Fear of failure is said to be the greatest barrier to one’s success, which makes total sense given that our fear of failure is what stops us from making attempts in the first place. Yet, can anyone blame us for fearing failure? Just think about it, from the first moment we are born we begin hearing the directives to “be careful” and to “watch out”, which relay the message to our young minds that the world is a dangerous place that we won’t be able to handle. We are left with the distinct impression that if we were to attempt something new, we would likely fail. And based on the sternness of the warnings, we perceive that failure would not be a good thing. Thus we begin to fear that failing will result in dire consequences to either our physical or emotional well-being. It may even make us unlovable. And so we are raised from a young age to live in absolute fear of failure. So, how do we move past that?
Early in my career I came across a book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. that literally changed my life. “At the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you,” she explains, and “all you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way!” Because “if you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear? The answer is: Nothing!” Susan then goes on to teach several tools to help us see that feeling fear is completely normal and nothing to feel ashamed about. Everyone feels fear. She teaches us to go ahead and let yourself feel the fear and then move forward and do it anyway, whatever “it” is. She states that as long as we are moving forward and growing in life, our fears will never go away, so we need to learn to recognize that they are normal and then push past them by attempting the very thing we fear. The more we attempt, the more confidence we gain, the less afraid we feel the next time, and so forth. I absolutely loved the simplicity of her book and I highly recommend it.
Another lesson I learned regarding failure is, what I perceived to be failures in the moment often ending up being the very thing that led me to my greatest successes. As a result of one business deal falling through I found myself pursuing a new opportunity that ended up being far more successful than I could ever have imagined. Mind you at the time the first deal fell apart I had no idea what lay ahead of me, so I grieved and mourned as if it was the end of everything. Then I came across a story that helped me change my perspective. The story was about a man who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck who was stranded on a small desert island with only the items from his ship that had washed up on the shore with him. The man carefully constructed a small hut to store his few precious belongings and to protect himself from the weather. One day as we was standing in the ocean fishing for his next meal he turned back to shore to see that his hut was on fire with smoke billowing into the air. The worst was happening. “God, how could you do this to me,” he cried. He believed that all was lost. Later he heard the sound of an approaching ship in the distance. It was coming to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the man of his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.
“Destiny is a mysterious thing, sometimes enfolding a miracle in a leaky basket of catastrophe.” – Francisco Goldman
“Your journey has molded you for the greater good. It was exactly what it needed to be. Don`t think you`ve lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” – Asha Tyson
Redefine failure. No longer see attempting “it” only to not accomplish your desired outcome as a failure – redefine that as a success because you gave “it” your best shot and you learned from the experience. The success comes from having improved. Redefine failure as any time that you allow your fears to stop you from doing the things you truly want to do in life. Then move forward and get “it” done!
~Amy Rees Anderson (follow her daily blogs at www.amyreesanderson.com/blog )
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