Insight into Fear of Failure
“Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true.” —JOHN KEATS, English poet
Many year ago, while working on the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, I became friends with Roger, a middle-aged man who was working as an extra. It was obvious to me that Roger was well-read, highly intelligent, and compassionate, but he told me that he had worked at more than a hundred jobs in the previous five years. He had worked as a janitor at a fast food restaurant and a grocery packer at a food store. He had unloaded trucks and picked fruit. All the jobs he chose neither challenged nor inspired him. In other words, he chose jobs where he could not fail.
Roger had begun therapy a few months before I met him and had made great strides in discovering the source of his low self-esteem. What fascinated me was how his discovery had almost instantly changed how he viewed the world. He confided that his greatest insight occurred when he became aware that it was not others against him, as he had always believed, but his own lack of personal worth that had manipulated him to choose such menial jobs. He told me he no longer looked at himself as a victim and realized he was capable of much more than he had ever realized.
There are other tools the Trickster has at his disposal, like procrastination. It’s an insidious, misguided perception that what needs to be done will be easier if we wait till tomorrow. Or maybe it won’t have to be done at all! Procrastination is avoiding personal responsibility. Procrastination sucks the life out of our self-confidence, our creativity, ambition, and sense of possibility.
When we become aware of the reasons behind procrastination, we uncover the fear. We can then decide to move ahead. While the fear may not completely disappear, it no longer has a grip on us. Experience the fear and do it anyway.
Fear of failing can also persuade us to take poorly thought-out chances; our perception of risk becomes warped. Taking risks is no longer a tool for growth and learning; instead it manifests itself as foolish chances.
It’s natural to fear failure when you start a new business, get, promoted, begin a new relationship, prospect for new clients, ask for help, learn to ski, talk to an angry customer, present a new idea to the boss, or tell the truth. Be easy on yourself and others.
Make fear your ally, your companion. Fear is a signal that you are stretching.
James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best-selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach.