Over the past two weeks I have spoken to several people at various events and seminars. I continue to hear people talk about how their fear of failure is holding them back from pursuing a long held dream or ambition. It’s stopping them from “playing a larger game” or taking calculated risks and pursuing a better life. When I hear people talk about their concerns over “failing” it’s usually not a concern that the result will be as serious as ending up homeless or bankrupt. They tend to be concerned that they’ll suffer some level of embarrassment with either family, friends, peers or themselves. This desire to avoid such a fate is often so strong that it’s paralyzing.
I’d like to offer an alternate view of the word failure. Dictionary.com defines failure as “a person or thing that proves unsuccessful.” Most people subscribe to a similar definition. I’d like to challenge you to change your definition of the word failure and to view it as merely an outcome.
When a baby is first learning how to walk she stumbles, teeters and falls most of the time. Despite this fact I doubt they see themselves as failures. And you’d be hard pressed to find a good parent that calls his child a “failure” because the original outcome is imperfect. In fact most parents continue to encourage and praise their baby for her continued efforts and persistence in mastering a new skill. But, somehow when it comes to us attempting new and challenging things, we inhibit ourselves if we think it may entail a period of stumbling, teetering or falling. It’s like we expect ourselves to run perfectly before we can walk or crawl.
My challenge to you is that you banish the word and the concept of “failure” from your vocabulary and your thoughts. I’d like you to replace it with the word “outcome.” When we look at an experience from the perspective of what can I learn from this outcome, we empower ourselves to go above and beyond our fears of perceived failure.Share