Failure and mistakes don’t create anxiety. Anxiety is created by the fear of failure and mistakes. Anxiety takes our precious energy and consumes it in a future place that is not real. Energy is only productive when exercised in the present.
“Anxiety is nothing but repeatedly experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.” —Seth Godin
One thing we know for sure is that we will fail and make mistakes. The variable is our personal definition of failure and what we do with it. It is either empowering or disempowering. There are varieties of failures – a failed company, a job loss, a relational breakup, a bad investment, an inventive flop.
- I’m not good enough
- I’ll mess up
- I’ll lose my power
- I’ll lose my job
- I’ll lose my reputation
- I’ll lose my relationship
- I’ll lose my health
These are tough things to deal with, and most of us can empathize with the situation. But this is where your attitude about failure and mistakes sets your trajectory.
Failures are building blocks or stumbling blocks. Fear of failure holds you back. Embracing failure as a part of life propels you forward.
Since fear and failure go hand in hand, let’s look at some important facts about fear.
Fact 1: We subconsciously believe that fear is essential to keep us motivated. The reality is that it’s a poor substitute for inspiration. Inspiration lasts and builds on itself. Fear, as an energizer, quickly burns out.
Fact 2: Fear is not an emotion like sadness or happiness. Fear is a necessary survival signal. But it’s only helpful when danger is a present reality. Anxiety is a state that keeps fear activated – not helpful or healthy to say the least.
Fact 3: Anxiety continually releases the fear adrenaline which actually blunts our ability to see real danger (remember the folks around the boy who cried “wolf”).
Fact 4: We get stuck in the future, which is fantasy at its worst.
Success leaves clues. And successful people think of failure the way most people think of learning.
The added bonus is that the way you deal with mistakes has a great deal to do with how others perceive you. Vulnerability allows others to see you at the heart level. This is where communication goes to a deeper level of connection. Those you influence see that mistakes and failures are lessons learned. You are liberating others to get back up, learn new things, try new ventures, grow new skills, and explore unknown terrain.
Failures are only fatal if you give them the power to keep you stuck. Being stuck is simply a regression of the imagination – where we are trapped into thinking that things will always remain the way they are right now.
We’ve heard the stories of successful failures. We’ve been inspired by those whose path was filled with disappointing detours. We’ve heard speeches illustrating how innovation and failure go hand in hand. But will we take this to heart in our personal lives?
Fearing failure snuffs out inspiration to go forward. Embracing failure is a blueprint for success. There is an expression – “Fail first, fail fast, fail often.” I’m not sure that’s the first thought I have or want when I get up in the morning.
But this is what I know. The quicker I see a failure as a lesson learned, make the appropriate adjustments, and move forward, the more productive I will be as I focus my energies on the here and now. That’s where work gets done. That’s how progress is made. And that’s where greatness lies.
Our greatness lies outside our circle of comfort. And we will never step over that line if we fear failures and mistakes. The residual effect is that it creates excuses. And excuses are simply paths that are detours to what has meaning and value to you. It is a lot easier to go from failure to success than it is to go from excuses to success.
Embrace your failures and mistakes. They are horrible things to waste.
What has fear of failure stolen from you? How has it stopped you from being, doing, or achieving? What have you done to overcome this way of thinking?
We’d love to hear from you.