We all know it's scary to try new things. There was also a time for all of us that it wasn't so scary. Maybe that was just a year ago for you, or ten years ago. Maybe it hasn't been that way since you were very, very little. Perhaps you can't even remember that time.
Over the course of our lives we've all learned new things, even in "safe" ways. We've started new jobs and been trained to do new tasks. Maybe you became a parent or got married - those are definitely new skills. If you're a student, you learn new things all the time.
So, what's the tipping point where we lose our willingness to do these new things? For some it's when we are young and we realize that someone might be watching, or a kid at school makes fun of us for something mundane we've never paid attention to. For others, we are older and realize that we don't want to do anything we don't feel absolutely sure of because we might fail.
In my case, it crept in when I reached a certain amount of "success" with work - suddenly I became aware that if anything I did didn't reach my standard someone else might judge it and think me less capable.
As that feeling crept into my work life, from the outside you might not have noticed anything different. I coasted along at my regular activities doing mostly the same quality of work as always, and to some extent that presents like success. At the same time, I stopped putting my neck out when something new and interesting popped into my head.
Eventually, this feeling that someone might notice me failing was spreading like a weed into my previously reliable endeavors. What if someone notices that high F# wasn't just right? What if they know I am nervous and can't remember what other instruments play this chord with me? What if they can tell I feel nervous?
So it went, as I continued to stuff these thoughts and feelings further and further down until a lot of previously comfortable situations made me very, very nervous.
Ironically, the pandemic and the ensuing shut downs gave me the best opportunity yet to evaluate my perspective and what started this vicious cycle of doubt.
Our mind and our body build support systems for our habits, so when I started to doubt myself a little, those thought pathways became stronger. Over time, they became body-builder thoughts. Tough, hard to move, and persistent.
I'm currently reading The Practice by Seth Godin (if you don't read his daily blog, you are missing out big time: https://seths.blog), and he delves into the reality of creating in the most digestible way I have seen yet. As the title of the book implies it is the practice, not the ensuing result, that matters.
Good decisions can still have bad outcomes, and this is where most of us run astray. We are so obsessed with the outcomes that we lose sight of building the skills and habits for our own personal goals.
We forget that we have no control over the outcomes.
We become disillusioned by what we have been taught - to be a successful musician you must be a college professor or full time orchestra musician, to be a successful learner you must produce straight A's, etc - that we stop thinking about what matters most to us.
What do you really want to achieve or do to make a difference? What do you want to create?
Reflecting on this thought pattern and cycle has give me a new energy to focus on the goals and projects I have created for myself and can create for myself, and to stop expecting external validation or criticism to provide much besides self doubt and distraction.
(Sticker and inspiration for the title from https://www.thegraymuse.com, artwork by https://morganharpernichols.com, The Practice by Seth Godin https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53479927-the-practice)