Every time a report card came home Ellen knew that, no matter how well she did in her exams, the same three words would appear at the bottom of the page. Her teachers always felt that she ‘could try harder’ but in fact she really was doing her best and trying her hardest.
Every day after school she looked after her younger brothers and sisters while her mother worked. She took her responsibility to make sure that they did their homework and went to bed on time so seriously that she often fell asleep before her own schoolwork was completed.
What the teachers did not know was that since her father left when she was 7 years old, Ellen had a tough life outside school and was expected to help raise her younger siblings.
Trying harder was not possible.
Those three words evoked a sense of deep disappointment in Ellen and she began to believe that she was a failure. It seemed to Ellen that the adults in her life were constantly saying that she just wasn’t good enough and that, despite her genuine best efforts, she would never measure up.
Always falling short of the mark became a recurring theme that echoed through every aspect of her life. There was always something just out of reach.
Until she began to question and challenge her limiting beliefs about her self, Ellen simply did not appreciate that she deserved happiness and success so she never fully experienced either.
After 50 years and who knows how many lifetimes Ellen grabbed the opportunity to see that what started out in her childhood as a theme became a ludicrous pattern for a life of shortcomings where the words ‘could try harder’ were an expression and symbolic representation of an almost inevitable loss of real satisfaction and a sad justification of the way she would live.
Ellen could have translated ‘could try harder’ as ‘you don’t understand me’. There isn’t one person alive who in true innocence has not experienced the ‘could try harder’ view and the great frustration that this misrepresentation of self brings.
In Ellen’s honesty she could not have tried harder and so she formed a judgement of her self as misunderstood and of the world that does the misunderstanding.
Self-protection and self-preservation are key factors in personal growth. We learn (often the hard way) not to stick our fingers in the fire, run across the road without looking both ways, jump out of a second story window, fall madly in love with movie stars or spend more than we earn.
It is very easy to justify the dynamic of self-protection and self-preservation, particularly when we witness the day-to-day tragedies that surround us in every media on a 24/7 basis. Because we are constantly being exposed to that currency of fear - from health issues to personal security to the global economic crisis - it’s quite understandable how our natural defensiveness becomes heightened and sometimes greatly misguided.
An example of misguided defensive thinking is seeing yesterday as failure, today as blame and tomorrow as fear.
This is something we can all slip into with great ease because many of us believe we have had failed yesterday’s and look forward to fearful tomorrows. As we hold on to this thought pattern, our identity becomes rooted in the past. The limitation of the future seems now to be the norm when in truth there is no limitation and the real challenge is rising above the past, making the future an abundant successful zone where you can be whatever you want.
The instinct to protect your self is not a failing or a weakness. It is a fact. But when we use self-protection and self-preservation in an unbalanced way to make decisions, that fact becomes a limiting factors that distorts our judgment and causes us to shut down to the world, rather than opening up to our full potential.
Within Ellen’s story there is such scope for confusion and unforgiving views that to come through the experience and yet be prepared years later to examine what she really is stands as a testimony to the truth of what she always was and never lost.
Think about the young girl who was constantly told ‘could try harder’ and then think about how difficult it was for her to know that she genuinely could not. What a great injustice to everybody, the critic and the criticized, as the honesty and truth were lost in a cascade of hopeless misunderstanding for all concerned.
The beauty of Ellen’s life was trapped in her ‘could try harder’ experience but the opportunity to regain the lost ground of her own greatness always remained.
We can all take this opportunity at any point we choose as long as we have that small spark of realization that in order get the life we so deserve we must first have a willingness to find and acknowledge the truth of what we are rather than to continue to live in the perception of what we have come to believe we are.
Ellen is not now, never was and never will be the ‘could try harder’ kid but rather the person who would go on to provide herself with the opportunity to forgive the misconceptions and, more importantly, to focus on the opportunities that are there - for her and for each and every one of us - right now.
The theme of ‘could try harder’ or ‘you don’t understand’ is very common but in no way is it any more truthful than any other theme within each of our lives. It is important to recognize your theme. Done with honesty, it is easy to become aware of the recurring nature of our problems. They may be played out in different forms and with different actors but always with the same story and outcome, such as exclusion, loss, disappointment or failure.
The past got us to where you we now but that doesn’t mean that our present has to decide our future.
The external circumstances of our world do not determine the kind of person internally we are. Like Ellen, everybody has a choice for change. Make your choice in the knowledge that you can be in a far better place by not bringing a paralyzing past life to all your ideas around what your future should look like. Be strong in the belief that you now have opportunities. Take ownership of your future with a successful template of how you would see it acted out.
Your future is yours just as much as your past.
Own it, love it, live it.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Canavan - creator of The Solved System - is an Entrepreneur, Author, Business Owner, Leader and Radio Show Host with many years’ experience in business in Ireland, Europe and the USA. He has worked with global
organizations and entrepreneurs and has a wealth of practical knowledge.
Geoff has developed a deep understanding of the nature of success and firmly believes that, regardless of circumstances, education, social status, history or any other outside influence, success is an inside job, inherent in, available to and attainable by everybody.
Geoff believes that each and every one of us is a greater and infinitely more positive force than any circumstances we can encounter.