Nobody showed up! Last week I hosted a Masterclass and not a single person dialed into the zoom call. Did I feel like a failure, yep, but I feel like that’s a good thing, and let's explore this topic of failure so I can explain why.
William James, a renowned American philosopher, and psychologist was one of the first to identify the impact of self-doubt and negative beliefs on a person's ability to pursue their goals. He believed that these internal barriers can be just as powerful as external obstacles in preventing people from reaching their full potential.
The inspiring story of basketball legend Michael Jordan illustrates this point. Despite being rejected by high school, college, and NBA teams early on, he continued to pick himself up and learn from his failures, eventually becoming a basketball icon.
Fear of failure leads to a lack of action and missed opportunities. Recently, my son was reluctant to attend a junior high school dance. He was worried about not having a date and feeling left out, but I encouraged him to take the opportunity to have fun with his classmates. A big missed opportunity if he doesn’t go (there are only a few junior high dances in a lifetime).
Fear of failure can stifle creativity and expression. However, like J.K. Rowling, who faced poverty and depression while writing the Harry Potter series, resilience can conquer these fears. Despite multiple rejections from publishers, Rowling's persistence and determination allowed her to produce a beloved and inspiring work for many writers.
Another consequence is negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. This relates to Carol Dweck's work on the growth mindset - the idea that failure today doesn't mean failure forever, and that with hard work and effort, improvement is possible. A personal example is my daughter, a sophomore in high school who started physics. Despite being a required course now, it's a challenging class due to the math component and many students not having taken math in a while. On the first day of class, the teacher told the students they would fail. But, there was also a poster on the wall about growth mindset. The teacher offers many opportunities for retakes and redoing work to help students learn and grow, but the negative self-talk of "expect to fail" is not in line with a growth mindset philosophy. Failure is a natural part of the process, but starting with a negative self-talk only makes the journey harder.
Let's delve into the roots of the fear of failure. The issue has been discussed in another post, but there are a few things I didn't cover.
Childhood experiences and upbringing play a crucial role in shaping our personalities and can contribute to our fear of failure. If you were constantly judged and criticized for your performance, it could be the root cause. Acknowledging this is a big step forward. Therapy can help identify these roots and guide you in making progress.
Society's emphasis on perfectionism also fuels this fear. Many people, including myself, struggle with perfectionism and compare themselves to others. At a personal development retreat, I wrote down "perfectionism" as one of the things holding me back. It's important to recognize and find ways to overcome these societal pressures.
Let's talk about overcoming the fear of failure. Here are four ideas to help:
Let's discuss overcoming fear to take action. Here are some tips: set achievable goals, break big tasks into smaller steps, create an action plan, seek support and guidance from others, find a mentor, and try new things. Set goals that are challenging but not too difficult to be intimidated by. Breaking tasks into smaller steps makes them less scary and gives you a roadmap. Creating an action plan gives you confidence. Seek support from mentors, loved ones, and resources to overcome fear. Don't be afraid to try new things, as they may lead to unexpected opportunities.
Let's dive into taking action despite fear. We've covered the source of this fear, the fear of failure, and how to overcome it. I've shared some history and the impact of staying stuck in fear on your life. I'm confident that if you take action using the strategies we've discussed today, you'll conquer your fears and continue making progress!
You don't have to chose between your personal and professional life. Here's my secret weapon for getting the family chaos to calm.