Why is it so hard for us to appreciate failure? Why is it that we relate failure to self-worth, confidence, and success? The amount of times you have failed at something doesn’t in any way dictate how likely you are to succeed in something, or life in general. We’ll describe failure here as “something (e.g., a result) that was expected or wanted, but wasn’t achieved”. Okay, so big deal? Is your life over because you didn’t get what you wanted when you asked for it? I don’t care about the amount of time and effort you put into it… Do not tell me that it wasn’t worth it. How come? Because the time and effort you put into it did not go to waste; you formed VALUABLE experiences that you can use in the future.
In fact, failures build character, but only based on your capacity to see the opportunities and the small, tiny successes embedded in the bigger “failure”. We get so caught up in the notion of time that we feel rushed to achieve greatness as soon as possible. So we take failure as a sign to quit when things go astray. However failure isn’t the problem; you are. Because you are so ready to believe that you are not meant for greatness (dramatic tone is required), that when you hit your first roadblock, you are blinded by your fear. You turn around and run away, back into the mediocre; into the comfort; into the safe zone.
You miss out on the realization that you, my friend, have levelled up. You were enhancing your skills by your working towards your goal, and in so doing, improving, and getting stronger mentally, physically and/or emotionally.
Associated Behaviour to Fear of Failure
You might be experiencing fear of failure without knowing that it is fear of failure. Upon reflection, you realize that few of the behaviours that you engage in stem from fearing rejection, embarrassment, or being wrong.
- Lack of trying
Avoidance – You see that pile of stuff on your desk? Or that to-do list in your planner? No? Because you don’t want to look at it? Oh, out of sight… out of mind, I guess. This might work when you still have a week or a month before the deadline. But as the days pass, the cloud over your head will only get bigger, louder and darker. And the longer you wait, the more you’ll have to do in a shorter amount of time. So you will be stuck in a vicious cycle where you avoid “task X” because you don’t want to do something that might be stress inducing, but then “task X” actually becomes stressful and you avoid it because of that, and so on.
Lack of Trying – You just don’t bother. You have dreams or goals, you say that you would one day like to do XYZ or become ABC, but you do not take the necessary steps that will take you in that direction.
Self-Sabotage – First thing I think of here is leaving homework or studying for the night before the test or deadline. If you end up having a bad grade you can protect your ego by saying that it’s because you didn’t study or put in the time, not because you are not capable of succeeding. Other examples can be with regards to fat loss, last-minute cancellations of any plans/reservations for workshops, project presentations, etc.
Something to consider…
Another point I’d like to bring up is your reluctancy to start a project may come from knowing that you are lacking in skill or not as qualified as someone else, but you just don’t want to do the work to get to the same level.
- Perhaps the school program is not what you expected; or
- Your life aspirations have changed?
- Perhaps your job is not your calling?
Consider other options. Understandably, some personal situations might make it more difficult to change paths due to responsibilities and obligations. But I’d advise you to still look into it and plan your alternative(s) on a timeline, especially if your current situation is making you unhappy.
Failure Is the Roadmap to Success
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle. My best advice? Break the cycle. No matter where you are on your timeline, take a hold of yourself and get to business. A lot of times we realize how we might have overestimated how scary or stressful an event, assignment, or work obligation actually is after having completed it. Ask yourself why you are so reluctant to study or to start your side-business? Is it because you are afraid to be incompetent or lacking, or less qualified then someone else? Well, if a task will help you realize where you stand on the qualification/competency spectrum, then it is a valuable task, no matter the outcome.
As a matter of fact, it will push you to learn and grow.
Drawing parallels: Take exercise for example. Bicep curls put pressure, or “stress”, on your biceps, right? That stress causes micro-tears in the muscle, in turn causing the muscle to grow following proper nutrition and rest.
Same principle applies in the real world. Stress is a vital and innate response that our body uses to protect itself (i.e. flight or fight response). That little stress you feel thinking about the load of work you need to do should be perceived as a healthy motivator* to start doing. So JUST DO IT.
Just like fear can cause you to flee, allow fear to push you to fight for what you want.
*As soon as your stress explodes and leads to anxiety and panic attacks, then we are dealing with something a lot more profound that is most likely tangled in a web of other stressors. Professional help is strongly advised.