A friend of mine shared with me not too long ago that her college-aged daughter is full of angst, even though outwardly she doesn’t show it.
“Not surprising,” was the gist of my reply, remembering my own angst as a teen and early twenty-something.
What was surprising to me, however, was my friend’s reply when I asked her the nature, or cause, of her daughter’s angst. She told me that her daughter lives in a world of “woulda, shoulda, coulda” – essentially second-guessing all of the decisions she has made and feeling constant discontent about her situation.
“And she’s how old??” I asked. One would think such regret could only be achieved with the passage of time, as one drifts further and further away from the ideals of youth – not while one is still in her youth.
Yet how many of us, regardless of age, ruminate on pointless “what if”s and “if I had only”s? I’m guessing most (or all) of us, only to varying degrees. So I humbly offer up a suggestion for countering such unhelpful, and potentially crippling, obsessive thoughts. It all boils down to a four-word mantra:
“You Can’t Screw Up!”
My friend Max introduced me to the YCSU concept years ago, specifically in reference to the early stages of dating. Let’s say you’ve met someone new. Someone wonderful, of course. You really like this wonderful person and you want to make the best possible impression in the hopes of launching a bona fide relationship with him/her because, let’s face it, he/she could be The One. What do you do??? Do you call him/her right away, or do you play it cool? Do you call/e-mail more than once before you’ve gotten a response, even if it’s been days since your last call/e-mail? How much interest do you show, and how soon? How much of your guard do you let down, and when? The list of potential worries goes on and on.
Here’s where you stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself: You Can’t Screw Up!
“Now wait a second,” I hear you protest over the invisible highways and byways of cyberspace. “Of course I can screw up! I do the wrong thing, or make the wrong impression, and BAM – my window of opportunity is gone, never to return. I miss what could be my one chance at true love, and I end up dying penniless and alone.”
But here’s the deal, as my friend Max so eloquently explained: either there is the potential for a genuine connection with this person, or there is not. There may not be for any of myriad reasons: he/she may be unavailable, uninterested, ultimately not really compatible with you, or perhaps the timing is just plain off. If any of these happens to be the case, nothing you do or don’t do will change that. Similarly, if there truly is potential for a connection – i.e., the object of your affection is interested, is available, the timing is good, etc., he/she will likely forgive or overlook a little bit of clumsiness on your part.
In other words: You Can’t Screw Up!
This is liberating news. If (when) you act imperfectly, it’s okay! So go ahead and do what you’re moved to do (I personally would add the caveat “so long as you’re not causing harm to others or their property”, but that’s just me…). Take the chance. Make decisions that are congruent with what you want. If things don’t pan out the way you had hoped, perhaps the best attitude to take is to assume that it’s for the best. At least you strengthened the muscle of going for it, which will no doubt be of benefit in the long run. Plus, you never know what miseries you have been spared by not getting what you thought you wanted. As my dad once put it to me: “Be thankful for all of the people you never married.” 🙂
Am I arguing that it is absolute truth that you can’t screw up? Of course not. If you’re determined to prove me wrong, you will. I am suggesting, however, that adopting this mindset may free you to follow your heart more often, and to view whatever happens as being helpful – perhaps even necessary – for your own growth and (dare I say?) fulfillment. Maybe there really is no such thing as screwing up – only gifts and/or lessons that result from every choice you make. By paying attention and accepting each and every gift and lesson (even, or maybe especially, the ones you keep getting over and over again!) you can learn, improve, benefit, grow, and/or contribute in some way. You always have the option of gleaning something positive from a seemingly negative experience or result through the use of some creative observation; you can always choose to “take a sad song and make it better”.
All actions have consequences, including the lack of action. The question is: what might you do differently if you held the belief, even just for a moment, that You Can’t Screw Up?