wise people have advised "learn from your mistakes" and "make
mistakes--lots of mistakes--just don't make the same mistake twice."
If we can take that attitude, i.e. "I'm just learning to master this
situation," we could be much more tolerant of our failures. We don't
have to succeed. Many great people have only made it by having the
courage to face repeated failure: Lincoln, Van Gogh, Frank Lloyd
Wright, Gertrude Stein...
Watch for and change your overly negative, unquestioned,
self-blaming thoughts. Example: "I got a 'C' because I'm stupid"
(no, because I didn't study enough or have good study methods. I
can't judge my ability to do school work until I put my best efforts to
an extensive and fair test).
Observe the relationship between your thoughts and mood;
prove that "illogical thoughts cause my depression, not my stupidity,
looks, or badness...and I can change those damned thoughts." Also
note expectations and outcome: if you expect little or nothing of
yourself, you'll probably do poorly. If you expect to do impossibly well,
you'll certainly fail. Your ambitions need to be challenging but realistic.
Guard against self-handicapping (discussed in chapter 4). This
is where you claim to have a handicap, perhaps "I'm sick," "I was up
all night," "I have test phobia," "I didn't prepare," "I'm nervous and
shy," "I've had a bad experience," "I'm on medication," etc. These
handicaps are designed to excuse a poor performance (if that is the
outcome); thus, prepared-in-advance handicaps reduce our motivation
to do well. It is true that no one will be able to tell how able or
disabled we are as long as there is no accurate test of our ability.
That's the real pay off. But there are costs: we never get to know
ourselves, we are likely to feel inadequate (we know we haven't tried),
and we get little pride from always being handicapped.
Guidance. If you have no purpose, if you are bored, if you feel
worthless or guilty or irresponsible, you need a guiding, inspiring
philosophy of life. See chapter 3 quick. A meaningful life needs to have
a purpose that firmly guides what you do every day. Life's purpose
doesn't have to be grandiose or religious, but it should increase the
good in the world and reduce the bad; it should make you proud. Self-
esteem and self-efficacy also involve wanting to learn, mastering
challenges, and developing skills and competencies. Your 2 1/2 pound
brain is a fantastic organ. Don't waste it.
Lowering your aspirations. Disappointments could be reduced
by lowering your aspirations and/or just accepting reality ("that's just
the way the ball bounced"). See 29b. Guard against frequent
obsessions with personal faults, such as being only average in
intelligence, being small and skinny, being tall, being "ordinary"
looking, having ugly ears, being shy, not catching jokes, and so on.
Many of these worries are not correctable or don't really matter; other
worries can be changed, but they aren't solved by just feeling
depressed about the problem.