We can define failure as falling short of performance standards.
Everyone hates to fail, but the simple fact is that failure is something which everyone faces at some point in their lives. For some however, the threat of failure is so overwhelming that it surpasses their desire to succeed. This fear can lead to them to subconsciously sabotage their own chance of success.
How do you know if you are unusually affected by the fear of failure?
Let’s face it – we have all held ourselves back from trying something new simply because we’re afraid that it might not work out and we will have to face the shame of having failed at achieving a goal we’ve set for ourselves. Some of us allow this fear to completely immobilise us, and let this stand between us and our aspirations of achieving our personal best. If you answer “true” to any of the 10 questions below, you may have to examine your attitude towards failure.
- You allow yourself to get distracted by unimportant tasks that prevent you from completing your preparation for the project.
- You often get last-minute physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches which prevent you from doing the necessary work.
- The thought that you may fail makes you worry about disappointing people whose opinion you value.
- It makes you worry about what other people might think of you.
- You believe that any failure will make the people who matter lose interest in you or cause them to disapprove of you.
- When faced with an unknown challenge, you worry whether you’re capable of doing the job.
- You procrastinate, looking for reasons to escape from starting on a new project.
- You worry constantly that you will be unable to meet your life goals.
- You tell everyone in advance that you don’t expect to succeed, so that they won’t be disappointed in you if it happens.
- When faced with failure, you’re unable to find another way of making the project work.
So, how do we deal with our fears in order to take on the goals which we have set for ourselves?
- “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” ~ Seth Godin
Studies show that our most deep rooted fears have been ingrained since early childhood. Parents want their children to grow up happy, carefree and confident, so they try to shield them from the harsh realities of life by placing some barriers between their children and the chance that they may get hurt or have to face disappointment.
Consider where your fear of failure stems from. Chances are that you grew up in a home where you were protected by your parents who used well-intentioned warnings like,
If you fail, it’s because you didn’t try hard enough
There are no second chances – get it right the first time
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel – stick with what you know
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
You should be happy with what you’ve got
Once you have recognised where your inherent fears stem from, you’ll be better able to use your adult, rational thinking to deal with them. The more you accept these feelings, the less they’ll control your behaviour.
- “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.” ~ Jon Sinclair
When you’re trying something new, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Never compare yourself to anyone but the past you. Your objective should be to beat your own personal best. Accept that each new project is a learning process. Remember that even an Olympic champion has to practise hard every day. And each time he does, he takes the risk of falling or injuring himself – it’s all part of the challenge. Just like walking or riding a bike, the beginning stages of your own venture might involve a few stumbles and bruises. That’s all failure is. It’s a little fall which might result in a bruise. Get back up, brush yourself off and keep on going. Soon, the bruise will have disappeared and you will be on your way towards success.
- “Error is an inevitable part of life. That is why pencils have erasers“.
Start by viewing your efforts as an experiment to see what works. When you try something that doesn’t work out, see it as just a step towards your ultimate goal. You need to eliminate the processes that don’t work in order to ascertain what does. This will allow you to realise that there are no failures, just steps along the road to success and you will be encouraged to face problems in a more positive way. Remember that with each step, you are learning more and improving your abilities.
- “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
Focus on aspects of a new project which are under your control. Break them down into small, manageable tasks and begin your project. These small successes will give you the courage to try the more difficult issues which arise as the work moves forward. When faced with an obstacle, try to see it as merely a stepping stone along the way. It’s an experiment which you need to brainstorm before you tackle it. Wherever possible, try to find more than one way of achieving your goal. If one fails, move on and tackle the problem in a different way.
- As you undertake your journey towards success, keep in mind the words of
Mary Pickford, who said, “Supposing you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Like Thomas Edison, you can put your fears behind you, lift yourself up, dust yourself off and “fail your way to success”