Recently, I read about an experiment with a northern pike. Scientists placed the fish in an aquarium that had a glass divider separating the pike from a dozen minnows on the other side of the partition. The pike couldn't see the glass when he repeatedly charged the minnows. Time and again, the pike went for a meal of minnows. Each time he slammed into the invisible barrier. Finally, after many days of failure, the pike quit trying. Then the experimenters removed the glass divider that the protected the minnows from being eaten.

Guess what? The pike didn't try to devour the minnows even when they got right up to his nose. In psychology, this is called classical conditioning-conditioning a subject to respond in a particular way. While classical conditioning was a problem for the pike, it is a real tragedy for us when life conditions us to accept failure.

Here are some suggestions to avoid being like the pike.

  1. Put together a hit list. Jot down those places in your life where you may resemble the pike. You might be conditioned to feeling negative about yourself, your relationships, or obtaining your goals. Write down your areas of negativity that need to be addressed.
  2. Get and keep a PMA (positive mental attitude). The pike developed a negative mental attitude after repeatedly failing to get to the minnows. Many of us have repeatedly hit our heads against barriers and as a result, we develop negative attitudes about reaching our objectives. We need to change these negative feelings.

However, some of us aren't able to do so. Here is a way around the barrier. In the case of lack of confidence in yourself, you already know what a confident you would look like. The positive and confident you is the standard that you judge yourself and find yourself lacking. Imagine that you are already that self-assured person. Fake it until you make it. If the pike faked it until he made it, he would have enjoyed a meal of minnows after the glass had been removed.

Live as if you had acquired your goal. If you are addressing the issue of feeling good about yourself, pretend you are there now. Walk and talk with a confident manner. Don't sulk around as you used to do. As a result of this PMA, other will respond to you more positively. You will in turn deal with them more positively. Before long, you will be actually be more positive.

  1. Play all the angles. Regardless of the obstacles that stand in your way, assume that you can obtain your goal. Then look for different ways of getting to your objective. Make your quest into a game-a game of getting through the maze to reaching your mission. If your task is to find a new job, and it hasn't come knocking at your door, look for other doors. Network with your friends. Tell them what you want. Employ them in your search for new employment. Go to job placement services or recruiters. Take your resume to companies where you would like to work. Enroll in a couple of classes at a community college and then work through their placement office. Play all the angles and keep all your options open.

None of us is a pike living in a lab's aquarium. However, many of us perceive ourselves to be like the pike in the experiment. Our world is a tank, and we are controlled by others or by circumstances. We need to see reality correctly or our incorrect perception of reality will become real for us. Don't forget: we are people not pike.