Have you ever wanted something so badly that you got so nervous when you were trying to get it that you failed?
I had trouble playing certain classical songs on the piano. I’d get frustrated and screw up the second time. I’d get even more frustrated and anxious and do even worst the third and fourth times. I did this because I was trying to play near-perfectly and putting too much pressure on myself. When I stopped giving a shit and stopped trying too hard, what do you think happened? I played a lot better.
When I put too much pressure on myself during job interviews, I got so nervous, I had a hard time focusing on the best answers to the questions the interviewers were asking. My mind would go strangely blank at the worst possible times. When I was relaxed in the comfort of my bedroom, I could create great answers to interview questions quickly, without hesitation.
But when I became really nervous at job interviews, I performed worse. The harder I tried, the worst I did. In many cases, my nervousness stopped me from getting the job that I was desperately trying to secure.
After failing to get some really good jobs because of my nervousness, I decided to let go of my obsession with the outcome and let things play out naturally. What do you think happened? When I surrendered the outcome, I was less nervous, more confident and I performed a LOT better. Most of the time, I got the job.
This entire concept sounds very counter-intuitive, but it’s true. If you really want to do your best in life, let go. Let go of your obsession with trying to control the outcome 100% of the time. Let go of that need to be perfect.
We were taught that practice makes perfect. Keep practicing until you get it right all the time and you’ll be successful. What we’re not taught is that the best way to achieve success is to let go. This doesn’t mean you stop trying or you don’t care about the outcome at all. It means first taking control of your emotions. Taking control of your emotions begins with first accepting and embracing the negatives ones.
Admit that you are trying too hard. Admit that you have fears—the fear of failure, the fear of letting others down, the fear of looking stupid, or other ones that you’ve been hiding from your conscious mind. Admit that you are trying to be perfect. Then admit that you’re allowed to make some mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process. As we relax more, we make less mistakes. As we make less mistakes, we get more relaxed and make even fewer mistakes.
When we don’t acknowledge and control our emotions, our emotions take control and make us perform more poorly. Years of negative social programming have made virtually all of us feel inadequate, at least in some areas of our lives. This feeling of inadequacy and the pressure that our friends and society place on us can be overwhelming and make us feel a lot of fear and uncertainty in situations when we have to perform. This can lead to anxiety and—paradoxically—poor performance.
The key to success is to let go. It doesn’t mean that we’re giving up or that we’re weak. It means admitting that life and events are sometimes out of our control. It means understanding that we’re human and we’re going to make mistakes in life, but at the end of the day, everything is going to be ok.
There will be times when we aren’t performing our best. There will be people who won’t like us or something we said or did. Other times we’ll struggle to learn a new skill or grasp a new concept. It’s during these times of uncertainty that we must relax, give ourselves time to learn and grow, and realize that no matter what happens, we’re awesome and competent human beings.
Think of areas of your life where you’ve put too much pressure on yourself and tried too hard when you should’ve relaxed, did your best and let go of your obsession with the outcome. Relax, do your best, and be willing to surrender the outcome. Say goodbye to that inner-perfectionist and welcome your humanity, in all its beauty and imperfection. You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll do.