Many people have regrets at the end of their lives. Things they did that they wish they hadn’t. And while this may be very painful, there is another kind of regret that haunts people as they take their last breath. The chance they never took. Those ‘what ifs’ that you’ll never know the answer to because its too late to go back and find out what would have happened if you had left that job sooner, taken that risk with your business, enrolled in that course, got involved in or started that project ……… the list is endless.
It is tragic but true that many people will live and die without ever achieving the things they really wanted to. Or lived the life they had always dreamed of. Built the business or team that they believed they were capable of. Found the financial freedom they hoped they would. I could go on and on listing lost dreams and failed hopes. I wont. Instead I want to ask the question, why? Why do so many people fail to achieve what they could have achieved?
There are many reasons for this, but what appears to be the most common, is the fear of failure. Fear of failure leads to missed opportunities and unfulfilled dreams. This fear of failure is often closely linked to a fear of criticism and rejection. We don’t attempt things that we think we might fail at because we are worried about how others will see us. We procrastinate because we believe that it is better we did not try at all than that to deal with the pain of disappointment that invariably accompanies failure. We hesitate to make changes because we are not assured of what lies on the other side of change.
In his book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” the author Ken Blanchard tells the story of a mouse that is so afraid of the unknown that he is unwilling to do anything about his circumstances even though his current means of survival is threatened. Fear is a very powerful emotion and it has the ability to literally paralyze us. Have you ever stood in front of a crowd and felt so nervous that your salivary glands dried up and your lips just would not move?
Successful people have learned to overcome their fears in order to move forward. They have learned to “feel the fear and do it anyway”, as so aptly put by Susan Jeffers. One of the questions that stood out for me in Ken Blanchard’s book mentioned earlier was, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It led me down a path of reflecting on how my fears were stopping me from making progress and I had to decide how I was going to deal with those fears.
Is it possible to overcome fear of failure? Absolutely. Successful people have learned to see failure as feedback rather than evidence of their capabilities (or lack of it); as a pothole that is surmountable rather than a roadblock that is impassable. Feedback provides information that can eventually lead to a successful outcome. Therefore, failure is not final. We learn from making mistakes what doesn’t work and this allows us to discover what does work. Trial and error becomes the means of finding solutions to life’s challenges.
I am not advocating dismissing or ignoring your fears. No, instead you need to face your fears head-on. Acknowledge them and reflect on the effect they are having on you. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if this doesn’t turn out like I hoped it would?” Often this helps put things into perspective, as we realise that the outcome is really not as bad as we initially thought and that the worst-case scenario is that we might have to try again, albeit slightly differently the next time.
Taking action has a way of conquering fear. Yes, you may feel scared out of your wits, but do it anyway. You’ll find that the more often you do this, the more confident you will become because action builds confidence. The only way to find out if that seemingly brilliant idea will work is to do something with it. No amount of research or preparation will give you that information. Take the leap, but prepare for the worst-case scenario.
What if you succeed? What if your achieve more than you ever dreamed? What if your life changes for the better? You’ll never know if you never take the chance. Whether it is in your work or personal life, always playing it safe may keep you safe but it is unlikely to bring huge wins. I love this quote by Oliver Goldsmith, “our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in arising every time we fall.” Ask yourself, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” Your life could change dramatically – for the better.
Coaching can help you face your fears. Contact me if you would like to explore how Coaching can help.