Sunday, June 27, 2010

Escaping the Failure Net

There are a lot of things that matter to me. My marriage, composing music, coaching others in unleashing their creativity and developing a purposeful vision, serving on the local steering committee for the More To Life organization, nurturing the meaningful connections I have with friends, and a handful of other things as well. I make commitments about those things on a regular basis, and I put those commitments in my calendar. I know when I intend to work on a piece, how much time I want to spend composing on any given day, when I’ll have a project completed, and when I’ll submit it to a performance opportunity. I chart those kinds of commitments for all of the things that are important to me. And sometimes it all runs like clockwork.

Sometimes, my commitments get in each other’s way. I have a flash of inspiration about something, but I’ve already committed all my time to other areas that week. Or I underestimate how long it will take to complete one step, so my entire time line winds up being adjusted into conflict with other commitments. Intellectually, I understand the need for flexibility. And in practice, I often do well with shifting the landscape of my personal commitments in a way that maintains my integrity and honors my deepest priorities. When I start second-guessing myself or inventing what other people might think, I get into trouble, though.

It goes something like this: If I don’t keep this commitment, then people will think less of me, and then they won’t respect me, and then they will not support what I am creating, and then I’ll be all alone in this, and then I will fail, and no one will really care except me. And then I’m caught with the decision to give up what I want in one area because I’m scared of what will happen. If I was honest about my actual priorities, the decision would be easy, and I could possibly come up with more creative solutions about how all of my commitments can play nice. But when I complicate it with my own predictions and inventions, I trap myself in the most uncreative space possible. I call it my Failure Net.

But the Failure Net is built on a cascade of fears. The truth is the best gift I can offer the world (and myself as it turns out) is my bold, honest, and authentic self, and I can do that in a way that welcomes feedback and insight from others. The only trick to doing that is simply to trust myself.

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