“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” ~ Miles Davis
No doubt, we’re a strange species. Case in point: We’ve all known a friend or a loved one who had set a goal and, despite their best efforts, didn’t quite make it across the finish line. And without hesitation, the compassionate soul in us showered that person in empathy and positive affirmation (“Hey, it’s okay! Dieting is a process. Don’t worry, you’re on the right path…one step at a time”). Yep, when it comes to supporting someone else’s cause, we can be a bottomless well of warmth and compassion…tolerance and leniency…and unconditional acceptance of their ‘human beingness’.
Yet, when our valiant efforts to rock our goals come up short, whoa — we can be mercilessly brutal on ourselves. We’re so willing to give others a long leash as they trip, stumble, and face plant all the way across the finish line. And us? We don’t give ourselves a leash. If anything, we give ourselves a noose.
Fact: Our fear of failure crushes our confidence. It paralyzes our potential. It mutilates our mojo. And as we feel its death grip upon us, our fear of failure flashes a winning smile as it slowly suffocates our spirit. Sure, “F.E.A.R.” might be “False Evidence Appearing Real”, but that’s not always easy to believe when we tend to “Feel Emotions And Run”. Always on the offensive, our fear of failure isn’t just a ruthless rival — it’s an unbeatable adversary who dominates the game of success that plays out in our mind.
Yet, there’s something strangely ironic about failure: As threatening as it may be to our fragile egos, failure tests our will and boosts our resilience. It sends us back to the drawing board to re-strategize a new, more effective plan of attack. Instead of retreating back to the warm, safe confines of our comfort zone, it forces us to think. It forces us to feel. It forces us to adapt to adversity…and to figure it out. When we view failure as our teacher, the lessons that we internalize inspire us to rethink what it means to ‘lose’. Because when F.E.A.R. becomes our reason to “Face Everything And ROCK”, we win.
It’s true: In the formula for success, failure isn’t a recipe for disaster. It’s the secret ingredient of success.
Our successes and failures have one empowering thing in common: we took a chance. Taking a chance adds positive tension to the challenge… and a negative release when we achieve our desired outcome. Our willingness to defy our fears and take a chance is what pushes us out of that dysfunctionally comfortable zone. Chances are so powerfully attractive to us because they often hold the key to the prison that we, ourselves, create — no matter how many attempts it may take for us to escape.
For these reasons, failure isn’t catastrophic. It’s not tragic. And it’s certainly not “the end”. If anything, failure is the happy accident that caused us to trip, stumble, and fall into a more complete version of ourselves. So, regardless of where you are in the process of change, stop what you’re doing and give failure the massive bear hug that it deserves. Because trying eventually becomes doing… and doing eventually becomes “that’s right…I did it”.
Listen to what failure has to say. You might just hear the only advice that you’ll ever need to take.
About the Author: Joshua GARRIN is one of Your Monthly Mentors. He holds a Ph.D. in health psychology, an M.S. in cognitive psychology, and a B.S. in general psychology and journalism. He currently resides in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Following the completion of his doctorate in 2014, Joshua was the recipient of Walden University’s Harold L. Hodgkinson Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research for his inquiry on health beliefs, outcome expectancies, and stress appraisal in college seniors. Read More…