How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure & Welcome Mistakes

How to Overcome Your Fears & Welcome Mistakes

Failure is inevitable, but should we have a fear of failure? Even if we make educated calculations and predictions, we are bound to be misguided or misstep at some point. Society breeds us to fear this place, to have a fear of failure—the place where we fail. Fortunately, fears are learned. Which means we can unlearn them. But how to overcome your fears? We are also made to feel we must strive for perfection. So how do we strive for perfection without failure?

We can’t, they go hand in hand.

The moment of failing, or making a mistake, is precisely where the opportunity for learning lies. If, in this moment we can re-frame our failure into something positive, we can remove of fear of failure and we are in active pursuit of personal growth. The key word being growth—not perfection. Our personal growth is embedded in our mistakes, our failures, and how we handle them.

 

A New Way of Understanding Failure

Our Inner Dialogue around Making Mistakes

Learning from Others

The Fear of Beginning

Welcoming Mistakes

 

 

A New Way of Understanding Failure 

Tim Kennedy, a retired mixed martial artist who also served in the United States Army National Guard, has an interesting relationship with making mistakes. In an interview with Tim Ferriss, he talks about his motto, “Hurry up and fail”. In the context of physical training, Tim Kennedy explains that he pushes himself to his breaking point so that the next time his ‘wall of most resistance’ appears, he  will move past it. Doing this over and over allows for progress and growth, every single day. He overcomes his fears but pushing himself as far as he can each and every time.

“Hurry Up and Fail”

 

Even though he is speaking about physical training, I see ‘hurry up and fail’ being a phrase we could use in every area of our life. If we can overcome our fear of making mistakes—if we can rush there—then it no longer becomes about the mistake and the fear of failure is removed. The focus becomes where that mistake takes us.

Our Inner Dialogue around Making Mistakes

Reframing mistakes is an important step but isn’t always easy. It’s important to understand our inner dialogue around the mistakes we make. Are we afraid? Self-conscious? Anxious? What negative stories have we created for ourselves about failure?

My relationship with making mistakes has often been one of avoidance. My fear of failure made me believe that making mistakes meant disappointing someone or myself. For many years I wanted to stick to a workout routine. I would make a plan but when I couldn’t stick to that plan exactly I felt I had failed. I didn’t see the results I wanted and I gave it up entirely. I was going through cycles of failing at the same process and it took a long time to see where the learning was.

“I no longer felt like i could fail”

For me, shifting into an active lifestyle without fear of failure required a simple mindset shift. When I released the need to see results in working out and the need for my workout regime to be so strict I began to focus on (and enjoy) a different result. Once I did this, I chose physical activity for the enjoyment and health benefits. I no longer felt like I could fail—I was focused on my growth, my fear of failure was gone. Or more accurately, I was no longer afraid to fail at it because I shifted why I was doing it.

Learning from Others

Maybe one of the most challenging parts of making mistakes is what our mind tell us about others’ mistakes. We are surrounded by stories of those that have achieved incredible feats, accumulated great wealth, or positively influenced the world. What we see is often the snapshot of success. What we don’t often know is the years of failures, mistakes, uncertainty, mixed in with success that they had.

As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We need to remind ourselves that people we see as successful have already found the 10,000 ways something doesn’t work.

Individuals like Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Sara Blakely, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs—known to be successful—all note the importance of failing. Sara Blakely’s comments on making mistakes is note-worthy; she explains that she grew up encouraged to make mistakes, asked each week by her father what she had failed at.

“i HAVE NOt FAILED. i’VE FOUND 10 000 WAYS THAT WON’T WORK”

When we are trying something, we need to remember that it may take 10,000 tries to find the way that sticks. Like those who have found great success, and overcame their fear of failure, it is important to welcome the opportunity to fail.

The Fear of Beginning

One of the greatest detriments of fearing failure is that it can keep us from trying something in the first place. If we don’t even try then we don’t have to find out how well we can do it. This resonates with me; I find many reasons not to try a new skill or follow-through with an idea because the outcome is too unknown. I don’t know if I will succeed and I will probably fail multiple times before I develop a deep understanding or confidence in the new task.

To overcome this fear of the unknown we need to find the curiosity and humility to be imperfect and learn from the ways in which we make mistakes.

Overcoming Your Fear

Welcoming Mistakes

What areas of your life do you feel like you have failed in? Did you make choices that negatively affected your relationships, career, finances, or health? Now, instead of those so called mistakes keeping you from trying again, first reflect on why you feel it was a mistake. What behavior, thought, or action needs to change?

Answer this question, “If I were to do that again, what would I do and/or say differently?” Also be sure to understand what you learned from the experience, what your takeaway is. With a new perspective and a deeper understanding, you can more confidently step into trying again because there is no doubt that you will do better.

Just as Tim Kennedy reminds us, “hurry up and fail”, so that you can find the wall of resistance and move it, inch by inch. What are you going to hurry up and fail at today?

Check out this great Ted Talks on How to Overcome Your Fears. You can get a lot of other good pieces from this video.

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

– Johnny Cash

Tell us about some things you may be wanting to try but have mixed feelings about. We’ll all here to experience this life differently, and sometimes it’s just a matter of learning how to get comfortable in the uncomfortable. 

 

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