Day 13: If Failure Wasn’t a Factor, What Would You Do?
A Discovery Challenge
Failure is something we all deal with at every stage in our life. It can hinder us from accomplishing our goals. But today, we’re going to pretend like fear of failure wasn’t an obstacle. For a few minutes, we’re going to take away the fear from your life. What would you do? What would you accomplish?
Today’s goal is to figure out what we’ve always wanted to do, but fear of failure has always gotten in the way — maybe it’s a hobby, a new skill we want to develop, or even something as big as a career change.
Whatever it is, write down exactly why you’re afraid of failing in this goal of yours. And, as a bonus exercise, write down some steps you can take to overcome this fear of failure.
Ok, this might be a little bit tricky because we’re not 100% sure where our fear of failure comes from. So we’re going to dive into how you can recognize where your fear is coming from, and also how to overcome the fear.
Sometimes all we need is to see the plan outside of our heads to realize that maybe the path towards that goal isn’t so scary after all.
7 Steps to Overcoming Failure
Since he covered a couple of topics in each part, I actually want to break it down into each individual step to make it even more digestible. So let’s dive into those six steps.
1. Understanding the Root of Your Fear
The first step to overcoming failure is understanding what fearing failure actually means for you. Aaron points out that usually, it’s not the failure itself — it’s the fear of the outcome from the failure.
And turns out, this is actually backed by some research in psychology. Psychology Today lists the 10 most common feared outcomes — which include worrying about what other people will think of us, second-guessing your abilities or intelligence, and lost opportunities.
Do any of these resonate with you? They definitely do for me. And don’t get me wrong, it’s scary to face what we’re truly afraid of — but being vulnerable with ourselves and understanding the root of our fear is the first step in overcoming our fears.
2. Changing Your Environment
Aaron mentions that it’s important to create an environment that we feel safe to fail in. He says to choose an environment where you’re surrounded by supportive people who encourage you to take the risks necessary.
Learned helplessness is one of the biggest reasons we are afraid of failure. If you experience constant failure…you become more than just failure avoidant, you purposely fail. – @ThisIsYourFriendAaron
Examples of environments that teach you this learned helplessness are work environments where motivation is absent but criticism is plentiful, toxic relationships that focus on flaws, and social media feeds that create #FOMO.
Changing your environment is hard, and in some cases, require a dramatic change in your life. But if your environment is seriously affecting your mental well-being, it’s definitely worthwhile to consider your options before moving on to the next steps.
3. Exposure Therapy
This step requires bravery on your part and willingness to let go of control. It’s truly unfortunate that we live in a world where we’re taught that mistakes will undoubtedly result in disaster. This belief stays with us throughout our lives and gets in our way of our personal, professional, and academic growth.
That’s why Aaron suggests practicing overcoming this obstacle with low-stake challenges that you’re not familiar with, but have an interest in. Examples include cooking, gaming, dancing, writing, drawing, learning a language, and the list goes on.
These low-stake challenges can still be daunting, no doubt. But the more we expose ourselves to the possibility of failure, the better we become at adjusting and reacting to that stress.
4. Evaluating the Stakes
Aaron makes the point that stakes have to do with psychology of framing. And with the write frame of mind, we can help ourselves overcome the fear of the stakes at hand.
Overthinking everything that can go wrong, focusing on what happens if things go wrong, not correctly defining what happens if you fail — these all have to do with stakes. – @ThisIsYourFriendAaron
He continues to provide three methods on how to combat the anxiety of stakes, which are to
- Focus on the stakes of success.
- Frame the stakes of failure as things to be gained rather than lost.
- Ignoring the stakes completely by letting go of expectation.
Notice how all of these focus on the positives and what you can learn out of a difficult experience. The human condition is to focus on the worst scenarios, but there’s always another side to the situation if we can change our frame of mind.
If you want to read more about how to practice changing your mindset, check out my blog post all about positive affirmations.
5. Analyzing the Failures
There are two important statements that you need to accept when it comes to overcoming failure.
First, almost all failures can be learned from. Second, you can gain something from almost any failure. – @ThisIsYourFriendAaron
This is very similar to the point above, but being able to learn from even just the smallest failures or mistakes also requires us to put our ego aside, accept responsibility, and be open to improvements.
Aaron suggests three ways in which you can practice moving past our ego:
Ask Yourself What Went Wrong
It’s important to only focus on the aspects that you had control over. We shouldn’t dwell on what we can’t control — just as much as we can’t blame other things or people for something we can take responsibility for.
Ask Someone Else to Analyze What Went Wrong
It can help to get an outside, unbiased view on the situation as it’s easy to internalize the situation too much, which affects our ability to see the problem in a rational way.
Think About What You Gained
The beauty about making mistakes is that we learn how to handle a future similar situation better. This is one of the most affective ways to gain insight, experience, understanding, and wisdom.
6. Forgiving Yourself
So with all these said and done, even with all the right set-ups and planning, things can obviously still go wrong.
Certain fails keep us from ever wanting to chance that failure again. They were so painful that we’ve held onto that fear for a long time. – @ThisIsYourFriendAaron
Aaron suggests reflecting on one of the biggest failures you’ve experienced in your life. Maybe that’s a breakup, a job loss, a missed opportunity, or not taking school seriously.
Whatever it is, it can be incredibly difficult to forgive yourself for what you did and it prevents us from moving on and growing (as we talked about earlier).
So how can we shed this immense emotional weight?
Acknowledge that We Screwed Up
I know, it doesn’t feel very good. But you’re human and humans make stupid mistakes sometimes. You’re also not alone in your failure — many people screw up, but that’s how we’ve learned as a species and how we’ve evolved into our modern society.
Acknowledge that the Failure Doesn't Define You
We are constantly becoming better versions of ourselves, but this wouldn’t happen without making mistakes. There is still so much to look forward to and since we can’t change the past, we can only take this as a learning experience and move on.
Putting All the Pieces Together
We can say all these things, but of course it’s harder to put it into practice. Fear is almost inexplicably debilitating, but with the right tools and some practice, we can start progressing towards a brighter and freer future.
Overcoming the fear of failure…is a process much like anything else. It takes practice, but with enough practice the fear of failure can be overcome. – @ThisIsYourFriendAaaron
Which one of these steps resonate with you the most? Are you working on any specific step right now? Let me know in the comments and we can all support each other through this difficult process.