For if you’re not happy in yourself and I mean truly look in the mirror and smile because you are so pleased with just being you happy, how can you be fulfilled in other areas of your life and if you’re not fulfilled in them then it’s guaranteed those that you care about aren’t getting the best of you.

Self-esteem is the key to happiness and it’s the first thing you can effect for yourself that will improve the lives of those around you.

I don’t know whether I have low self-esteem.

Take a minute to think over these questions:

  • Do you have confidence in yourself and your ability to achieve things?
  • Are you self-confident?
  • Do you say no even when you just want to say yes?
  • Would you like to have more respect for yourself?
  • Do you think other people are better than you?
  • How do you deal with criticism, objectively or does a negative comment effect your confidence?

Do your answers suggest you may be suffering from low self-esteem? If so you were probably already aware of it but deciding to do something about it isn’t easy.

Low self-esteem can come from anywhere. Often we were programmed with it to some extent as children. In our formative years being told we aren’t very good at something, are to too tall, too short or whatever it may be can have a negative impact on our self-esteem later in life. It’s not unusual, the vast majority of people have at least one Achilles heel that previous experiences meant their not confident in. The question is to what extent these thoughts or views of yourself impact on your life and that of those around you.

The great news is that low self-esteem isn’t set in stone. Working with a counsellor or life coach you may be surprised how quickly you can turn it around and start to enjoy life the way you’ve always wanted to.

I will lay out some great techniques for combatting low self-esteem later in the week but for now give yourself a little me time and try out the following task:

Plotting the events of your life on a graph will enable you to see the significant moments.

 On the horizontal line add a timescale for your life – at what point did the event happen?

On the vertical line add a scale from one to ten with one being unhappy or sad and ten as fantastic.

 Go through your significant life events as you see them adding them to the horizontal line as and when they occurred.

Now mark where on the vertical line they should sit as you remember them.

Spend a little time looking at the graph you’ve created and reflect on the individual events and at what stage in your life they occurred.

 Are there any trends you can see? Do happy events all sit close together and similarly sad events? Are they all jumbled up? Can you see any links between them? Whatever the result is what does it mean to you and your self-esteem?

Understanding how your life events have impacted on your self-esteem can help you recognise the danger when similar things happen again and this in turn will leave you better armed to deal with them in the future.

 At The Cambridge Counsellor we can offer counselling, life coaching and hypnotherapy that can help you work through self-esteem issues and teach you techniques that will enable you to move forward with your life with confidence. If you’d like to discuss how we may be able to help you please feel free to contact us.
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How do we define happiness?

There are two major aspects in the science of happiness, both of which stem from ancient Greek philosophers:

Eudaimonic wellbeing

This is an overarching term for a deep kind of contentment that comes from a sense of self-actualisation, personal growth and meaning. Over two centuries ago Aristotle’s original concept of eudaimonia was about leading a virtuous life and the modern day version of it centres around flourishing and functioning well.

In reality, eudaimonic wellbeing is about using your strengths, having a sense of purpose, positive relationships, doing something good in the world, autonomy and a feeling of competence and confidence in yourself. It is of course a multifaceted concept, but it can be summed up in a simple way: eudaimonic wellbeing is achieved by putting effort into something that has meaning to you but goes beyond the self.

Effort + Meaning = Eudaimonic Wellbeing

Hedonic wellbeing

The clue is in the name! Hedonic wellbeing comes from hedonism and is all about the pursuit of pleasure. It can be seen as the feel-good factor, with all of the fun and frolics to boot. The only focus in hedonic wellbeing is on maximising pleasure and minimising pain. It is generally the better-known version of happiness that’s experienced in the peak moments of enjoyment.

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What is happiness and how can you achieve it?

If you ask someone what they most want from their life the majority will say “to be happy”. Being “happy” is a major goal for human beings and a subject that has fascinated thinkers, philosophers and teachers for centuries. 

It could be a moment of serenity, a feeling of joy when you’re having fun, a connection with someone you love or just the satisfaction of knowing that you’re living your life with purpose.

People naturally want to feel happy, but is it something you can create or does it just happen accidentally? The true paradox of happiness is it seems that the more you chase it, the more elusive it can be.

Buddhism declares that the pursuit of happiness is the root cause of unhappiness, in itself causing a dissatisfaction with life that is borne out of craving. Modern science now agrees with this ancient spiritual wisdom. People that chase happiness, that value it above all else, often set standards for themselves that are impossible to obtain and this leads them to feelings of disappointment. So, is it possible to build enduring wellbeing without falling into the trap of chasing happiness?

The good news is that science is now starting to answer some of these questions. “Positive psychology” is investigating questions such as how do we flourish, what gives us meaning and what makes us happy. It has been around since the turn of the century and is starting to produce consistent evidence as to what it takes to improve our happiness. Positive psychology identifies and creates “treatment methods or intentional activities that aim to cultivate positive feelings, behaviours or cognitions” and according to studies by Sonja Lyumbomirsky and Nancy Sim they have been shown to significantly enhance “happiness” and reduce depressive symptoms.

As a counsellor I have worked with many clients over the years, along the way gaining an insight in to what happiness (or lack of it) actually looks like. All of that experience has led me to believe that happiness is widely misunderstood and certainly isn’t something that just happens to people.

Over the coming weeks I am going to explore “happiness”, what it means and what are the “happiness” habits we can all practice in order to enhance our psychological wellbeing.

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The Cambridge Counsellor is proud to announce that Mark Gatland our Lead Psychotherapist will be giving a key note speech at:

TCC Conference

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