Failing Perception

Summer is coming to an end. The subtle hints of an emerging fall season are appearing. The edges of some leaves are browning. ESPN’s coverage of football is gaining momentum. College campuses are no longer ghost towns, but rather a chaotic mass of hopeful, eager, and scared students. Changing seasons often prompt people to make changes to live a little differently. A new beginning if you will. As a teacher and soccer coach, the beginning of the fall season brings mixed emotions. Teaching means the sadness of less time with my wife and kids, longing for less responsibilities, the excitement of helping other kids, the joy of seeing missed colleagues, and the worried energy of another unknown school year. Soccer means exhausting 6:00 am training sessions, intriguing talks of tactics and putting the right players in the right spots, hopeful opportunities to share knowledge with young players, and the thrill of being under the lights at Clothier Field.

Some new beginnings just happen; such is the case with the seasons changing. Some new beginnings demand tremendous effort; such is the case with new soccer seasons, starting a new school year, or trying to become happier/less angry/more patient/less worried/more compassionate/being healthier. These are the hard new beginnings. They are hard because they mean doing things differently. They are hard because the require effort and persistence. They are hard because we don’t know how they will unfold. And the unknown is often scary, anxiety-provoking, and unfamiliar; making it all too easy to return to what is comfortable and known. This is why new beginnings often fail before they start. We envision the amazing results of a desired future. Regrettably, when we stumble on the path of a new beginning for the first time our perfect vision moves out our grasp. When we stumble for the second time the vision continues to move and becomes blurry. By the time we’ve stumbled over and over again the vision becomes an unattainable, frustrating, and hopeless failure. Or does it? Is it really unattainable or have we made our mind up to give up even though success is still a possibility? (I feel compelled to be mention that repeated failures eventually signify failure. That is reality. But too often we succumb to failure well before we have put forth the proper effort and persistence.) If we had just persisted for another day, week, or month maybe we could begin to grasp that vision once more. And if we could grasp the vision, maybe we would feel renewed motivation to persist the next time we stumble. And if we persisted with each stumble, maybe we would feel that sense of pride that accompanies overcoming difficult times. And if we feel proud, maybe we would succeed and truly experience that original envisioned future, rather than it just remaining a vision.

There is a reason that successful people are said to “have vision.” Successful people maintain a clear vision of their desired future despite repeated failures. What is envisioned remains steady in the mind’s eye regardless of the peripheral noise and distractions. Successful people do experience the torture of naysayers, the self-doubt, and the challenges. However they limit the controlling power the naysayers, self-doubt, and challenges have over them.

As you start to entertain ideas of change and a new beginning, is it possible that you may be the biggest obstacle. You might come up with excuses that things get in the way, but that is only because you let them get in your way. If you have previously attempted to begin anew and failed, consider that your perception may be at the heart of the problem. A small change in your perception might lead to the envisioned path and not down the path of another frustrating failure.

Finally, how we talk to ourselves has a big impact, so consider the following: If you are attempting to make a change, try the simple, although challenging task to replace the word “problem” with “distraction” when talking to yourself. Problems can feel and therefore become overwhelming, thus problems are more likely to stop progress. On the other hand, distractions feel manageable, thus distractions are much easier to work through. Small changes like this can have a profound impact on perception, motivation, and whether see a new beginning through to its final end.

Don’t let your perception to lead to failure.

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