Getting Past the Fear of Failure

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Chris Bradford

I admit it, I have spent the bulk of my life trying to be a perfectionist. I know I’m not alone. I also know that there is no such thing as perfection. Given all that knowledge, I still find myself frustrated when things don’t go as I expected and the work I do isn’t perfect. I also know I’ve got to stop this, because there is absolute, positively no such thing as being perfect.

Oh sure, people have gotten awards for being the best. They may have even beaten all records in a sport of activity. The one thing each one will tell you if you ask them is that they failed many times, before that one success. If the people you admire say they didn’t fail first, they are probably forgetting the truth. Michael Jordan, arguably one of the greatest athletes in modern times said it best.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Wow, honesty. Maybe your not a sports fan, but love inventors and enjoy turning on lights when you get home. Here’s what Thomas Edison had to say about failing.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I think the idea is here and there’s a quote from tons of people you probably believe are the smartest in the world that they failed more than succeeded. So what is the one thing they did to get past any fear of failure? They never let it bring them down and they didn’t use it as an excuse to quit.

Yes, I said excuse. As a former perfectionist, I could look back at a list of things in my life that I quit, because I feared continual failure. But what if I didn’t quit? What if I just saw it as a learning moment and moved on? That’s what I do now. If someone asked me before this attitude change if I could write a novel, much less two, I would have said no way. Even after writing my first novel, which did sell, but in no way got great sales, I didn’t let it stop me from writing my next one. I just continue to try to improve my writing. I also do something else, which is not worry about trying to be perfect, but satisfied that I tried my best.

How many times have you given that advice to your children or others? ”Did you try your best? Well, that’s what really matters.” Easy to say, hard to do. There are some techniques that some of the biggest leaders have for us on getting past our fear of failure.

  1. There is no such thing as perfection, only practice. Our whole life is made up of constant practice. When you can see it that way, you allow yourself to make mistakes. If someone wants you to be perfect, that is really their issue. You need to keep your head in the game. This is how.
  2.  Ask yourself what will happen if you fail? Are you saving lives? If so, you want to practice what you do. If your life does not involve saving lives by your action, then what are you worried about. Even surgeons and others that work to save lives must allow themselves to let go of the deaths they deal with and move on. Otherwise, they would quit too. It’s just a part of our life and remember, no one can be perfect.
  3. Fear is natural and it is in your mind. Did I just contradict all the above? No, I’m just saying that our minds don’t control us, but we control our minds. If you have lived a long time with the fear of failure, it is now habitual in your mind. You will have to find ways to change that thought. Remember each day is another day to start again, not a continuation of the past you can’t change.

I could continue, but really our fear of failing is in us. Those that persevere find that success comes as they keep trying, not by quitting. So ask yourself next time you fear failure, “do I want to succeed”? If you answer yes, just keep trying and trying. Don’t let failure bring you down, but let your successes build you up.

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About bullyingrecovery

Alan Eisenberg is a Certified Life Coach with a niche in bullying and abuse recovery, Bullying Recovery activist, and author of "A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance". and "Crossing the Line". He has been writing and speaking to various audiences about the issue of C-PTSD and Bullying Recovery. Mr. Eisenberg has been featured on several print, radio shows and podcasts on this issue, including NPR and in the Boston Globe
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