Words by Paula Coogan
September 21st, 2017
“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 daughter Sarah has just turned two and she is an incredible teacher for me. When she was learning to walk, she wasn’t afraid to try it. During her learning curve, she walked into walls, tumbled, fell down repeatedly but she always jumped up and went at it again! 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, are very aware of the notion of failure. We’ve 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 my top 5 tips to help you overcome the fear of failure.
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. The Quarter Life Coach is my second coaching business- my last one was a spectacular failure! I failed big but I picked myself up, nurtured my bruised pride and ego and learnt the lessons from the mistakes I made.
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.
One of the most powerful questions posed by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek 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?
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.
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 led, 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 realised that the only way they were going home was through victory.Are there any boats you need to burn to cement your commitment?
Are there any boats you need to burn to cement your commitment?
So, is fear of failing holding you back? Is it stopping you in your tracks before you even get some momentum going? If you can relate to this, please click the link here and book in for a free 30 minute Clarity Call with me and let’s get you making progress on those big dreams!
Paula Coogan is The Quarter Life Coach, Ireland’s leading expert on the “Quarter Life Crisis”. Over the past 5 years, she has worked with hundreds of individuals in their 20s and 30s who were stuck in a rut, and she has helped them transform their lives. Through 1-1 coaching and group programmes, Paula coaches you to get completely clear on what you want from your life and career, and supports you to make it happen.
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