I've been administering the Energy Leadership Self-Assessment tool I use with my clients more often lately and because I tend to work with perfectionists and "recovering perfectionists" quite a bit there's something that has been coming up quite often: the fear of failure.
Perfectionists HATE failure and will employ nearly any strategy to avoid it. The strategy can range from not trying at all to running yourself into the ground to ensure success. But if you avoid trying at all you also keep yourself from some of the sweetest moments life has to offer. According to Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
And if you are sacrificing your health and well-being to avoid failure you won't be in a state in which you can appreciate your success once you've achieved it. I know this feeling myself and many of my clients know it too. The empty feeling you have when you've achieved something big and you don't feel anything. You are so tired, you are so done that you don't want congratulations, awards or a pat on the back - you just want to crash because your body is shutting down.
I'm going to throw you for a loop because I'm going to declare that there is nothing wrong with failure. In fact, it's a good thing. Here we go...
Many of us are taught from a young age that failure is “bad”, and perhaps it’s this early conditioning that causes us to make an enemy of failure once we grow up. Some people cringe even thinking about it, others try hard to avoid it, and virtually all of us question ourselves when we do something that’s perceived as a failure.
On top of that, failure is often more public than success – or so we perceive it to be. After all, the failures of public figures – large and small – make dramatic media headlines. And as we all know, drama sells so their failures get more play than their successes. Yet, whether we like it or not, failure is a part of the journey to achieving our goals.
You, like many of my clients, may have a tendency to beat yourself up over past failures - some may have even occurred decades ago. A sudden flash of a memory has your body cringing even though there's nothing in your immediate environment that you have to protect yourself against. That's how powerful those memories can be. And to make sure you never make that mistake again you castigate yourself - for what, the hundredth time? - for having been so naive, stupid, blind, arrogant...you name it!
You think by mentally beating yourself up you're helping to make sure you never make the same mistake again. But the truth is you won't the same mistake again and all you're doing is hurting your self-image and undermining your confidence. There's a better way!
If you’re willing to change how you perceive failure, you might just change your life. Renegotiate your concept of failure by considering four of its benefits:
One: Failure is a catalyst for change.
Think of failure as the result of an experiment. You tried something out and it didn't go as expected. This is your chance to assess what happened, face the facts, and creatively plan how you’ll move ahead. After all, it took Edison around 10,000 attempts to invent a light bulb. If you give up too soon, you won’t be able to leverage the failure to your advantage. I've been struggling to achieve my monthly profitability goal and that struggle has been energizing for my business. I've made a lot of changes due to the wake-up call of these failures and there are some exciting things starting to happen as a result of those changes. More to come in the month-end episode!
Two: Failure = freedom?
You bet it does! Failure does one thing well – it shows us that we’re not invincible. Be willing to own your failure. Doing so will help you release the belief that you “must” be perfect – and that’s a pretty freeing feeling.
If you can change your expectations that it has to be dead-on on the first try you will give yourself the space to play, be creative and test what's possible. This is the part of the reason children learn so fast. It's not just because their brains have plasticity. Adult brains have plasticity too. Young children aren't afraid to mess up. They do it all the time and so they are more open to trying something, taking risks and hitting that button. It's the reason why they figure out how to use your smart phone faster than you do. You're afraid you'll blow it up; they're not.
Three: You learn who your friends are.
Failure brings clarity on many levels, and as anyone who’s failed before knows, you’ll quickly discover who your friends really are. True friends will stick by you when the going gets rough. If you have a "ride or die" friend, that friend who will stick by you whether you're on top of the world or hitting rock bottom, then you are truly blessed.
Your failure can be a great way to thin the heard so you are focusing your precious time and energy on those who are truly there because they love and believe in you. There are always people in our lives that we generously give to whether they have the capacity to give back or not, but at least you'll know who is who and you won't rely on someone in a time of need who will suddenly have no time for you.
Four: You can bounce back, better than ever.
Failure is possibly your #1 opportunity to build resilience like never before. This key trait of successful people is all about recovering quickly from what shuts you down and what set you off.
One of the strategies I use to recover quickly from a failure is to have a sense of humor. Although I take my work seriously and I have some big goals to change the world, I don't take myself too seriously. Or, at least I strive not take myself too seriously. My inner critic has an insidious way of working it's way into my internal dialogue at times.
Look for the ridiculous and absurd in a situation and have a good laugh. If this is hard for you make a point to watch some comedies with friends. It has been proven that we find things to be funnier and laugh more when it's a shared experience.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Elf with Will Ferrell and Zoe Deschanel. The lines, "Son of a nutcracker!", "He's an angry elf" and "Does somebody need a hug?" get me every time and I quote them often.
I'll leave you with this quote by Henry Ward Beecher. "A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road."
I'll be back in a couple weeks for the month-end episode on goals update.
I hope this was of value to you and here's to your success!
TextExpander lets you instantly insert snippets of text from a repository of emails, boilerplate and other content, as you type – using a quick search or abbreviation. Go to https://textexpander.com/podcast and select Women Taking the Lead from the dropdown list for 20% off your first year!
Zebralove Web Solutions: Your website tells a story about your business! At Zebralove Web Solutions, Milly and her team are going to make sure your website tells the story you want your customers to hear. Connect with Milly at zebralovewebsolutions.com to create the impression you want to make!
Create Goals that are Worthy of you: If you are done with either pursuing vanilla goals, suffering through the struggle of goals that are not aligned with your strengths, or dealing with heartbreak of an unattainable goal this course is for you!
Private Facebook Community: Chat, share and collaborate with other women listening to the podcast!
Accomplished: How to Go from Dreaming to Doing: A simple, step by step system that gives you the foundation and structure to take your goals and make them happen.