In my previous post, “Obeying Fear is True Failure“, I wrote about how many of us don’t use our God-given gifts because we are afraid. There are many things to fear. One of the most common fears we face is being afraid of failure. If you were asked to answer the question, “What is something you would do in your life if you could do anything at all?” what would you answer? This could be a job you have always dreamed of doing, or maybe it is owning something that you have always felt was unattainable, or maybe it was pursuing a hobby or talent that you long ago decided you “could never” do. Whatever that thing is, why have you not done it. Are you planning to do it one day? If so, what steps are you taking to accomplish it? If you can’t specifically point to any real action steps you are taking, then I would argue that you are not really planning to accomplish it. Why do we so often neglect to pursue the things we long to accomplish? One of the biggest reasons we choose not to pursue our dreams is because deep down, we are afraid to fail.
You may have never realized you are harboring this fear. Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about how great it would be to do the thing we dream of doing but deep down we fear that if we set out to accomplish the dream and fail at it, then we would have no more dreams to hold onto. We would rather have a dream that we hold onto like Schmiegel’s “precious” than to actually try to turn that dream into action and find that the dream has conquered us and we can’t accomplish it. This is a common way of thinking within those who have grown up with a poverty mindset.
The Poverty Mindset
The poverty mindset is a deeply ingrained way of thinking within those who have grown up in a culture of poverty which keeps that person constantly suppressing themselves. For most who have been raised with a poverty mindset, it is so deeply ingrained into their worldview that they can’t even see ways it is impacting them. Those who grow up in poverty typically do not have examples of success around them. They are so underexposed to examples of successful people who take risks that they grow up to be adults who never allow themselves to believe they can accomplish anything great. So they don’t even try. This is one of the saddest and most common ways we see fear of failure play out. Someone stricken with this mindset have learned to settle for low life standards because they harbor fear that they could never be successful at the things which they would ever want to do. So they suppress their dreams and neglect their giftings instead of develop them.
A Change in Mindset
If you are someone who thinks you may be paralyzed by fear of failure, you need to consider the brevity of life. Salman Rushdie once said, “We all owe death a life.” One day you will die. That reality should inform the way you live. One day you will face your last day living this life. On that day, you will take with you the sum total of all you accomplished here. You will have to give an account to Lord for what you did with the gifts He has given you. At that point you will wish you had lived your life to the fullest now. So instead of harboring unfounded, imagined fears of failure, ask yourself the question, “What if I succeed?” Instead of spending your time worrying that you might fail at something that you have never tried, worry that you will die never using the gifts God has given you.
You only have one chance to live this life. You have been given certain personality traits, gifts, and abilities that are unique to you. No one else has been made to be the person God has made you to be. And one day you will stand before the Creator to give an account about how you well you used your gifts. He has called you and redeemed you to do good works that he has prepared beforehand for you to do. You can either fail by inaction or fail by action, or be successful. Be the kind of person who looks the risk of failure head on and seeks to conquer it. And if you fail in the end, then you failed while striving to succeed instead of by being paralyzed by fear.
When I stop to enjoy the wonder and beauty of God’s creation around me, I am in awe. I recently discovered a documentary narrated by Gordon Wilson entitled The Riot and the Dance. It is a beautiful and awe-inspiring look into the wonders of God’s creation. When you consider any animal that God created, they are very good at being themselves. He has made snakes that can fly through the air; spiders that can spin intricate and beautiful webs, spinning dolphins that can jump out of the water and spin through the air; beautiful birds that soar; ants that can create astounding and complex colonies underground; and the list is endless of all the variety of beautiful creatures. But as I consider these creatures, one thing stands out to me about all of them–All of these beautiful creatures that God has made are all very good at being themselves. None of them seems to be bad at being what God has made them. He designed them with instincts and knowledge about how to do the things they each are good at doing. And yet, with humans it is not that simple. Or is it? We humans so often fail at being who God designed us to be due to our own self-inflicted limitations we place on ourselves. Of course some animals fail at being themselves. We all can remember seeing a dead baby bird that tried to fly and couldn’t. But even in that failure they failed while fully being who God designed them to be. Much of our struggle as humans is in our inability or subconscious unwillingness to even try due to our internal belief that we “can’t”.
Can you imagine a spider that needs to spin a web, but spends all of its time thinking about how it can’t spin a web because it is so hard and she is not sure if she can do it? Can you imagine a beaver who doesn’t even try to build a dam because he had parents who didn’t teach him how, and so he spends all of his time thinking about his difficult upbringing and doesn’t believe he has the skills to build a dam? God’s creatures bring to glory to Him because they live fully in the essence of what God made them to be? So why do we humans so often struggle? We make the mistake of believing we could never accomplish our dreams, or could never land that job, or could never build a successful business, or could never lose that much weight, or could never, could never, could never…….
Much of our failure to even try can be attributed to our own self-limiting self talk. We have a voice within our own mind that we often don’t even notice. This voice can be a force for good. But I find so often in my life that it ends up being a voice for bad. And the worst part about it is how incredibly subtle and sneaky this voice can be. I can go years without realizing I have been listening to the voice inside me that tells me I can’t do something and that I shouldn’t even try.
Don’t get me wrong; we do have limits that are reasonable. I am almost 40 years old with severe arthritis. I would be a fool to dream about playing football in the NFL. But much of what I have not accomplished in life is due more to subconsciously believing that I can’t and so never trying, more than it is about my inability to do it.
So as you stop and take a moment to appreciate God’s kind and beautiful creation around you, remember that He has also, along with the rest of His created beings, made you to accomplish great things. He has given you so much. So much potential. So much ability. So much intellect. Your lack of using it could be much less due to an inability and much more due to your errant belief that you don’t possess it. Take some time today to pray and thank your Creator for what He has given you within yourself and ask Him to help you to live to your fullest potential for His glory.
The poverty mindset is a phrase I use to discuss a way of thinking many who grow up in poverty have learned. It is very deceptive. Relatively speaking, I grew up in poverty. Of course there are varying degrees of poverty, and poverty for some may be wealth for others. Part of the poverty mindset is believing that all your financial problems will go away if you could just make a little more money. This is a critical error that is incredibly simple, but is so deeply ingrained in the poverty mindset that it is very hard to undo.
The other day I was driving with my kids in the car. I was talking to them about the importance of salting the sidewalk in front of our home so that no one slips and gets hurt. If someone slipped, not only would it cause injury, but we could get sued. Responding to my son who asked what it meant to get sued, I told them a story about how my father one time got injured on the job and collected a settlement of a large lump sum of money. My son astutely responded with, “If grandpa got all that money, then you weren’t poor your whole life then right?” What a profound question.
My boys know the history of our family and how we struggled a lot financially growing up. We would sometimes be without electricity, or hot water, or a working home phone (this was before the mobile phone era).
This question my son asked was so incredibly insightful and perfectly captures the poverty mindset. Although my father received a lump sum of money at one point, we still never stopped living our lives to some extent in poverty. I still remember my mother rationing out the cereal even after that lump sum of money. Sure, we enjoyed a temporary time of relief for a year or two in which we were not lacking as much as we did earlier in my life. However, my father also had the home foreclosed on not more than 6 years after purchasing it. So why the poverty lifestyle even after a large sum of money was infused into the finances?
The answer lies in something that I am still learning to correct. Daily lifestyle, especially budgeting. If someone wants to break the poverty cycle, possibly the most important thing they need to do is learn to live within their means no matter how much they make, learn to write a budget and live under the authority of that budget. If we cannot learn to do that then we will never truly break the poverty cycle because no matter how much money we have, we will always feel like we need a little bit more because our spending will always be more than we bring in.
Below are a list of resources which may help you if you are trying to learn to break free from the poverty mindset and poverty cycle in your life. I hope you will join me in striving hard after learning how to discipline ourselves to live within our means and live according a budget.