Fear & inconsistency: these two things are the bane of my existence. They are really the only things that stand between me and success. And while they might be difficult to overcome, it’s actually kind of freeing to think that I only have two obstacles. Right? Even if those obstacles seem huge.
Today, I want to tackle fear. What is the real issue? Am I afraid of failing? Or am I afraid of succeeding? Or is it both?
The fear of failure is obvious. No one likes to fail, and to be successful, you generally have to fail repeatedly first. But when I reflect back on my life, my true “failures” have been few. Nearly everything has been a stepping stone to something larger. I’ve learned lessons and most importantly, I’ve gained experience. Each time something doesn’t go as planned, I learn a little bit more about what works and what doesn’t.
So how is that really a failure?
I think maybe beyond internal feelings of failure is the fear of public failure. If everyone sees me fall flat on my face, will their perception of me change? Will I not have the standing I do now in their minds? But more often than not, I think failure makes a person more relatable. When I see someone’s attempt do anything but succeed, I’m reminded that I’m not alone. And when I see them try again?
Well, then I’m inspired.
And of course there’s the fear that I’ll do everything I can and I still won’t be successful. What if I give it my all and that’s still not enough? So sometimes it’s easier to half-ass it and hope for the best. Because then I can identify the reason I didn’t succeed: it’s that I just didn’t try hard enough.
So while fear of failure is a real issue, I believe it’s one that can be overcome. If I know for sure that I’ll learn something and gain experience, then regardless of the outcome, I am not coming away empty-handed. And if I fail in a big public way, well, then maybe my ability to keep trying will serve to motivate someone else. I can’t always control others’ perception of me – I can’t keep myself from looking foolish in their eyes. But in truth, their perception of me doesn’t change my reality. So if I let it stand in my way of success, then I’m doing myself a huge disservice.
So then we come to the fear of success. That seems strange right? Why would anyone be afraid of achieving their dreams? Well I think it’s fairly simple.
What if, after all that work and dedication, you reach your goals…and it’s still not enough?
We see it a lot with celebrities. They seem to have it all, yet many struggle with depression and substance abuse. Why is that? Why isn’t it enough that they’ve accomplished so very much? That idea is pretty scary, right?
Maybe what you thought you wanted in life isn’t really it at all. I had so many assumptions about myself for years that all turned out to be false. It’s hard to know if something will truly fulfill you until you have it.
But here’s the thing: we have two options. And really only two options. We can take life by the balls and do everything we can to reach whatever goals we have in mind for ourselves. We can overcome these fears, and see where that takes us. It may mean that we don’t end up where we thought we would, but we’ll probably be at least somewhere different than where we started. And where we started wasn’t where we wanted to stay, right?
Or we can give into the fears, and live our lives with regret. Because I’m feeling pretty certain that if I don’t try my hardest to reach my goals, I’ll wake up one day and feel like I’ve run out of time. Even if that isn’t necessarily the truth, I’ll feel that way. Or I’ll feel like I won’t get to enjoy my success for much of life because I’ve spent it all paralyzed with fear.
I have to choose option number one. And I have to keep choosing it every day, because somedays the fear can overwhelm me. You’ll see this blog filled with instances of it, even if it doesn’t appear to be fear upon first glance. It really is.
I think it’s easy to tell ourselves just to push past our fears. It’s easy, but is it really effective? For me, no. I have to sit down and identify each of my fears. And then I ask myself – what’s the worst that could happen if this fear plays itself out?
What if I do fail? Then I figure out what specifically didn’t work and try something new. Or maybe the whole thing was a bad idea in the first place, and I just scrap it completely.
What if I can’t stay committed to the effort? Well, then maybe it isn’t something that means enough to me. It might be worth it to try, but I have to let go of the idea that I’ll be able to push through on everything.
What if my initial plans aren’t perfect? Shouldn’t I have a concrete plan before beginning anything? Ha! Story of the life of a perfectionist. Contrary to my own beliefs, it’s okay to go into things without knowing exactly how they’ll turn out. It’s okay to just jump in and let it work itself out. It’ll probably be even more awesome than I could have originally envisioned. Or maybe not. But I won’t ever get to find out if I let my perfectionism stand in the way.
What if others think I’m worthless because I wasn’t successful? Well, first, maybe I shouldn’t care so much about what they think. But if I can’t accomplish that, then I better get up and try again so I can prove them wrong.
What if I give this project my all and it just isn’t received well? Maybe it wasn’t the right time for the project, or maybe I’ve just targeted the wrong audience.
What if I’m hugely successful, but it just doesn’t feel the way I thought it would? I am probably trying to fill my life with something that my heart doesn’t truly need or want. I might want to look in a different direction. But hey, I put my mind to something and accomplished it! So that means I’m capable of that with a different goal that could be more rewarding.
Fear can be overcome by just about anyone.
Fear is a primal human emotion. Yet there are plenty of successful people in this world. They aren’t special – they’re just willing to fight through those fears to achieve their dreams. That’s what I keep telling myself, and so far, it’s serving me well. But like I mentioned before, I have to choose to beat fear every.single.day. I really think though, in the end, it’ll pay off in a big way.
So make a list of your fears. And let’s assume that those fears are well-founded and they all come to fruition. What happens then? Share your thoughts with me!