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Breaking Up is Hard to do – 20 Questions to Help You Know When it’s Time to Let go

Breaking Up is Hard to do – 20 Questions to Help You Know When it’s Time to Let go

    Do you remember the story about the new prisoner on the block?   He is settling in nervously on the first night of his sentence, when he hears a series of numbers yelled out, each one followed by raucous laughter from his fellow inmates.   Nervously, he asks his cell-mate what is going on.   The cell-mate replies, “That’s the lifers, they have been in here so long that they have heard all of each others’ jokes, so rather than telling the joke, to save time they just shout out the joke’s number.”  If your friends and family could tell this joke to describe how you talk about your relationship issues, you might want to read this post.

    But seriously, breaking up is hard to do and inspires procrastination in the best of us. The writing may have been on the wall for months or even years, yet the exit out of a relationship can be a painstakingly slow process.  Even without marriage and children in the mix, wrestling with the dilemma of when to hold and when to fold is often painful.

    There are times when it may be blindingly obvious to everyone around you that it’s time to walk away, yet you still need to come to your own conclusion. The exception to this rule is if there is any kind of violent or abusive behavior taking place. In this case you need to get help and get yourself away and to safety immediately.

    Loyalty, commitment and a willingness to work through difficult times are all valuable qualities to bring to any relationship but it’s good to be aware that these virtues can also sometimes work against us and cause us to prolong the suffering by clinging to a relationship long after it has ceased to be good for us.  At times like this it’s great to have kind and patient friends who can support you along the way.   But most important, is to give yourself some space and time to really explore what you are thinking and feeling.   As one of my wise friends says,

    “You’re not done ‘til you’re done and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, because only when you know you’re done will it really be over and when you’re done, you’ll know it.”

    Sometimes it’s helpful to ask yourself a series of questions. Journaling your responses may allow you to go deeper still, in search of the clarity you need.   Here are some to start you off.

    1)   What am I afraid of?

    Get really honest with your answers here, – some of the most common are,  the fear of being alone, fear of what other people will think and fear of making a mistake.

    2)   Are those realistic fears?

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    Once you have listed your fears, go through the list one by one and ask yourself how realistic they are.

    3)   If I wasn’t scared that x,y,z might happen– what would I do?

    Next, taking each fear in turn, ask yourself how your course of action might be influenced if this fear wasn’t a factor.

    4)   Am in love with this person, or the person I wish they were? (aka The Imaginary Boyfriend)?

    This questions deals with the perennial problem of falling in love with the potential.

    5)   If I could get an email from myself ten years from now, what advice might it have?

    This is another good trick to get a different perspective on the problem and to get in touch with the inner wisdom we all have. My thanks to Havi Brooks for inspiring this one with her dialogues with her “slightly future me”.

    6)   Is this relationship bringing out the best in me?

    Take a look at the person you have become in relation to who you were before. Do you like the comparison?

    7)   Have I given my best? 

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    It’s always easier to come to closure when you can honestly say that you gave it 100%.

    8)   Should it be this much work?

    What does this relationship add to your quality of life?

    9)    Do I make excuses for or justify my partner’s behavior towards me?

    Your friends and family will be able to fill you in here.

    10)   How would I feel about my little sister/brother/daughter/son being in this situation?

    This one may surprise you, it’s often a little shocking to see the standards we will tolerate for ourselves compared to what we think the people we love deserve.

    11)    What have I learned from this relationship?

    What have you learned about what works and what doesn’t work for you?

    12)     What haven’t I learned from this relationship?

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    Where are you stuck?

    13)      Is this a familiar pattern?

    Have you seen this all before?  What do you need to do to take responsibility for doing it differently from now on?

    14)      Have I honestly expressed what it is that I want without trying to hide my vulnerability or blaming or judging?

    It’s hard to ask for what we really want when we are scared we won’t get it but everyone deserves the opportunity to hear requests kindly and clearly.

    15)      Do I think I can love this person in the way they deserve to be loved?

    Let’s turn the tables for a second, can you give your partner everything they have a right to receive?

    16)      If this is all there is, will it be enough?

    It’s a great test to ask whether if nothing changes. Could you really be happy with this person?

     17)      If I weren’t angry, how would it change things?

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    When we have had our needs unmet for a while, resentment can build to the point of rage and obscure rational thought.

    18)  If I forgave my partner, what difference would it make?

    To err is human, but to forgive is divine.  One of my favorite quotes says that refusing to forgive is like continually drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.   If your partner has done something or many things that have hurt you, ask yourself what might happen if you gave them a fresh slate?

    19)  If I forgave myself what difference would it make?

    Self-compassion can be a wonderful vehicle for growth and clarity, if yesterday didn’t exist at all, would you still feel the way you do?

     20)     If today was my last – would I regret ending or not having ended the relationship more?

    Finally, this question raises the stakes a little and challenges any sense of complacency.  It can give you a real sense of perspective, by asking how you might do things differently if you knew you wouldn’t have another chance.

    Try these questions out or add and subtract your own and don’t forget to trust your inner knowing.  Deep down, you know what’s best for you.

    Good Luck.

     

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    Last Updated on May 12, 2020

    Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

    Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

    Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

    Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. At times, I forgot that who I was wasn’t what I did. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can too.

    Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll look at what a fear of failure is, where it comes from, and how to overcome it so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

    What Is Fear of Failure?

    Fear causes you to avoid potentially harmful situations. Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

    What causes fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failure exists:

    • Patterns from childhood – Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules.This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.
    • Perfectionism – Perfectionism is often at the root of fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.
    • Over-personalization – The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]
    • False self-confidence – People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

    How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back from Suceeding

    Unhealthy Organization Culture

    Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

    Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable cock-ups and messes onto someone else. The rapid turnover as people rise high, then fall abruptly from grace. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

    Miss out Valuable Opportunities

    If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago. They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

    Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

    Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

    High Achievers Become Losers

    Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes makes it into a handicap. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major handicap.

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    Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

    Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

    The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect your butt, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

    If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

    The problems with ethical standards in major US corporations has, I believe, more to do with fear of failure among long-term high achievers than any criminal intent. Many of those guys at Enron and Arthur Andersen were supreme high-fliers, basking in the flattery of the media. Failure was an impossible prospect, worth doing just about anything to avoid.

    Loss of Creativity

    Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

    Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant. When you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the best and most creative solution.

    The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Get used to it. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity too.

    Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

    We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work and in life.

    How to Overcome the Fear of Failure (Step-By-Step)

    1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

    Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

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    Write down where you think the fear comes from and try to understand it as an outsider.

    If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

    Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

    2. Re-Frame Beliefs About Your Goal

    Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

    If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

    At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

    3. Learn to Think Positively

    In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

    Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

    Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

    Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

    If Disney and Jobs believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

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    It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

    4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

    Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

    Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

    5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

    There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

    It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.[9]

    For example, when you start a new business, there’s bound to be a learning curve. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

    6. Have a Backup Plan

    It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

    “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

    Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

    There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

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    7. Learn from Whatever Happens

    Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

    “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

    Ask yourself:

    • What did I learn?
    • How can I grow from this?
    • Did anything positive come from this situation?

    Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

    Final Thoughts

    Together we’ve learned what fear of failure is, and how it can have a crippling effect on our ability to achieve. This fear often stems from childhood, perfectionism, ego and over-personalization, and a lack of confidence.

    Luckily for us, there are plenty of ways to tackle this fear. We can start by figuring out where it comes from and re-framing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

    Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

    Failures can be blessings in disguise.

    Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and goals. Don’t allow fear to stand in your way.

    More Tips for Conquering Fear

    Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

    Reference

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