A client asked us the other day, “How do I get rid of my fear of failure?”
Katie (the client) is in the midst of trying to transition from a job that she’s definitely not satisfied with to something more along the lines of “dream job status.”
In her mind, she figured there must be some way to eliminate risk or to mitigate uncertainty … that way, she could feel no fear before ever taking a step into the unknown.
The problem with Katie’s question, though, is that the answer is something she (and everyone else) probably doesn’t want to hear … you can’t ever FULLY eliminate fear because you can’t ever eliminate failure.
IT’S NOT AS BAD AS IT SOUNDS
Here’s the thing about fear: It’s an evolutionary impulse that’s hardwired into our DNA. You cannot eliminate it because you need it to function.
Fear serves a purpose. Mostly, it protects us and keeps us safe from harm. We should definitely thank our lucky stars that we have strong fear impulses … they’re what take over when someone swerves into our lane or when we stumble over a rattlesnake on an afternoon hike. Without them, we’d have been dead a long time ago.
Fear inherently does NOT like change or risk. And why should it? When you step into the unknown, there are tons of variables that can’t be predicted, which lead to you doing “unsafe” (well, at least that’s what your fear thinks) things.
Better to sit back, not change anything, and therefore never have to deal with the unsafe and unknown.
FEAR DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR FULFILLMENT
Because your fear exists to keep you safe, it doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your purpose in life. It does not care about your fulfillment, passion, or self-actualization.
And the problem with that, of course, is that you MUST take risks, step out into the unknown, and fail (many times) if you’re going to be passionate, fulfilled, and self-actualized.
There’s an old saying that goes something like, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
It’s kind of worthless, as far as sayings go. Why? Well … because it’s actually asking you, “If fear didn’t exist, what would you do?”
But it does exist, and you can’t just get rid of it.
So how about you ask yourself a better-phrased question:
“What do I want so badly that failure doesn’t matter?”
Brené Brown (the #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and author of the new book Rising Strong) says it another way that really hits home:
“Daring is not saying, ‘I’m willing to risk failure.’ Daring is saying, ‘I know I will eventually fail, and I’m still all in.’”
“I’m still all in.” Don’t you love that? Don’t you dig the idea that there’s something out there that you would be so into that failure wasn’t a big deal? Something that felt so purposeful and right that your fear, while still present, didn’t block you from taking action?
THERE’S ONE BIG THING I HAVEN’T TOLD YOU
Here’s what I think:
Most people who are stuck, frustrated, overwhelmed, and stagnant aren’t there because they want something so badly and have stalled out because they’re too afraid to move forward.
No, that’s not it.
They’re stuck because they’re afraid of failing in the pursuit of something they don’t want badly enough.
To phrase it differently: People are afraid of failure, and therefore they let fear stop them when they don’t know what they really want.
Think of it this way:
Imagine one of those old, two-sided scales. You know, like the kind that are used in the legal field to represent justice.
On one side of the scale, you’ve got a few solid nuggets of fear. That’s normal. It’s a biological impulse, after all. Everyone has some lumps of fear on one side of the scale.
And on the other side of the scale is desire. If you know what you really want, and if you are so certain about your course in life … then you’ve got enough weight to far out-measure your fear.
And when your desire outweighs your fear, you’ll take action. You’ll acknowledge the certainty of failing from time to time, and it won’t bother you that much. Sure, it might bruise you to fall down, but if falling is in service of something you love and want badly … you’ll feel that it’s worth it.
BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT’S HAPPENING FOR MOST PEOPLE
If you, on the other hand, don’t really know what you want out of life … then your fear will outweigh everything, all the time.
You might live in fear.
And it’s not that you necessarily have “too much” fear … it’s just that you probably don’t have a desire strong enough to counterbalance the risk, failure, and inevitable vulnerability that comes with stepping into the unknown.
The truth is, if you’re going to pursue passion, fulfillment, and self-actualization you must find something that means enough to you that you’ll actually want to step into the unknown.
You must find the thing that makes failure insignificant.
AND HOW DO I DO THAT, EXACTLY?
This is something we spend weeks, sometimes months, coaching people around. Boiling it down to a few sentences in a blog post doesn’t do the process justice. BUT, here’s how to take the very first step toward figuring out what belongs on the “desire” side of the scale. If you can’t take this step, you certainly won’t be able to take any of the ones after it:
You must give yourself permission to have your desire, in the first place.
Loads of people are trapped on the fear side of the scale because they haven’t even acknowledged what they might want out of life. They won’t even allow themselves to think about it, let alone take action, because of … what their parents think, or the state of the economy, or how “hard” it is to get jobs, etc.
People stay permanently stuck in fear for no other reason than that they refuse to give themselves permission to want something else.
And until you do that, I don’t exaggerate when I say that you have no hope for becoming fulfilled, passionate, and self-actualized.
So question the way things are. Don’t be quick to accept perceived limitations. And certainly don’t get hung up on what other people think. These are all dream-killers that will keep you perpetually stuck in a state of fear.
You are allowed to want more out of life; it doesn’t make you selfish or entitled. Everyone deserves for the “desire” side of the scale to outweigh the “fear” side … if you’ll let it.
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THERE’S A WAY TO PUT THIS INTO ACTION, RIGHT NOW
I can say wholeheartedly that there are few sensations better than finding something you love so much that failure becomes insignificant.
It’s empowering, energizing, and inspiring. It feels like momentum … which is pretty much the opposite of stagnation and frustration.
You must have clarity around what you desire before you can overrule your fear and move forward.
And that is exactly what we do during the Passion Plan Virtual Experience (the PPVE, as we like to call it). We focus on:
- What’s inadvertently keeping you stuck, so that you can remove the blocks.
- Your deepest desires and how to recognize them.
- Turning passion into action … it’s great to have clarity around what your passion in life is, but it’s much better when you feel capable of DOING it.
It’s pretty easy, too.
That sounds dubious, in a world where everything seems time-consuming and labor-intensive. But it’s true. Our intent with this program was to create something specifically for people who want an intro to coaching, and who want to start out with a small time, energy, and financial commitment.
It’s open for enrollment for only 2 more days … until Thursday the 24th. Then, we’ll close enrollment ‘til 2016.
You don’t have to stay stuck, and you don’t have to live in fear. You just have to figure out what you really want.
Rachel (+ Kristen)