We all have professional hopes and dreams we are pursuing. As we move closer to achieving them leads the each new stage feels bigger stages and the air feels thinner. The higher you climb, the less crowded it gets. And in the quiet moments, you begin to realize fall back to the bottom is steeper than ever. One wrong decision, one misstep and it feels like everything you’ve worked for is at risk. That discovery triggers a range of thoughts and emotions. Some people reach a stage where the fear of failure outweighs the fulfillment in growth and progress.
It takes a lot of intentional sacrifices and investment to achieve an uncommon level of success. The thought of leaving your comfort zone to invest time and energy into something that produces a losing result is a hard reality to accept. Sometimes that reality leads to removing risk and seeking comfort. Rationally, it seems like the ideal way to maintain your current position and ensure a return on your investment of time, energy, and emotion. It works like a safety net that locks in profit — you won’t lose it all, but you certainly won’t maximize your returns.
Others achieve a level of success and keep climbing higher. They move without the same safety net to catch them. From the outside, it looks like it just takes one wrong move and they’re in free fall. People wired in this way get labeled as risk takers. The common misconception is that these risk takers don’t see failure as an option. Most people believe they haven’t calculated the risks associated with going “all-in” and failing. Chances are, they’ve done the calculations — the reward of fulfilling meaningful goals outweighs the comfort of staying put.
Failure is not a binary outcome
Many view failure as a black-and-white outcome. It is not a binary outcome and is much more than a static endpoint. It’s a valuable part of the growth process — may be the most valuable. If you have ever trained or worked out, you understand this concept. Increasing athletic performance is built on a simple premise — chase failure. Athletes understand that pushing your body to its limits is the only way to grow and improve performance. You train to push to and through failure. Push your efforts to the wall enough, and the wall gives way to more capacity. Failure is a data point that helps to identify today’s limitations.
A setback can result from many factors — lack of experience, skill deficiency, or other external factors. Examining the factors that lead to failure is some of the most valuable information and feedback you can get. Discovering the root cause of the setback is key to moving beyond it. Avoiding challenges that may lead to setbacks robs you of valuable insights about where and how you can improve. And, if you don’t understand the factors that produce the limitations impacting you, how can you begin to challenge and expand them?
Shift your mindset to unlock potential
Fear is a natural human emotion. It helps us limit risk when there’s a perceived threat. For many of us, an uncertain outcome is an unrecognizable situation that can be perceived as a threat. The growth required to achieve ambitious goals is inherently risky. There is no guarantee committing to action will lead to the desired results. And the thought of investing in ourselves for no perceived gain keeps us in our comfort zone. In this case, although fear is meant to protect us from risk, it limits growth.
Our beliefs and mindset about fear are responsible for the actions we take (or don’t take). When you’re not open to the possibility of failure being an option, your actions inherently become limiting. You avoid taking risks to avoid fear, and your moves become more calculated and safe. That safe approach won’t lead to the achieve the goals or results you’re pursuing. It will rob you of the opportunity to stretch your capacity and learn more about yourself.
Fear is neither good nor bad. It’s what we do with our fear that makes the difference. To achieve your goals and aspirations, you must shift your mind to perceive fear differently. The default expression of fear is survival. But you want to do more than survive, you want to thrive.
Embracing failure and the fear that accompanies it can provide new, otherwise hidden, insights that position the setback as a launchpad.