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The Truth About Failure From a High Performance Expert

I don't believe in failure. It's a man-made limitation, and it's keeping you stuck.

@Burst | Unsplash
@Burst | Unsplash

I don’t believe in failure. Why? Failure is a man-made limitation.

The only reason we believe failure exists in this world is because from a young age we’ve been programmed to believe that doing something once and not getting it perfect the first time will only lead to a downward spiral of more losing.

As a High Performance Coach, I see this time and time again.

People often assume that I want them to be perfect, to mould them into this idealistic human being that wins every single time, or that they can’t step a foot out of place for the fear of being seen as a failure in my eyes.

That’s not true at all. I actually love mistakes.

I learn from my mistakes. In fact, they often become my most treasured stories.

Did I ever tell you about that time I moved countries for just 3 days when I was supposed to stay for 5 years?

Did I mention I dropped out of uni because I just didn’t see the point in it anymore?

Have you ever seen me try to knock down 10 bowling pins? (Hint – the answer is no, because the ball always hits the gutter).

I’ve got countless stories about mistakes, but they have never stopped me from achieving my goals.

The quicker you embrace them, the quicker you’ll reach your desired outcome.

The only time you’ve truly failed?

The moment you stay where you are, and plateau.

The moment you hesitate instead of trusting in yourself.

The moment you decide not to chase after your goal via another path.

Then, and only then have you failed to try, failed to grow, and failed to adapt.

That’s the only true failure in my eyes.

Before I jump into some top tips on how to bounce back when the inevitable hits, I first want you to understand why we fear failure in the first place so you can begin to embrace it, rather than shy away from it.

Understanding what is causing your fear of failure

Biologically speaking, fear acts as an old primitive instinct to keep you safe. It’s a clever defence mechanism to ensure your survival, but let’s face it, we’re not exactly being hunted, or chased or wary of being eaten anymore, so why does fear still exist today?

There are few reasons for this.

  • The idea of failure wounds our ego. We immediately envisage what the future would look like if we failed, and conjure up images of emotional pain and suffering.
  • We worry how failure will affect our social status and relationships with others.
  • We worry about leaving our current life behind, and fear the change that could leave us in a worse position financially, physically and mentally.
  • A lesser known factor is that failure is hard to blame on anyone else, even if you’re tempted to point the finger, but the reality is, most of us find it easier to not try rather than assume responsibility if something falls flat.

Notice a pattern here? We worry about the future when it hasn’t even happened yet.

This is exactly how fear stops us in our tracks.

We imagine that the worst will happen when we fail.

So how do you overcome the fear of failure, and bounce back when the inevitable finally does hit?

1. Transform your fear into excitement.

Did you know that fear and excitement physiologically feel the same in the human body? They create the same adrenaline reaction, the same ‘butterflies’ in the stomach, the same fight or flight response.

Here’s the great news. Once you understand this, you can change the way you think about fear.

Take it and morph it into excitement. Turn the fear of the unknown into the excitement of a challenge. A challenge to learn more, be more, grow more.

2. Learn not to associate failure with personal incompetence.

When you feel as though you’re hitting a brick wall, it can be hard to separate failure from your worth. Rejections and let-downs can often feel personal, but they’re not.

You are not that article you spent 5 hours writing that got rejected. Your value does not depend on how many likes or shares you receive. Your worth in this beautiful world does not depend on what anyone else says or does.

Failure, like all things in life is just an experience. You get to determine whether you internalise that experience, or use it to your advantage moving forward.

3. Maintain an open ‘so what?’ mindset.

When you find one path that doesn’t work, acknowledge it for what it is – one path that didn’t work.

You can either let failure overwhelm you, or say ‘I made a mistake… so what? Let’s find another path’. There are always multiple ways of getting to the same goal.

4. Reprogram your mind to focus on your internal environment, as opposed to reacting to your external environment.

The person who reacts to their external environment becomes a victim to every single little change that happens, one minute you’ll feel on top of the world, but then something comes along and completely ruins your day.

Failure will hang heavy for most people, but this is only because of how you’ve programmed your mind to react to it. You might feel annoyed, upset, angry, embarrassed, maybe you even physically retaliate or inwardly retaliate, you take it out on yourself. The worst part? You’ll probably do the same thing all over again tomorrow, or the week after because you’re living on an emotional roller coaster.

If you start to internalise ‘failure’, ask yourself ‘why do you feel like this?’, ‘what emotion am I feeling right now that’s making me react this way?’. You might just find you’re living a life of fear and scarcity, rather than excitement and abundance.

5. Acknowledge that there is no alternative to failing.

Ask yourself, ‘what’s the alternative to failing?’ Not trying? Whatever your dream or goal is right now, imagine if someone came along and swiped it from you. Imagine you were told that you can no longer pursue it for the rest of your life.

How would that make you feel? Angry? Upset? Frustrated?

The point is, if you wouldn’t let anyone else stop you, don’t let yourself get in the way either.

Life is a never-ending roller coaster of ups and downs, and success follows moments after the greatest ‘failure’, so whatever you do, just keep moving.

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