Do Not Fear Failure

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six 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.” –Michael Jordan

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Michael Jordan was arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. He turned basketball into an international sport, and he is one of the most recognized athletes of the last 100 years. If he had been too scared to keep taking those game-winning shots after missing a few, he never would have achieved the same degree of success, and Air Jordan would never be the universal brand it is today.

Abraham Lincoln, one of the most well- known historical figures of the last 500 years, knew what it felt like to fail. He lost his job, took part in a failed business venture, and lost multiple political races before he ever made it to the White House. He once famously said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Abraham Lincoln never lost his enthusiasm to succeed. He would go on to liberate millions of African Americans and help save the nation after the Civil War. He is regularly rated by historians as the greatest US president.

Have you ever heard of the business enterprise Traf-O-Data? You probably have not, because it went out of business more than 40 years ago. It was just one of entrepreneur Bill Gates’s failures on his road to success. He was also a Harvard dropout, yet he would go on to form the world’s largest software company and become one of the wealthiest men in the world. How about Laugh-o-gram studios? Have you heard of that one? That was Walt Disney’s failed business venture. He would also notoriously get fired from a newspaper for not being creative enough. The Walt Disney Company is now one of the largest mass media companies in the world.

Failure is inevitable, even for the most successful people on earth. Failure helps us grow and it gives us each an opportunity to reflect and improve. Without failure, there would be no success.

Eliminate Your Fear

Understanding your personal fear of failure is not only necessary to obtain more success, but also to better establish a positive mood and attitude. I cannot stress enough the emotional importance of conquering, understanding, and harnessing this fear. For example, fear of failure in college students has been shown to be associated with high levels of worry, anxiety, cognitive disruption and low levels of optimism. There seems to be several presumed consequences of failure: experiencing shame and embarrassment, devaluing one’s self-esteem, having an uncertain future, and losing the interest of loved ones. In summary, evidence seems to support there is a real emotional burden regarding fearing failure, there for controlling this fear is of great importance.

Have you ever found excuses to delay something in life because you were so concerned you would let others down? Maybe you did not want to pursue a promotion at work, so you found every excuse to not apply for the new position in an effort to avoid the potential failure of not getting it. You delay and delay and wait until you finally gather the courage to make a move. Once you do, you realize you wasted a significant amount of time lamenting in fear.

See, even with tasks that we do end up accomplishing, the fear of failure can many times delay our success. This idea was supported by an article published in the Advances of Health Sciences Education, which found that fear of failure was often associated with academic procrastination in undergraduate students. Other studies have demonstrated that the dread of embarrassment causes male undergraduates to procrastinate to avoid the possibility of failure. The fear of failure and its connection to procrastination can be extrapolated from the educational setting as it really applies to all facets of life and across all avoid the possibility of failure.

The fear of failure demographics. It is fair to say that if we fear failure, we will use procrastination as a strong defense mechanism to avoid the task at hand or delay it, often leading to more anxiety and distress.

What I have observed is that people often fear failure to the point that most become paralyzed. The idea of losing something or letting people down often overpowers the thought of success. Failure has the misperception of being negative, embarrassing and abnormal. This idea of failure as negative is what must change in your mind in order for you to better obtain the happy state you desire. We have an opportunity to perhaps reduce anxiety, increase optimism, boost our self-esteem and stop procrastinating.

Learn to Embrace Failure

How has the fear of failure affected the way you approach life? Are you ever afraid to be passionate about a certain idea or new challenge, because if you fail you might be embarrassed? Are the opinions of others driving some of your decision making? Does the idea of failure often make you think twice about pursuing a new venture in life? If failure were not an option, what risks would you take to obtain success? If you knew you could not fail, what would you be doing right now? Do you procrastinate at times to avoid failure?

As you move forward in life, embrace the possibility of failure. Dig deep and push through. Be inspired by those that have repeatedly failed but have gone on to succeed. Tony Robbins gave excellent advice about how to get over your fear of failure: you should learn to fear the idea of not taking action and settling for a life that is below what you deserve and desire, rather than failing at the action itself. You must train yourself to use the energy of fear to your advantage and accept that when you do decide to pursue something you fear, it may not feel perfect. That is OK.

I have a few additional pieces of advice:

1. Embrace your strengths to improve your self-esteem. This will inherently lead to less fear of failure.

2. Block out the opinions of others as you pursue you dreams. Remember, weak people talk, but strength comes from action.

3. Stop procrastinating. By doing this you set a standard and expectation that you will not allow hesitation to be a subconscious tool to feed your fear.

4. Accept uncertainty. Sometimes the fear of not knowing what the future brings is far worse than the actual future. This fear, as mentioned, will paralyze people into inaction. Life is short, and excitement and happiness stem from pushing through challenges and conquering our fears.

Whether it is a career, relationship, competitive sport or learning a new hobby. Obtaining success after failing has the potential to bring happiness and the acceptance of this imperfect process will make life much more gratifying.

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