Sometimes my fear of failure is so big that I feel my whole body shutting down on me, almost in a way to protect itself. It isn’t even necessarily fear of my dreams not working out. It’s that I’ll self-sabotage myself and make the wrong decision. I so often wish I could fast forward 6 months and see the outcomes of my decisions, just to have some peace of mind that what I’m doing is the right thing.
This got me thinking about failure and why it is we as human beings are so afraid of it. I once read about how we bring this fear into adulthood from learning it as children. Good grades and good outcomes in every aspect of a child’s life are always praised and encouraged. And so they should, but are we inadvertently teaching our children that anything but success isn’t valuable. Doesn’t with failure itself also come experience, modesty, compassion and a chance to be better?
So what do we define has having failed? I just looked up the word failure in the dictionary on my mac (to see if there was another word for it so I don’t keep repeating the same word!) and it states failure to be ‘a lack of success’. That kind of took my breath away a little, but I understand a dictionary’s need to be literal! But surely all failed outcomes haven’t been a 100% negative experience? Take a driving test for example. Failing the test at the end doesn’t mean you haven’t learnt to drive does it? So even though the outcome wasn’t what you wanted, to have a full driver’s licence, you have still succeeded in learning to drive.
So I think therein lies the key. To realise that failure doesn’t really exist, because there isn’t only one outcome to our experiences; we don’t just pass or fail. Everything is made up of little successes and/or little opportunities to either do better or to lead us on to something else. Once you realise this, that there is no fear of failure, that the fear is about something else for example how it will make you feel, you free yourself up to trying more things, to leave your comfort zone and to have faith that it isn’t the end result that matters, but the journey.