Indispensable Lessons in Understanding the Fear of Failure

Denis Waitley

Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.

This is the first of a two part series about failure:

Why Failure is Unavoidable

It’s important to understand that failure of some sort is unavoidable and inevitable — it’s simply a part of life. This is especially true while you are in the process of doing something new, learning something new, taking risks or stepping outside your comfort zone and onto the path of uncertainty.

Failure of course doesn’t mean that all is lost. It means that things are temporarily not working out for you, and as a result you will need to stay flexible in your approach if you desire to get back on track. Therefore in this context failure is only temporary until you are able to find your feet again.

Key Reasons for Failure

You are experiencing temporary failure in life because of one or more of the following reasons:

Over-Complicating Things

You are obsessed with over-complicating matters and as a result you get lost in the details and overwhelmed by the process.

Caught in Instant Gratification Trap

You are being seduced by instant gratification and can’t escape those short-term temporary pleasures and temptations that make you feel all warm, fuzzy and tingly inside.

Indulging in Perfectionism

You are indulging in the habit of perfectionism and focusing on irrelevant things that don’t need more time or effort.

Overwhelmed by Fear

You are easily overwhelmed by fear of criticism, rejection, embarrassment, judgment, etc. These fears are causing your life to stagnate, and you’re going nowhere fast.

Afraid to Make Mistakes

You are afraid to make mistakes and therefore do not take the risks necessary to succeed in your endeavors. You are essentially risk averse.

Incapable of Learning from Mistakes

You are simply incapable of learning from your mistakes, and as a result you keep repeating the same mistakes and dealing with the same problems over and over again in an endless cycle.

Closed to New Perspectives

You are closed to new ideas and perspectives that might be able to provide you with the insights you need to get through your problems.

Not Flexible in Your Approach

You are not flexible enough in your approach and have an inability to think creatively about your problems and circumstances.

Giving Up Too Easily

You give up too easily. This comes down to a lack of willpower, self-belief and determination on your part. You essentially don’t want things badly enough because you simply don’t have enough reasons to pursue them.

Failing to Prepare and Plan

You fail to prepare and plan ahead of time. Lack of preparation causes mayhem and as a result your decisions and actions are scattered and misdirected.

Persistently Procrastinating

You persistently procrastinate because of a plethora of fears that are eating you alive and destroying your dreams from the inside out.

Underestimating Your Goals

You consistently underestimate your goals and as a result you don’t take the actions necessary to bring them to fruition.

Focusing on the Negatives

You tend to focus on the negatives. Pessimism is eating you alive. All you’re seeing is problems and worst-case scenarios, and this robs you of your motivation.

Lacking Knowledge and Resources

You don’t have enough knowledge, experience, resources or skills at your disposal to help you accomplish your goals.

Lacking Success Qualities

You lack one or more of the following qualities that are essential for success in any field of endeavor: commitment, resilience, discipline, patience, focus and/or ambition. You need all of these to succeed. However, if even one is lacking you will probably experience an endless cycle of failure.

Reasons Why Failure is Temporary

Why Failure is Helpful

Instead of trying to avoid failure, you must come to accept it as a part of life — as an integral component of living as a human being in the 21st century.

It’s important that you never resist failure, and instead see it as something that has value and true transformational power to help change your life for the better.

Have a think about all the temporary failures you’ve experienced in your life and reflect upon how they have strengthened your resolve and taught you valuable lessons that have shifted your perspective and approach.

Failure will often present you with new opportunities for self-discovery; it will help you to better clarify your path and the decisions you are making; it will teach you the value of hard work and effort, and probably most importantly it makes life interesting, challenging and fun.

Failure is a blessing in disguise. However, for it to be a blessing in your life, you must first accept it as a part of life and stop resisting the act of temporarily failing at something. Temporary failure is not the end of the road, but rather a fork in the road that may lead you down a new and exciting path.

How to Better Understand Failure

To wholeheartedly begin accepting failure as a natural and normal part of your life, you must understand why failure exists and what its true purpose is.

First and foremost, it’s important that you don’t get hung up on failure. Yes you might be the most Godly person in the entire world. However, bad things happen to good people. In fact, many times things you planned won’t go to plan and may often take much longer than expected. You must accept this without question. If you don’t, then you’ll be caught up living a life of excuses.

Failure is after all an event and not a person. You might have failed, but you’re certainly not a failure. It’s important to understand this. You must accept that failure is not who you are, but it’s rather an external event that is outside of you. If you fail to see failure in this light then it will crush you emotionally and squeeze all your self-esteem and self-confidence until you are left with nothing but self-pity.

Failure is nothing more than an opportunity to gain some valuable feedback about your decisions, actions and circumstances. It’s an opportunity to evaluate what’s working and not working, and adjust your course accordingly. In fact, failure is not really failure if you’re continuously learning from the experience and making changes along your journey. Failure after all is a critical requirement for any level of growth or change you will make in your life. In many ways, failure is life itself — without it we wouldn’t be human.

Failure of course depends on your interpretation of reality. Something happens and you can either view it as the end of the road, or as an opportunity to make better choices and begin venturing on a new and exciting path that wouldn’t have been available if you hadn’t failed miserably.

Ongoing failure is life’s best teacher. It forces you to reinvent yourself and refine your approach and methods. Ongoing failure also keeps your expectations realistic and grounded. And best of all, ongoing failure eventually leads to success if you remain flexible and adaptable in your approach.

Understanding the Nature of Failure

What to do When You Fail

Okay, so life didn’t quite go your way, and you ended up failing miserably well below your expectations. This might not seem good on the surface, but it’s not all bad news. You have opportunities here — opportunities that you didn’t see coming. However, in order to take advantage of these opportunities you must immediately do the following:

Control Your Emotions

Find ways to stay calm, cool and collected emotionally. This is no time to panic. There are opportunities here, however you won’t see these opportunities if you are on an emotional roller coaster ride.

Now that you’re calm, you must also stay positive and focused on the task at hand. Don’t allow pessimism to get the better of you. Pessimism will distract you from spotting the opportunities that lie ahead.

Motivation is also an important component here. Without motivation you will find no reasons to keep going despite this failure. To unlock this motivation ask yourself:

Why is this important to achieve?

What will I miss out on if I don’t do this?

Why must I continue to persist through this failure?

The more reasons you find to keep moving forward, the higher levels of motivation you will experience, and the more energy you will have to keep fighting through your problems.

Another way to build your levels of motivation is to give yourself a pep-talk. Just talk to yourself out loud using encouraging words that will keep you motivated and inspired. Often it’s best to do this in front of a mirror because then subconsciously it appears as though someone else is giving you this pep-talk. Yes, it’s a very simple and straight-forward suggestion, but very powerful at the same time.

Take Ownership of Failure

Don’t go blaming other people or the events and circumstances of your life — that just seem so out of control — for your failure. This is the worst thing that you can do. The moment you admit to yourself that you have no control over this failed event, is the moment you might as well just give up and quit. This is certainly no time to quit. However, you must take full ownership and responsibility for everything that just happened. Taking ownership will put you in the driver’s seat of your own life, which is exactly what you need to get through these events successfully.

Show Some Gratitude

Be grateful for what just happened. Yes you failed, but it probably could have been much worse. And even if it couldn’t have been much worse, then be grateful for the fact that it happened because if you’re aware and stay positive you will eventually gain something tremendously valuable from this experience that could potentially change your life for the better.

Look for Opportunities

Straight after a failure is a time of great opportunity. Why is that? It’s the perfect time for spotting opportunities because you’ve stopped — everything has stopped. You have failed and this is now allowing you to take a breather and look at the events and circumstances of your life with greater clarity.

Without failure you would just keep moving forward and would most likely miss the opportunities that life presents you with. However, now that you have failed, you are primed to spot something that wasn’t previously within your conscious awareness.

Learn from the Experience

Failure presents you with incredible lessons that you must now take the time to learn. These are the lessons you will need moving forward to not only overcome this temporary failure, but to also help you overcome potential future failures and obstacles that are certain to be on your path. Ask yourself:

What happened?

Why did I fail?

You failed because you might not have had enough resources, maybe not enough time or support. Maybe the timing of your actions was simply all wrong. Or maybe you simply have unrealistic expectations. Figure out what exactly went wrong and why it happened, then continue asking yourself:

What is good about this?

What can I learn from this?

How have others faired going through these same circumstances?

What can I learn from these people?

What could I have done differently?

Where do I need to improve?

What must I now do differently?

Answering these questions as thoroughly as possible will provide you with valuable insights you can use to help move you past this temporary failure and towards the attainment of your goals and objectives.

What to do When You Fail

Debilitating Responses to Failure

When you fail at something it’s critical that you are very wary of the following debilitating responses that people often indulge in when things don’t go their way.

Having failed, you must now avoid at all costs:

  • Taking failure personally, blaming yourself for the failure, and as a consequence doing nothing about it.
  • Seeing failure as the end of the line with no alternate paths.
  • Spending time waiting for all the answers to come to you before taking further action.
  • Trying to avoid failure and therefore not accepting it when it happens.
  • Repeating the same mistakes over and over again while expecting different results.
  • Getting yourself down by dwelling on past mistakes and failure. This will leave you feeling stuck and emotionally paralyzed.
  • Making a plethora of excuses about why life isn’t fair and how this isn’t your fault.
  • Indulging in unnecessary stress and worry about what just happened instead of immediately doing something about it.
  • Fearing failure and therefore learning nothing from the experience.

What to Avoid Doing When it Comes to Failure

Handling failure successfully is often not easy and does take a lot of courage and emotional resilience on your part. However, avoiding the above mentioned debilitating responses will help you to see failure in the best light possible, and as a result you will proactively learn from the experience and lay down the groundwork for a more promising future.

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

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Six Steps for Dealing with Failure

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Gain More Knowledge…

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