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Life After the Military

Transition and Fears


Fear of Failure

Many transitioning military feel a need to cover all contingencies before proceeding with an action or plan. This may appear to reflect reasonable caution and planning. Actually, it can stall a person to the point of getting nowhere. Frequently, this need to ensure that all possibilities are projected and considered in advance represents a fear of being able to handle unpredicted situations.

Unfortunately, while you are devising every possible scenario, no progressive action is taking place. The seemingly reasonable caution in the words, "What if?" has created a roadblock to the actions which can lead to success. Change the words to "Why not?"

None of your possible scenarios represent current reality. They are simply projections of possibilities and perceptions. However, they can lead to a fear of taking action, lest some of these events might actually occur. Zig Ziglar has described FEAR as False Events Appearing Real. Consequently, the first step in confronting the fears consists of reminding yourself that such events have not occurred and may never occur.

Instead of wallowing in the possible difficulties, work on re-framing your thoughts into more positive terms. Don't think of a projected event as a catastrophe. See it as a challenge, enigma, puzzle, mystery, opportunity, or adventure. In fact, even your physical sensations and emotions may be re-labeled. The sensations of agitation, sweating palms, dry mouth, and stomach fluttering might be interpreted as fear, or could be labeled as anticipation. Most people would prefer anticipation rather than fear. If you want to feel positive, choose the positive label.

Next, remind yourself that you have encountered difficult situations before and survived them, maybe even benefited from them. Think about what skills you used to get through tough times in the military and practice them. This will assist you in offsetting challenges, and enable you to shift your mindset from fearful to "So what.., then what??" Change your focus from fearing the future to welcoming it with the knowledge that you possess the capabilities to handle whatever occurs.

Use mistakes and negative events as opportunities to learn. Consider Thomas Edison, who underwent several thousand trials before finding the right combination for the filament for the incandescent light. When he was questioned about his method for withstanding so much failure, he replied, "I never considered any one of them a failure, because in each case I found out what didn't work." By not repeating an action that did not work in this particular situation, he increased chances that he would eventually arrive at a successful conclusion. You can find similar success by examining events which have not worked well, changing some of your actions, and evaluating the results.

Reduce your need to cover every possible contingency, and release yourself from the need for perfection. You will actually free yourself to take the actions (and risks) needed to succeed. Rather than wallowing in the mire of fear, you open yourself to the eventuality of flying with the eagles.

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