I haven’t failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. –Thomas Edison
No one ever wants to think of themselves as a failure. We have such negative associations with the word! We think that if we fail at something, we will be embarrassed, we will lose respect from others and ourselves, we’ll lose our dreams, hopes and aspirations for that particular area we were attempting to master. It can be scary stuff and for many people, the fear of failure is what stops them from even trying.
What we always forget is that some sort of failure is inevitable if we are to succeed in life. My nephew Jamie was fantastic at reminding me about this! When he was learning to walk, he wasn’t afraid to try and during his learning curve, he walked into walls, tumbled, fell down repeatedly but he always jumped up and went at it again! (Now I’m not for a moment calling my nephew a failure!) It’s really interesting to watch babies and kids learn because they accept and know that it will take them a while to get the hang of something. They do it at their own pace and they have so much fun learning.
The rest of us grown-ups unfortunately, have been conditioned to fear failure. The thing is that many people are unsure how to overcome obstacles and potential failure and they are stopped dead in their tracks when things go pear-shaped. The ability to pick yourself up and get back on the horse is one big difference between the people who succeed and the people who just don’t get there.
So, knowing that overcoming obstacles is essential to tackling your fear of failure, what should you do? Here are some tips to help you overcome failure:
1. Pick yourself up and hold no regrets!
When things don’t work out, we’re often tempted to think that we have completely wasted our time. But that is never entirely true! Like Edison when he was inventing the light bulb; we have found a way that doesn’t work so our time hasn’t been wasted. We’ve learnt a lesson and we won’t try that exact path next time. We will try something different. Each failure you encounter increases your wisdom and brings you one step closer to success. If you adopt this mindset, you will see failure from a completely different perspective. You will see failure as an opportunity to learn.
2. Keep dreaming big dreams
Always have your destination in mind; keep dreaming your big dreams. Spend time visualising yourself already achieving them. Use your imagination to help you foresee and overcome potential obstacles in your path. The process of visualization was investigated during the preparation of Olympic athletes between 1980-1990. The athletes were hooked to the sophisticated biofeedback equipment and were asked to run their event only in their mind. What they found was that the same muscles fired in the same sequence when they were running the race only in their mind as they were running it on the track. So use your mind to practice overcoming obstacles and avoiding failure.
3. What’s the worst case scenario?
One of the most powerful questions posed by Tim Ferris in the 4 Hour Work Week is: If you chase your dreams and fall flat on your face, how long would it take you to recover? Ask yourself this question and I bet you’ll be surprised by the answer. Another question posed by Susan Jeffers in her best-selling book Feel the fear and do It Anyway is ‘If the worst thing possible happened, could you handle it?’ We all underestimate our own strength and by knowing you could handle the worst case scenario can give you the inner strength that you need to take the first step! Is the fear of a few difficult months strong enough to keep you in a place you’re unhappy with for the rest of your life?
4. Take action
The best way to reduce your fear and build your confidence is by taking action. By actually doing the very thing you are afraid of gives you back your power. Break it down into small manageable parts and do it at your own pace- but keep progressing. Make sure that you reward yourself for each step you complete- you have many years of negative conditioning to overcome so give yourself credit! If you’re not sure what to do, ask yourself ‘What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?’ If you are truthful is answering this, you will see that it’s only your fear that’s holding you back and you already know exactly what you need to do.
5. Burn the boats
One to think about! In battle, the ancient Greeks established a well-deserved reputation for bravery, discipline, and determination. They were successful because they were well trained, well lead, and most of all, well motivated. The Greeks were master motivators who understood how to instil commitment and prepare their soldiers for victory. To infuse their army with a spirit of commitment, the moment they landed on the enemy’s shore, the Greek commanders would give the order to “burn the boats.” Imagine the tremendous psychological impact on the soldiers as they watched their boats being set alight. There was no turning back. Once their boats were burned, they realized that the only way they were going home was through victory.
Are there any boats you need to burn to cement your commitment?
I hope you enjoyed this issue of Progress! Please feel free to get in touch and share any of your thoughts or ideas with me via email/facebook/twitter! I’d love to hear from you! Also, if you have a topic or question you would like me to address, please just let me know!
Until next time, don;t be so scared! You can handle it!