Conquer your fear of failure and live your best life
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself as a child and someone asks you: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” How would you have responded? Maybe you would have answered: “A firefighter”, “An archaeologist”, “A baseball player” or even “The President”. More than likely, you gave a heart-felt answer and one that was full of promise. You dreamed big and the options for your future seemed endless.
Maybe you have reached for your dreams and are living in a blissful state of contentment. If, however, you are still wondering what you want to be when you “grow up” or if you are painfully aware that you’re not meeting your full potential, then read on. You’ll learn what it means to experience a “fear of failure” and more importantly, learn ways to eradicate this mind-set from your life.
What are we so afraid of anyway?
Everyone experiences a fear of failure at one time or another. However, when we live with a persistent fear of failing, we wind up staying in our comfort zone where life feels safe and there are no expectations for performance. Although this may feel secure, it also brings with it feelings of stagnation and a sense that we are not quite alive.
Part of our very humanness is our enormous capacity to remember our failures while forgetting our successes. When we attempt something new and fail, we may feel like giving up. We may even blame others for our situation or accept this defeat as one more example that we’re not meant to succeed in life. Unfortunately, when we stop believing in ourselves, we allow low-self esteem to thrive.
In psychology, there are some main causes of this unhealthy mind-set:
1. Our genetics-What we inherited in our gene pool. Perhaps our grandfather was an underachiever.
2. Our early experiences-Being raised by parents who told us in so many words that we were not good enough or who were poor role models themselves.
3. Our current circumstances-For example, having no money, being in a bad relationship or getting fired from a job.
Regardless of the cause, the good news is this: success or failure is up to you. You determine your own destiny more than genetics, early experiences or your lot in life. In fact, you have much more control over your happiness than you may have ever thought possible.
Five first steps toward reaching your potential
1. Improve your self-worth. Your limited beliefs about yourself become like a brick wall in front of you. They keep you from even thinking about how to make changes or set goals. When you hold onto negative self-talk such as “If I mess this up again, I will really be a failure,” you are limiting your chances of moving forward. In truth, our failures are actually our best life lessons. We all fail at times and the difference is that some people get up and try again and again and again. When you start to believe in yourself, you become tougher in your ability to face life’s biggest challenges. Each time you get up and try again, your self-esteem grows another notch. So, your first step is to stop the negative chatter and stand back up when you fall.
2. Establish the direction you are heading in. Find a quiet place and make a list of the things you are proud of achieving this past year. Now make a list of 10 realistic goals you would like to achieve in the next 12 months. Clarifying what your actual goals are sets them in motion. Your list may include such things as “bring more romance into my relationship” or “take a college course”. When you lack direction, the best way to get on track is to set goals.
3. Focus on your strengths and shrink your weaknesses is the advice of basketball coach Rick Pitino. In his book, Success is a Choice, he offers this message: “Self-esteem doesn’t come from people just telling you that you are so this or that. It comes from you doing something that you are good at and working hard at it and continuing to better yourself.” He points out that people need to have an understanding of their strengths and liabilities. People have many different talents and skills and have to position themselves to be unique so that they can be the best in their area of expertise.
4. Become proactive vs. reactive. Reactive people are affected by everything around them. If the weather is good, they feel good, if it isn’t, it affects their attitude. In other words, when you are being reactive, you are letting events, people and the economy for that matter, control your mood. At the opposite end is being proactive. Proactive individuals look at their circumstances and decide what to do based on their own strong values and beliefs. When you are proactive, you recognize that you can choose to be successful.
5. Take responsibility for your happiness and stop blaming others for your discontent. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can hurt you without your consent.” When you blame others for your mistakes or failures you forget that it’s not what happens to you that is most important, but your response to it. You can decide whether you let someone’s behavior dictate how you will feel. This is a difficult concept to understand for some, but it’s one of the most important ones to accept. Gandhi said it best in his quote: “They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.”
When we remember our failures more than our accomplishments we stop believing in ourselves. Every one of us, even people who appear to have it all together, experience frustration and failure. When people soar, it’s not just a lucky break, but also their ability to persevere, to work hard and to recognize that they have control over their life and destiny. Now, close your eyes again and imagine your future. What are you dreaming of? It’s time to focus your intentions on setting your goals and following your dreams. From this day forward, you can begin to live the best years of your life.
Diane Lykes is a Principal of Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany where she specializes in individual and couples counseling, educational training and clinical consultation. She can be reached at 466.3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org