“Do the thing you fear, and the death of that fear is certain.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fear is a powerful emotion. It’s something that we all experience at some point in our lives, and it tends to come in many different shapes and forms.
One form that it often takes? Failure.
So many people (myself included) have dealt with or continually deal with the fear of failure, and often times, that fear debilitates us. It causes us to stay stagnant, stuck wherever we’re at because to move forward would mean risking failure, and that’s a risk we’re just not ready to take.
Sometimes I wonder how many brilliant ideas and sensational dreams have died at the expense of this devious, incapacitating fear.
In other words – how many people have watched their dreams die because they were so afraid of failure that they were too afraid to try?
I don’t want that to be the fate of my dreams.
I don’t want it to be the fate of your dreams either.
So how can we deal with the fear of failure?
When you think of failure, where do your thoughts go? Negative, shameful places, I’m guessing. But you know what? That’s actually the first problem. So many people view failure as the ultimate low, the worst thing that can happen to them, when really it’s just a bump on the road to success.
No successful person has become successful without failing. In fact, some of the most successful people in the world have failed in ways that would cause most people to throw in the towel.
- Walt Disney was fired once because his editor felt that he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
- Thomas Edison was told by teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything.”
- J.K. Rowling was a single mom living off welfare when she first started writing Harry Potter.
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach believed he lacked talent.
- Henry Ford failed at several businesses and went broke 5 times before founding Ford Motor Company.
What was different about these individuals? They chose to learn from their failures instead of drown in them. They chose to keep going. They didn’t see their failures as failures, but mere detours on the journey to true success.
If you’ve never failed at anything in life, it’s likely that you’ve lived so comfortably within your own little bubble that you’ve never really lived, never really dreamed. Failure is a byproduct of dreaming, and trying, and doing, and finding your way. It’s going to happen at some point – what matters is how you choose to view it.
Going back to the Emerson quote, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of that fear is certain.”
The only way to defeat fear is to continually do that thing you fear. In the case of failure, sometimes this means that you just have to fail. Then pick yourself back up again and realize that you’re actually okay. Choose not to fear it, believe that you’re going to eventually be successful, and you will be. And this time it won’t be your dreams dying, but the fear of pursuing them.
Keep dreaming. Push your limits. And set manageable goals for yourself. By setting small goals on your way to the “big” one, you’re making things much less scary for yourself. An action plan for success can be a great tool in combating the fear of failure, and every small goal that you reach will increase your confidence that you really can do this.
Here’s a tough truth that I’ve unfortunately had to learn the hard way – failure is temporary, but regret is forever. The pain of regret is much more difficult to live with than the pain of failing. You’ll eventually recover from failure, but regret is something that can’t be fixed. It’s the result of a missed opportunity, something you wished you would have pursued, if only you’d been less afraid.
I don’t say this to depress you, but to motivate you – the next time you’re deciding whether or not to go after a dream and the fear of failure is getting in your way, consider which you’d rather deal with – failure or regret?
I’d take failure over regret any day.
Nothing worth pursuing ever comes easy – don’t be afraid to go after your dreams. Don’t let the fear of failure hold you captive any longer. Choose to change your perspective, and move forward with confidence!