So let’s talk about the F word – an action or consequence that so many fear, yet without it we wouldn’t experience much of life at all as life would be dull without it. That word is Failure.
I’m sure you’ve heard before that you should be leaning into failure, and on paper it makes sense as to why you should, but why is it so damn hard to get comfortable with?
Why do we subconsciously avoid it at all costs? And what can we do about it?
I believe our ability to manage our emotions plays a big part in our aversion to failure and also the risk of disappointment which I covered in my previous post.
We all have a built-in fight or flight response to fear and it is through all our experiences in life that we learn what to fear, and what not to fear.
Our emotion regulation – or emotional management system as I like to call it – is formed when we are young. We also adopt the same attitudes and behaviours of our parents and peers when we are growing up.
Now, none of this is set in stone, but it can be a long time forming and solidifying before we take a look at it in later life to change or work on it.
And so we have to bring compassion, understanding and patience to the table when we pick it apart.
I’m not going to go too deep on this in this post as that’s not what you came here for, you want to know how to stop fearing failure… and essentially get out of your own way!
So let’s start with your story.
We tell ourselves stories all the time. Sometimes new ones, but most of the time we are running the same script over and over again; for better or for worse.
The story that you are telling yourself determines the way you are living your life, and it tells you how you should respond to people, events and situations.
So what story are you telling yourself?
Now remember that we all have a negative bias, we subconsciously look for negatives in order to see danger and ultimately keep ourselves safe, but this can be unhelpful when you brain is interpreting speaking up in a meeting at work as life-threatening as being chased by a tiger!
And it’s your brain’s (rather prehistoric) responses that are determining your state in any given situation.
So the key here is to first determine what story you are telling yourself.
Ask yourself whether it paralyses or mobilises you, become aware of your negative thinking bias, and work to reframe that story to mobilise you instead of paralyse you.
You can understand why I said you’re going to need patience, but it can be done, people are reframing their past life experiences all the time and freeing themselves from fear of all kinds of things.
Another thing that helps you reframing failure is to get your creative thinking muscle working.
The more you can creatively think, the more options you will create around a situation or circumstance.
With more options it doesn’t become simply success or failure, instead, it becomes an experience all round, likely with many successes and failures on both sides.
Creative thinking really helps you explore the possibilities and outcomes, and while you creatively think around things you will visualise, and when you visualise you become more familiar with things, and as we fear the unknown, familiarity can be a great help.
Both these exercises of reframing support you in relinking your pain and pleasure by changing your perception of things and how you view the world and everything in it.
It will take some time but it will be worth it, and the rewards will be great as you will have much better life experiences and gain a higher level of personal growth.
You cannot grow in your comfort zone, sure it’s a comfortable place, but that’s only for a while as staying in your comfort zone too long actually becomes quite painful because you eventually get yourself stuck there.
Sometimes, however, being stuck is what you need in order to change.
And I know this all too well.
When being stuck for so long becomes completely unbearable the pain of it can push you into change.
Because change will not happen until the desire to change is greater than the desire to remain the same.
I would call this hitting rock bottom, and I hit mine many years ago of which I’ll tell the story another day, but for now I want to give you one thing that you can start doing right away.
It’s the easiest action that you can take to start busting through your fear of failure. I’ve talked about it length in a previous post and it is setting yourself challenges.
Now, these don’t have to be big fear-inducing challenges. Just little things that shift you out of your comfort zone on a daily basis.
What this does is it proves to you that outside your comfort zone is actually not such a scary place and that you are capable of far more than you initially give yourself credit for.
Practice this daily – just baby steps to start – in any area of your life.
An example in the health and fitness area would be walking an extra 1km a day, or in your career it would be taking on a project that you wouldn’t normally take on.
Nothing too crazy though – remember baby steps – you are just creating the habit of risking “failure” in something that you don’t normally do and building a healthier response to new things and challenges.
Start small and gradually build up to the bigger challenges and the bigger risks.