Have you ever considered why you aren’t taking action? You want to write that book you always imagined, you want to break out and start your own practice or change practice areas, you want to tell your spouse that you aren’t happy.
Why is it that we don’t do those things?
For many of my clients it’s because they are afraid of failure. They are afraid of how they will feel if that book gets rejected by every editor, your solo practice tanks, you realize you hate this new practice area after all, or your spouse decides to leave you. They are afraid of failing.
Given that this thing, failure, is standing in the way of so many dreams and preventing us from honoring ourselves, I think it makes sense to see what this failure thing is all about.
If you put “what is failure” into your magical computing machine, you get all sorts of interesting feedback. Wikipedia tells me that “failure is the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.” As you go down the internet rabbit hole, you will also find other interesting tidbits. Success.com says that failure is caused by lack of persistence, lack of conviction, rationalization, poor self-esteem, etc.
Putting this all together, it seems that the reason we are not writing the next Harry Potter series or asking for that promotion, is because we are afraid we will not be successful — we will not meet the desired result or objective.
So, instead of trying and failing, we choose to fail in this very moment.
Rather than try and not achieve the desired result, we are not trying and not achieving the desired result. Do you see that it’s certainly possible that we will fail in either event but in one instance we are actually taking authentic action and in the second we are giving in to the lack of persistence, lack of conviction, rationalization, and poor self-esteem?
Rather than taking the chance and failing in the future, you are not taking the chance and choosing to fail now.
What’s more is that most of my clients also choose to give themselves the gift of those negative failure feelings right now. Instead of first trying and riding the waves of motivation and excitement to pursue their dreams and then fail, they are not pursing their dreams at all and feeling terrible now for not pursuing them. They are beating themselves up as if they actually tried and failed but in reality they did nothing. What lunacy is this!?
So what’s the big deal with failure anyway – whether it’s now or in the future – why do we let it keep us from our goals? The truth of the matter is that failure is NOT a big deal. It’s not a big deal until we choose to make it a big deal.
Until we decide what it means to us . . . what it means about us. Failing is simply not meeting your desired objective. It does not mean you are a bad person, it does not mean you can’t achieve your dreams, it doesn’t mean anything until you ascribe a meaning to it and have thoughts about it!
You can choose what to think about your failures and how you think about it will drive how you feel about it and how you feel about yourself. Why are so many of us choosing to make it mean something so negative? When we make failure mean something negative about ourselves, we allow ourselves to fear failure because we are afraid of how we will feel when we fail. That fear is paralyzing so many of my clients and it’s all because of a choice they are making.
Henry Ford famously said “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” He knew that every. single. time. you fail you learn how to not do something. You learn something about yourself, you learn something about the process, you might even learn that you no longer want that goal. Fearing failure is nothing more than being afraid to learn and grow.
If someone said to you, “I am going to win a gold medal at the Olympics on my first try and I am never going to lose a race on my way to the top,” you would think they were crazy. We know failure is a precursor to great success. So why is it that we can’t give that same rational grace to ourselves?
To attain your goals, you are going to have to get comfortable with failure and treat those failures as simply getting you one step closer.
If you want to do something, if you have a dream or a goal or a conversation you want to have, don’t be afraid to take that action and learn from your experience. Don’t anticipate that failure and plan on how you will make that failure mean something negative about yourself. Failure means nothing until you have a thought about it – good or bad – so why let it hold you back? However that experience turns out, you will learn something and, who knows, you might actually write the next Harry Potter on your first try but you won’t know until you act.
I think we should all commit to failing regularly. Ask someone out on a date, try a new workout class, pick up a new language, ask for that raise . . . whatever that might be. If the only thing that is holding you back is the fear about how you will feel if you don’t achieve it, you are allowing your life to be dominated by the fear of failure. Don’t fear failure. Embrace it like a badge of honor because the more you fail, the better you are going to know how to succeed.
After all, fear only hurts if you make it mean something negative.
I teach my clients that they need to be failing massively and often. They take the fruits of those failures and build their dreams. It’s amazing to see what people can do if they adjust the way they see failure and its necessary place in our lives.
Having an uncomfortable dream means being willing to fail and knowing that you can think about those failures however you want — positive or negative. In the end, it’s all progress toward your dreams.
Overcoming the fear of failure and learning to fail forward is at the heart of my coaching practice. Join me and let’s see what fearless looks like on you.