Typically, this is something everyone goes through. A fear of failure. Even an experienced person feels a tinge of this when he thinks of embarking on a new journey. In this post, I will share some ideas and stories on how we can tackle these types of fears and be more productive in our lives and achieve more.
As with any task, people face 2 types of fears.
1) Fear of Failure
2) Fear of Success
When we talk about Fear of Failure, we are talking about times when we worry to embark on a journey because we feel the end result will not hit the expectations. We fear that by failing, many other bad things will happen to us, such as being disregarded by family and friends, being mocked at, being “overly-sympathised and pitied” etc. In short, we come up with the worst case scenarios in our head and play that over and over again until we feel horrible. There may be instances in which you ‘failed’ or did badly in that has affected you negatively and put its imprint on you ever since. Thus, in order to avoid falling into such situations, we begin to be extra cautious of any projects we do that we are not fully confident about.
Fear of Success is similar but in a different way. Fear of success is worrying that if I ever become successful, I will become bad. I will inherit the bad qualities of the successful people, such as greed, pride, selfishness, anything along those lines. Have you ever seen the rich guy with all the hot babes and best sports car? How many times has he been the target of your envy? How many times did you hate him even? Were there incidents when you felt he treated you lowly or unfairly? All these impressions of those you see as successful also helps you push the distance away from them. The more you identify successful people with negatively dominant personality traits, the more you would want to avoid becoming such a person, which in turn subconsciously prevents you from becoming successful.
These fears act as the voice of ‘reason’ that pipes up your worries when you think of doing something, and you don’t happen to be too confident about it. And it is such a soft voice we tend to think it’s not dangerous or harmful. This is something we would do well to avoid.
That’s easier said than done. What we need to know is how this poisonous voice takes up different forms to grow the fear of failure/success within us. I have listed the 3 common ways below
It may not be obvious at first to us but these are what I call “SYMPTOMS” of our fears. More often than not, when we fear anything, we come up with 1 of the 3 above more than admitting that “I am afraid … blah blah blah”. For example, when you set a goal to exercise once a week, and it rains, the most common response we hear is “Ah shucks, it’s raining. Now I can’t run at the stadium anymore. I’ll just have to postpone my run to tomorrow”.This is an example of blaming the circumstances. When you blame the circumstance, you are no longer left with the power to change things. Until and unless the rain stops, you won’t get to exercise. Yes, I have done this before.
Similarly, when you say, “I’m not in the mood today, I’m having visitors over later, I have to wake up early tomorrow…etc”, these are forms of excuses. I used these excuses too. Again, you realise that when you give excuses, it means you are valuing the excuses more than your goals at that particular point in time. It is more painful to go out and run than it is to sit back and relax, enjoy the time to do something else.
Lastly, we have tendencies to complain about things. We criticise whatever we can as a means to avoid doing the work necessary. I have complained about my shoes being too old or too tight, about the socks, about our partner not being on time, about the park being too far to run at, about the neighbourhood being too dusty or boring to run in…the list goes on.
What we have to realise is that none of these will do us any good. Sure, it makes us feel better (temporarily) because we feel we are justifying our actions, plus we are sharing stories that increase bonding with others who have gone through similar situations, but in the long run, you goal remains just that: a goal, yet to be achieved.
And then when the next “BIG” (read: nasty; e.g. not fitting into your clothes, others commenting on your size) incident happens, we tend to re-examine the goals we set previously and get started on it again because it’s too painful to go through “BIG” incidents that makes us feel uncomfortable.
And the cycle continues.
Set Goals -> Action -> Excuse/Blame/Complain -> Stop altogether -> Set Goals again.
We see this happen yearly with resolutions most of the time.
Now that we are aware of what feeds our fears of failure/success, we need to takeimmediate action. Here’s an exercise you can do to start being more aware of your blames/complaints/excuses.
Let’s say you want to stop saying excuses. Here is my personal successful strategy that has worked for me.
1) Every time you catch yourself stating an excuse, open up your calendar in your SMART phone and write down “Excuse mentioned”.
2) Make sure you write out your excuse at the exact same time you mentioned and realised you mentioned an excuse.
3) When you catch yourself mentioning an excuse, immediately interject with a “BUT” and end off with a positive note
Example, “Oh man, I can’t run today because its raining (realisation of excuse) BUT I shall do some home exercises or run in the gym instead”
4) Do this for 60 days to ensure it becomes a habit, and compare the numbers every month.
Don’t expect the numbers to suddenly lower down within a week or so. As with anything, it takes time to accept we say excuses more often than we think we do, and it takes mental courage to accept our flaws and to move ahead
Pro Tip: If you want to take it a step further, mention what excuse you said during that period and elaborate on it in the calendar app. Do this enough times and you will become aware of what kind of excuses you give and even why you give them. It will give you great insights into the way you function subconsciously and that awareness alone will pull you out of that rut of giving excuses. Instead, you will start looking for alternatives and other options to get the task done. (See pic below)