How to prevent an impending disaster, or: Stop banging your head against the wall! You can get what you want without all the blood.

Much suffering could be prevented if we made it a habit to simply set aside twenty minutes per day, or even per week, to question what we believe is true about a problem we have.

To illustrate this point: There was a time in my life when I had to find a job but was convinced that it had to be something that would give me certain status. I had no ambition whatsoever in my „chosen“ field (it wasn’t really chosen, I just fell into it by accident and then made it part of my identity) and but kept telling myself the opposite. I applied for „respectable“ jobs in my field, and got rejection after rejection – the human resource people who read my applications or interviewed me could of course feel that I wasn’t too eager. So I widened my search to include other respectable fields. After almost a year of feeling humiliated and suffering because I could not get what I wanted, it finally worked out and I got a position (in a totally new field) that seemed „cool“ enough for me, even if it was very badly paid. It then turned out to be a complete nightmare.

Why did I do this to myself? I did it because I believed my value as a human being depended on having a certain status, which I could most realistically gain through a „respectable“ or „cool“ job.

Acting this way is the equivalent of banging your head against the wall until you bleed to get what you want. It’s hard to accept that I suffered so much emotional pain as well as real financial lack and social exclusion, a total breakdown of almost everything I had thought I could rely on, and one of the worst times of my life because of something I believed and left unquestioned.

I keep thinking, what if I had known that many so-called roadblocks stem from thoughts in our heads instead of external circumstances? I could have stopped this disaster from unfolding earlier and made life much easier for myself. It’s too late now, but here’s a valuable lesson:

How to prevent an impending disaster: Question your beliefs

Think of an area in your life where you feel stuck or experience failure after failure. A feeling of utter frustration, total disappointment, intense hopelessness, and stubbornness (!) about something are indicators of stuckness. Think of this area now.

What is one belief you have that causes you to act as you do in this situation?

In my case it would have been: „If I accept a job that doesn’t require higher education, it means that I am less valuable than other people.“

Now, state the opposite of this belief, or make a statement that somehow contradicts the belief.

The simplest way to do this would be: „If I accept a job that doesn’t require higher education, it doesn’t mean that I am less valuable than other people.“

Then find three examples of how this is true:
„If everyone thought like me, many essential tasks would not be done (agriculture, many services, production of industrial goods etc. etc.) and society would cease to function. These tasks are valuable and it is not logical to consider them somehow „less than“ those for which you need a degree.“
„Most jobs I had didn’t require a degree – does that mean I was a less valuable person when I had them? Can the value of a human being fluctuate like the stock market, depending on what job they have? This doesn’t make sense, either.“
„Maybe I can contribute more value by looking for a job in an area that I really enjoy, no matter what level, instead of going after something I don’t care about, just to impress others.“

(This is a process I learned from Martha Beck. You can read more about it in Martha Beck’s books „Steering by Starlight“ and „Finding Your Way In A Wild New World“.)

This can be like pulling teeth, you really have to fight your inertia and resistance to doing it (only for twenty minutes, though), but it has often freed my mind to the point where I was able to adopt a different point of view and finally take action that moved me forward and away from the wall I was banging my head against.


I challenge you to set aside 20 minutes today, or this week, and do this very uncomfortable but interesting exercise on the area in your life that you feel most stuck in.

In the comments, let me know 1) where you feel most stuck, 2) what belief is most standing in your way, 3) and how you feel after doing this exercise.
photo credits: “Stress Reduction” by Eamon Curry: . License: CC BY 2.0. No changes were made to the photo.

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