What do you struggle with in life? What challenge keeps you up at night and stands like a high wall between yourself and happiness? Phoebe Naserem is in primary school at Namelok Junior Academy in Kisamis, Kenya. She struggles to maintain passing grades in one of her subjects, which as we all know can brew a feeling of failure that spills out over everything we do.
When I was young, I had trouble in math. It started in primary school, and eventually I made up my mind to avoid any career that involved numbers. I literally closed my mind to the subject. What kind of grades do you think I got? Here’s an equation for you: believe you’re rubbish in math × decide math is for the dogs = fail at math.
Failure. That’s not what Phoebe in Kenya or any of us wants, whether the challenge is math, a sport, or a project at work. Here’s a perfect example: I started the nonprofit Lift the Lid because I believed wholeheartedly that writing increases confidence and promotes self-awareness. It connects people and bridges cultures. Running a charity also involves numbers, spreadsheets, in fact, and endless tax forms. There’s the website to maintain, and then fundraising. I loved and was good at motivating students, but not the rest. It quickly became clear to me that in order to run a successful charity I would have to ‘get good’ at the tough parts, too. But how?
The logical answer would be to try harder, work at it until you see results, but maybe you’ve done that and nothing has changed. Well, let me tell you, the desire for hard work was not why I embarked on Lift the Lid. What it came down to is I BELIEVED I could do it.
Believing is the first step. What if we prayed day and night, but didn’t fully believe in God’s love for us? Wouldn’t that sabotage His blessings in our lives? Believing allows something to happen, it means you are giving yourself to the task . . . and to the benefits it produces. If we don’t believe we can learn a tough subject or overcome an obstacle, then our hearts and minds are closed to the challenge, no matter how much physical effort we put into it.
So how do we make ourselves believe? Last year, when my son Lucas, who is now five, was learning to tie his tie for a gold star at school, he kept saying, “I can’t!” (in his British accent) and wanted to give up. He was trying, but he wasn’t ‘believing.’ I insisted he say, “I can!” instead, and shortly thereafter, he was tying his tie! (You can see him in the photo looking very proud in his school uniform.) The trick is telling yourself, “I can do it!” over and over again —until you’re convinced and the work is done.
Franz Kafka, author of The Metamorphosis, said, “By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”
Read Phoebe’s poem about what makes her happy and keeps her believing.