Failure. A word and notion still feared today. And yet you hear a lot of talk about failure being a ‘learning experience’, that the ‘only true failure is to stop trying’, that ‘in order to succeed you must fail’, and heard terms such as ‘fail forward’.
But what does that even mean and why do we have such a negative relationship with Failure in the first place.
Failing at something DOES NOT mean YOU are a failure as a person.
Failure only means you have not succeeded at achieving the original outcome for whatever reason. It does not mean that you yourself are a failure. Too often the negative self-talk, feelings of embarrassment and other negative feelings that can come from when we fail at something becomes internalised. When this happens one of two things will happen, you will either acknowledge what is happening and consciously deal with it or you will succumb to it. And most do the latter.
Why do we have this perception around Failure?
Quite simply, we have learned it. This is where the ‘remember when you were a child’ scenario comes in, no doubt you would have heard or read people say the following. ‘Remember when you were a child and you did not know what fear was, you just tried things’ and ‘Remember when you were a child and you were learning how to stand, crawl and walk, no matter how many times you failed you got up and tried again’.
This naturally occurring event teaches us that we are innately designed to try things and fail at them so that we can learn from that experience and get better to ultimately achieve what we wanted to achieve overall. That we are designed to not fear trying new things.
So when did we learn to fear to fail?
As a child, your mind is limitless, both in imagination and stubbornness. Although the input from the external environment begins for most of us at a young age we still remain stubborn in our ideals and so we are able to plough ahead without the fear of failure.
Along the way we start coming up against judgment, criticism (not the useful kind), and basically other people’s opinions on what we are doing. When it comes to failing, we start to learn the apparent consequences of failing and this causes us to inhibit risk-taking to the point where we don’t try anything new for the fear of failure.
These learnings are a combination of input from others (family, friends etc), interpretation of our own experiences, and interpretation of what we learn from other information sources (internet, books etc)
As an adult what can we do about it now?
Identify that all you have learned about failure is false. No matter what has happened in your life or what you have learned, you have the power and capability to change your perception. Yes this is easier said than done, but the point is, is that it can be done. To get over the fear of failing, you need to first identify the specific causes within yourself. What has made you have the fear of failure can be different from the next person, so it’s vital that you don’t compare and you identify this within yourself. Second, find something small yet significant that you had a fear of doing because you had a fear of failing and just do it. Depending on what it is it all comes down to a strategy, once you have the strategy you need to perform the strategy. That means taking thought into action, taking dream into reality.
The only one that can change the perception you have around failing is you.
It is important to acknowledge that when we experience failure this can bring about a lot of intense powerful emotions, so self-awareness on how you deal with these emotions is key. Your mindset is key. You are still a human being and life will bring you many challenging situations, situations that can knock your confidence, situations that can make you question yourself. You need to accept the fact that you may face external input that will either encourage you or discourage you. Which is why you need to modify your mindset so it can withstand such possible influences that do not serve you.
You must remember that failing is how you learn, it really is. When you fail you understand what to do as well as what not to do. It also is about practice, some things cannot be achieved with the first attempt.
Giving in to your fear of failure is a choice. Commit to the true meaning of failure and you just might find yourself returning to becoming limitless.