I’d like to discuss the little phenomenon I like to call “The Wake Up Call Moment.” We’ve all experienced it at some point, and it goes a little something like this; you’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, chuckling at the latest memes and statuses, when suddenly you read a status that makes you sit back and reevaluate your life.
Your friend from high school just got accepted into the Harvard Graduate program. Maybe someone your age suddenly got engaged, or won a scholarship to a writing conference. You’re staring at a picture of your friend finishing a triathlon- and it’s his third.
Bottom line is someone somewhere has done something with their lives, and yet here you are, eating Ben & Jerry’s, still unsure about what you are even having for breakfast tomorrow. I know I am not the only one who has had the 2 a.m. panic attack about where their life is heading.
Therapists trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy contend that we engage in “self talk,” positive or negative patterns of thought that we use to cope and solve problems. This self-talk can be problematic when we engage in catastrophic thinking; exaggerating the consequences of failure. When you are having that 2 a.m. panic attack, that is what you are doing.
Although I am no expert on the matter, I have experienced telling myself that if I don’t complete X, Y, and Z then I will get nowhere in life. So I am offering a few tips to get you through it.
First, accept that at this moment in time, panicking will not make you get where you want to be any faster. So breathe. Second, remind yourself that you are not alone. Everyone who has ever succeeded in life has at some point in time panicked about it.
Now that you are calmer, it is time to make a game plan. The key is to start small; make a list of exactly what you want to accomplish tomorrow. Then, expand that list to goals for the week.
Buy a journal and in it, write down a few life goals – do not limit yourself here. Even if you don’t think you will ever be an international pop star, if it is a dream of yours, write that bad boy down. Remember that no one is going to see this journal, and therefore there is no one to disappoint (more on that later).
While writing down goals, think about the distinction between goals you have for yourself and those others have for you; doing this will help put things in perspective. Do you want to have kids by the age of thirty or do you just think you should? Highlight the ones that are truly your own goals. You may find that these are not as unreachable as you first thought.
Keep in mind that people are different. It is unreasonable to compare yourself to another person because frankly, you aren’t the same. It’s one of the great things about being human, in my opinion. Even someone who is the same by nature can end up completely different though nurture: ask any identical twin.
I will leave you with some food for thought; according to the National Institute of Mental Health, fear of failure can greatly stunt an individual’s potential. It leads to anxiety, stress, and missed opportunities. So, when looking at what someone has accomplished and convincing yourself that you are a failure, remember: you can’t succeed unless you try.