March 7, 2014 - submitted by Anthony, United States of America

Lately I've been very unproductive. For the past few months I have slowly been sabotaging myself by constantly putting off important things in my life. These things include finding friends, getting a job, finding a place of my own, and most importantly, starting my career.
I've come to the conclusion that I'm doing this out of extreme fear of the future. In my core I am extremely afraid of being successful, and more importantly, afraid of failure. All I can see crushing failure awaiting me and implications that would have on my life (i.e. I would be a failure to my family and myself, I would have wasted years of my life and be significantly behind everyone else).
I don't want to be the guy working at McDonald's in his thirties. However, the more I put my problem off the worse my situation becomes, resulting in a bit of a "self-fulfilling prophecy" if you will. Even though I know my problem and I know logically I'm making things worse for myself, I cannot find the courage to move on.
What should I do?

The Oracle replies:

Fear of fear itself can be very detrimental. Ironically you feel like failure would mean a waste of your time yet the time you are wasting procrastinating doesn't seem enough to propel your motivation forward. If you flip every negative on its head you may see how not trying is getting you less than if you were to try and fail.
I'd argue that the no-case scenario is the worst-case scenario! It may feel obvious on Coldplay's website to quote a Coldplay song but here goes: "if you never try, you'll never know".
You may feel like you've got everything to lose but again, I argue you have nothing to lose. So what if you fail? Pick yourself up and try again or try something else. Don't give up. It may take several attempts to get something right.
Let's take writing a screenplay for example. Do you think it's perfect in its first draft? No. It takes time to get things right. Part of learning, improving and succeeding is failing.
There are people who expect things to go wrong. They get into bad habits and - I'm sorry to say - it's a convenient excuse to blame everything on when it goes wrong. "I told you it would happen". "Everything always goes wrong for me".
I find the poor me syndrome very boring!
I know many people who are guilty of self-fulfilling prophecies but at least you're not blinkered - you know you are doing it. So... STOP DOING IT.
You can change your behaviour. It's one thing we really do have control over. It might not be easy ("nobody said it was easy" - sorry!) to step out of your comfort zone but use the logic you know you possess.
One last thing, there is nothing wrong with working in a (insert name of any) fast food restaurant if that's what you aspire to do. If it isn't, do something about it. Now is as good a time as any.
Over to you.

Something that I found helped me in a similar situation, was learning that the internal dialogue to describe my life, had actually been creating my life. I.E. I was unhappy, and not getting anything done. I would go around telling people just that. The more people I told, the worse it got. I was telling people how broke I was, how my career wasn't really doing anything. And things just didn't seem to get better. One day I woke up and I could hear myself using all this negative language. I decided that enough was enough. I started to change the way I thought about things. Rather than saying to myself, "I should have done this or that" I would say to myself, "I am doing this or that". When people asked what I was up to, I started saying that things were looking up, and that I was doing ok. And strangely [ or not ] things started to change.
As my internal dialogue changed, so my exterior world changed. I stopped being hard on myself. I stopped minding what other thought of me. You have one chance of life. And as we all know, it's over in a moment. Create your opportunities by creating your own universe. Let go of what you think you want, and where you believe you want to go, and see if life has something else to offer you.
There are no wrong turns, just different outcomes. Brio.

I read your question, and I see you want success, but not too much and you don't want to fail. First I have to confront you with this: there will always be things that go wrong. But you should see what you did wrong, so you can learn from it and go on.
For a job, first think: what are my qualities (I hope I used the right translation), what are things I can do without trouble. As soon as you know those things, think what jobs there are in which you need those things. When you know that, see if you like it. That's also important: like your work. If you do your work with pleasure, it will be easier and more comfortable for you to work. You should also try to get some friends , in and out of your work. These things can help you a lot.
Goodluck, Isabelle.

Well done to you for taking the first step towards a more positive future by talking about your situation & asking for a little bit of advise. It seems that you have isolated yourself a bit, you're from the USA so I'm not sure if you're having crazy weather like here in the UK but lack of sunlight & miserable grey days can have a negative affect on our moods. My suggestion to you is exercise, fresh air & music. Download some great uplifting tunes to your iPod or phone, do you have a dog or maybe your neighbour does take it for a walk. This might sound a bit odd but getting out in the fresh air for a bit if exercise really helps to lift your mood & if you have a dog with you it gives you a bit of company & people talk to you if your walking the dog so this might help build your confidence around other people again. If your going for a walk on your own take your iPod. The combination of fresh air & uplifting music will really start to help you be in a more positive mood & in time will spur you on to taking steps towards your brighter future.
Kindest regards, Jo.

If there's one thing you can be taught from the experience of the future, let's say, buying your own house and beginning your career, it's that the only thing that will greatly increase your chances of failure is refusing to take a leap of faith and work towards your goals because of fear. Fear is only an illusion when it's against reason, and working very hard to strive for excellence has a much, much higher rate for success. It's understandable to feel like you could need a push or some form of support because growing up is not easy - that's the plain truth. Believe in yourself; work incessantly, celebrate your achievements, and above all, do not give in to rejection. It's all a part of life, but success is as well. You can do it.
Yours, Everly.

I know how you feel, there's always something missing, hard to find smiles everyday. There are things that have happened in the past that some times come crawling back into our memories and leave gloomy shades, but stay strong and keep reminding yourself about how amazing life is, ur's and everybody elses. Find something good, like a passion and get so lost in it that your everyday life becomes beautiful as ever. I think that ultimate satisfaction is the key to happiness, that point in life when u have no desires, just having to have lived and witness sooo much happiness is the greatest achievement. Take a walk, u might see a couple kissing, children playing, people working to provide for family and friends etc. And just tell urself that there is sooo much love in the world and it is everywhere. And a little smile on ur face once in a while, will make the world a little bit prettier every time.

I do feel for you because I have struggled with this sort of thing myself.
I have however found myself in a job where I am surrounded by people that some might consider successful, but the more time I spend around them, the more I realise just how normal and imperfect they are. And because of this I realise how important it is not to compare yourself to the persona people show. Sometimes people do well, and this can be down to hard work, but in some cases, it is more luck and the right circumstances. All you can do as an individual is your personal best.
As I am getting older, I am learning how to make progress. First of all, prioritising things in order of importance and practicality helps. And then setting time aside to concentrate on one thing alone, forgetting everything else for the time being (although I do appreciate this can be hard), and seeing the particular thing through to the end. This may be in hourly or half day blocks (for example), but once you do achieve something, even just one thing, you feel good about it.
And it is never too late to start. I am in my late 30s and am surprised to see many of my peers only now becoming qualified in certain jobs. I too am just starting out on a course.. I just need to get my mind on to it!!
Best wishes, D.

I'm Maria from Colombia. I know you're not the only person in the world that are feeling like this in this moment, so I have to tell you something. I remember a talk that inspired me so much. I remember this phrase: "To be successful, you have to take risks, but moderately". If you don't take risks, you will be the McDonald's guy forever! Your life will be boring, you won't do what you want. You gotta be strong, I know you want to be a great person. If you find the opportunity to make your dreams come true, go for it, before someone else take it. Well, that is my opinion, I wish you luck in your lifetime, and remember, don't be afraid and fight for your dreams!

It all starts with self confidence and self value. You have to value yourself first. You have unique talents that nobody else has. I also have to find my own place, get a job, and start my career as well. Don't worry about the future just yet, that'll work itself out. Focus on what you can change in the present. As for finding friends, go out and be social. Get out of your shell and talk to people. I'm certain that they won't bite. Fabian.

You can't move on because you don't know where to go, you need a goal. Your beloved ones seem to be fit with high expectations and stereotypes, neither with orientation for yourself. It's not important to be a big boss at 30, it's important to be able to find a piece of happiness every day. You can't be happy with working against your nature all the time for general norms and standards. Find out what makes you happy, something you would pay for with a lots of your energy, but also something that gives energy back to you. Don't worry where you are in a few years, walk in steps: Did you read the advertisements today, will you have a job interview next week, are you planning to move out, will you meet some friends tonight, is there something to look forward this week?
You are the director of your day and you write the book of your life, around you are staff and actors, they are essential, but you will decide the cast and the star roles. Have a beautiful day! L.Q.

I may not know much about life, I don't think any of us do. We will die not knowing what living life to the fullest is like. You shouldn't worry though, we all struggle from time to time. It is a norm we have to go through. There is time to rest, to work, to read, to play, to enjoy, to cry, to laugh, to scream, to sleep, to eat, to think, to listen, to talk, to hate, to love. It will always be time to live. That time is now. I suggest you follow whatever it is you want to do. There is more time than life, so don't hurry, but decide. It's alright that you are struggling with what choice to make, but don't stress out, that'll only make it make it bad. You are not a failure, so don't listen to what others may say. Be yourself, and don't forget to love yourself for doing the things you do and don't. I suggest you to take things step by step, things won't change from one day to the other. And always do things with a kind heart, a smile, and a positive mind. Don't do anything because you have to, but because you want to. As for courage, do it for yourself. Change to who you want to be, and enjoy it as much as you can. It may be a frightening journey, yet it'll all be worth it in the end. Hope to giving you hope, Sincerely Erika.

Love is the answer!
If you want to get back to your life, you first need to love yourself. You should! Cos we all are amazing and wonderful, but if you don't show love to yourself how could you possible love anyone else. If you feel sad, be sad for one day. Try to dance with your sadness and certainly you will find yourself dancing with a smile. Your dance will slowly and gently change your sadness into joy and happiness. That's life is all about. Love and joy! Whatever doesn't kill you it makes you grow! Do it with love! Marija.

I don't mean to sound harsh but, no one can look into the future, so there's no telling whether you're going to be successful or not. Life's not a race, don't compare yourself to everyone around you. Think about where you see yourself in ten or five years and just start taking small steps towards those goals. You can do it! I understand you're afraid, but to quote a song from a band you might be familiar with; 'if you never try you'll never know, Just what you're worth'. Good luck! Amanda.

Rest assured most everyone embarking on their "adult" life feels this sort of crushing weight. Or at least they should. A lot of people ignore it and go on the have the arrested development that you desire to avoid.
It seems hard to find your place in the world, especially because fate just doesn't hand out freebies all day long. Success isn't a lottery, though sometimes it may seem so.
I think the most important thing you can do is work your day job and envision a positive future while studying topics that interest you in your free time. Friends will come from shared interests and activities. Keep a journal of your ideas, thoughts and inspirations. Keep your mind and hands active. Avoid mind numbing time wasters such as video games. Nothing wrong with them unless you devote your life to that instead of creating something of substance.
Keep your job and save your dollars until you get the chance to move on up the ladder in a better position. Then you can get your own place. Don't forget to breathe. The responsibility is weighty but will make you and your parents proud. And relax... everyone eff's up every now and again. Keep it positive and know that success takes time. Slow and steady wins the race. Things done in haste really do make waste as when they go, they fall apart fast. Wishing you a bright future, Branwen.

Only inertia is failure. Movement in any direction, is a simple, deliberate attempt to enter the fray. Start by getting up, getting out, walking around. Look at things, like your building, your neighborhood, a park. You'll see people, animals, cars, planes. You'll hear voices, horns, music. These things are all blessings -- gifts to you, and evidence of life in motion. Getting out there is half the battle. The other half? Engagement. Go shopping - you don't have to buy anything, just walk through the doors and absorb the grace of the clerks who ask if they may help you. Volunteer to serve dinner at a community kitchen, or be an usher at the local theater, or walk the dogs at the animal shelter. Take your heart out and give it to something that is interesting, needful and worthy. This is where you stop dreaming about what you might be and start being who you really are. Will you get rich? Maybe. Will you become famous? Who knows. Will you replace fear of failure with a focus on pouring yourself into something that really needs to be done by somebody with the simple interest in doing it? Yes. And that, Anthony, is the absolute heart of success. Steve.

I recently got a fortune cookie fortune that read "It's what you don't do that will torment you." This was the suckiest most depressing fortune I ever saw, and I couldn't help but fall for it's cleverness. I think we all feel this way at some point in our lives. Growing up is terrifying, and fear can be debilitating. Interviewing and making friends, more specifically meeting new people, used to terrify me to the point of ridiculous procrastination and self-seclusion. I have realized that it's not the actual interview or physical meeting of a person that makes me choke, it's the anticipation and the anxiety before hand and right up to the first handshake. Once I really get to those moments though, it is never as bad or scary as I imagined. Take small steps towards things that you want to accomplish. Sending an application, making one phone call, introducing yourself to someone are small things, but are also huge leaps out of limbo. Find people doing what you want to do whether it be career or pastime, and ask to meet them briefly for coffee. Ask them what steps they took to get where they are, and ask for advice or bits of wisdom. Many people will gladly do this, and it can help to figure out what steps you want to take. Whatever steps you do take, don't lose your introspection about life. Don't view getting a job or starting a career as an end - it fosters unnecessary pressure. These processes are simply means to get to other places in life. And it sounds smarmy, but enjoy the uncertainty. Having heavy thoughts and trepidation about the future is a very unique and strange human ability. All the best, Allie.

I can say to you that the age that you have doesn't matter if you want to have success, you need to act now! How?
I don't know your situations in your own point of view but the principal things that you need to do/know is:
1. Lost the fear to lose.
If you live with fear, you're not living, dare you to live the life! And enjoy that!
2. The money isn't the thing most important in the world.
I know, the money it's important, but the money doesn't matter when you realize that you have wonderful people with you.
Surround yourself with good and optimistic people! Smile!
3. What you want be.
You need to know what you want to be, and do little steps to reach your goal.
Job in McDonalds isn't bad, in all works you have the growth opportunity, strive on all the things that you do, give to all the best part of you, success is a habit and you need to make it yours. 4. Wish (and make) things happen.
You ever heard about the law of the attraction? It's true!! So always think positive and positive things will come to you.
5. Make your own plan.
Plan your goals and find the way to reach them.
6. Be generous.
You receive what you do.
7. Be constant.
You need constant to create in your mind the habit.
Smile, be happy it's free!! Ali.

My name is Graeme and I work in a cinema. I am 33. I am trying to get a different job and that's cool, money is always good to have. But it doesn't rule me. What you do professionally doesn't make a bit of difference when it comes to personal well being. I've been rich I've been poor but my mind never changed and probably never will. Accept this and life will be much easier for you. Take care of the few who will really love you and the rest will come in time. But remember always try to be true to yourself because it's your life. You won't get another go around. I'd rather have a job at McDonalds than look back and say I wasted my life for things that never came to pass. Who knows you might meet your future wife at McDonalds or at least make some friends. Look down every alleyway before judgement and enjoy the fruits of your labour when it comes to you.

Fear can be a force that is as crippling as an illness. It can consume you and your efforts, leave you breathless and spit you out as a former image of who you used to be. However, fear takes its power from you. You are the master of your own universe. Being afraid is a natural human condition, but we must learn to work through it or work with it. Let it be your driving factor until you no longer need it. If you fear failure, then work towards the goals that will drive you away from it. Of course you must still understand that failure is also a part of life. And you must realize that failure doesn't mean you should give up. If you fail and fail again, then that's alright. The important thing is to fail better. You must learn from your mistakes and take control from your life. You must live it until you are no longer afraid. Katalina.

First off, before you do anything else, get a pair of headphones and put on Everything's Not Lost. As cheesy as it may sound, it's nearly impossible to not be rejuvenated with positivity after a good listen. I have experienced very similar paralyzing feelings. I had no job, I kept dropping classes from my school schedule prolonging my graduation date, and I isolated myself from family and friends. I tried forcing myself into being more productive but that didn't work. It has to happen naturally. You need to want it. You need to find something that will motivate you and everything else will fall into place. For me it was music. I started writing and recording demos. Since then I have felt more productive and that only led to a better outlook and more good things to come. I will be graduating in May, I got an internship, and have been more social. It really is that simple. Instead of trying to force yourself into caring about work and friends etc, just find something else that you do care about and the drive from that will be enough to change everything for the better. FIND WHAT MOTIVATES YOU. Even if you don't know it yet, there is something or someone out there that you need to go after. Successful or failure, it will give you new life and make you healthier in so many ways. (Plus, Ghost Stories will be released real soon!)
Good Luck, Ethan from New York.

I used to find myself in situations like this. I think you should look back on your journey and be proud of what you have learned and accomplished. Then move forward with confidence and accept what comes to you. Support often comes from the most unlikely places, but you must also see that those close to you have always wanted the best for you. They are the most honest and hard on you because they see the possibilities.
I hope this helps, Troy.

My answer is Never Give Up, it doesn't matter if you want to be a musician, an engineer, or a doctor, nobody said it would be easy, I know sometimes you feel like your like is the worst, but believe me, complaining and not doing anything won't help, you have to keep trying, I know it doesn't look easy and the odds are not in your favor, but there is always a chance, there is always hope, you know there is a quote from my favorite movie rocky and is something like "It is not about how hard you can hit, it is about how hard you can take from the life punching you and standing up again, that's how winning is done", so never give up and always keep trying. Eduardo.

First of all, there is no right or wrong schedule for your life. You're not late, and you'll never be early.
Let's start with something you love and go from there and let it lead you. What ARE you excited about these days? A good meal? Playing video games? Travel? A book? Music? Whatever it is, start from there and use it as a mechanism to connect you to others that share the same interest and you'll already have something in common!
Maybe this thing you love or are passionate about could be your career? If you truly love it then your excitement won't allow you to put it off and you can never fail! Todd.

I know exactly how you feel. I was in the exact situation you're in. Fear of the future and fear of failure are natural, but they can be paralyzing. The longer you stay paralyzed, the worse the fear becomes - it's a vicious cycle.
Think about what got you motivated to achieve your greatest accomplishments in your life so far.
It's time to take charge of your life. Here's what you need to do: First, you need to go to bed early tonight. Set your alarms so you will get a full night's rest but you won't sleep the day away. Look online and find 3 jobs you're interested in, and apply for them. Print your resume and deliver it in person if possible, and finish 3 job applications. You have nothing to lose. Don't go on Facebook or any other social media sites for a whole day. Prove to yourself that you can do it.
Then, take a break, get some exercise. eat a healthy meal.
Apply to two more jobs before the end of the day. Do something fun to reward yourself.
Break down your goal into subgoals and take purposeful steps toward them. But in the meantime you'll probably still need a decent job to pay the bills.

Grab life by the balls, Anthony. And don't worry, even if you fall off track sometimes, you won't be working at McDonald's when you're in your thirties. You've got more in you than you think! Nathaniel.

It's incredibly heartening to know someone who's almost exactly in my situation is out there. I've put myself through several setbacks in my life. A drug addiction being the prime example of this, as well as not putting my all into education, even though I do take it seriously conceptually, I can't translate that into tangible action. I'm 26 and still living at home and with no money, looking for work. This burns me up because I know I'm better than this. The best solution I've come across is to put myself into situations that inherently bother me. Whether it's going to recovery meetings, or riding a bike for hours. A hobby is what I, and I believe you as well, need. It allows networking to happen which could lead to new friends, job openings and who knows what else. As you can see, I'm not near where I should be in the journey of life, but I hope these ideas result in where your days aren't filled with worry and regret. Greg.

You can't move on towards the future because you keep thinking about it. You're so afraid, that you can't actually do those important things you mentioned. But I do believe that by doing absolutely nothing you will definitely take yourself to that undesirable failure. Initiative, that's what you need. Obviously it doesn't mean you'll be successful, but at least you will try to. "If you never try, you'll never know". As soon as you understand this and get the motivation to move on, you can try to be successful. For that I recommend a few steps:
1. Discover your interests, so that you can find an activity that makes you happy.
2. Make everything you can to be good at that activity, in order to find a road to success. This includes step
3. Which is finding someone who can help you in this task, and with that you may also make friends with common interests.
4. Find motivation. When you're feeling down, remember that, with hard work, nothing is impossible. But to succeed, you have to believe in yourself. Also, you can find motivation in your family, for example. Want to make them proud? Do something for it.
These are simple steps that can help you define a plan. It may not work out, but at least you have tried. And you can also try different activities, until you find the one that fulfills you. Hope I helped. Good luck! Love, Ana, from Portugal.

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