“What is it that I really want out of life? What would I attempt to do if I knew I could not fail?”
This is on the first page of my therapy “homework” for the week. The rest of the pages go on to describe ways of overcoming the fear of failure and changing the beliefs that are holding you back. But I’m stuck on the first page. What would I attempt to do if I knew I could not fail?
I don’t know.
My teenage ambition was to become an astronaut. Leaving aside the practical obstacles to that career, would I still want to do that now? Space no longer captures my imagination the way it once did, as the joy of discovery has been beaten out of me by years of graduate studies. That makes me a little sad. I hope I’ll recover some that joy someday.
Would I write a book? You could never finish a book; you are not good at character development; you couldn’t make a living doing that anyway. I’m supposed to ignore those negative thoughts for the purpose of this exercise, darn it! So maybe. It doesn’t have to be fiction: there are lots of captivating non-fiction books about odd little topics.
Would I make things? I like to knit and sew, and though I have not done it since high school shop class, there is an appeal to building wooden things as well. You are not very good at these things. I’d get better if I did them more often, and anyway, the question is still about whether I’d want to try.
Would I be an accountant? Or maybe an actuary? I enjoy managing our household budget (yeah, I’m weird – the weekly budgeting process actually calms me down). I once took a free Introduction to Accounting course online and found it very logical and interesting; just the kind of thing I might be good at. But you would have to go back to school and get another degree for that, and you don’t have the money for that, and do you really want to still be in college when you’re 30? Fair points, brain, but ignore the difficulties right now.
Would I teach high school? I am in fact reasonably qualified for this, although it would take a few years before I was any good at it. I don’t know if that’s what I really want, though. Being in front of students all day would exhaust me, and spending hours of my own time grading and prepping might be too much like the all-consuming nature of academia.
Would I be a stay-at-home mother? Not full-time; even as super-introverted as I am, I learned during maternity leave that I need regular adult conversation. Part-time might be nice, because I do believe that something I want out of life is the ability to watch my child grow up.
You might have noticed that none of the options I’ve considered thus far include the obvious one for someone who’s put this many years into graduate school: Would I be a professor in my field of study? Years ago, I thought the answer was yes. Now my first reaction to the question is a desire to curl up in a ball and hide.
What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?