Thursday, 13 August 2015

Fear of Failing

Many of us are afraid of failing, at least some of the time. But atychiphobia, which is fear of failure, is when we allow that fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals.
Fear of failure can be linked to many causes. For instance, I remember running away from a debate competition which I was one of the favorites to clinch in primary school because my father was not supportive of the idea. At that time – for some reason I couldn’t explain – he felt I didn’t have what it takes to deliver in a competitive debate. Because of his reaction, I developed a grave fear of failure attached to any opportunity to speak in front of a crowd. I carried those negative feelings into adulthood but was lucky enough to overcome them.
Experiencing a traumatic event at some point in your life can also be a cause. For example, say that several years ago you gave an important presentation in front of a large group, and you did very poorly. The experience might have been so terrible that you became afraid of failing in other things. And you carry that fear even now, years later.
Some signs that you are afraid to fail in your endeavors and in life include:
·        A reluctance to leave your comfort zone and try new things. (explain briefly)
·     Self-sabotage – for example, procrastination, excessive anxiety, or a failure to follow through with goals.
·    Low self-esteem – commonly using negative statements such as "I'll never be good enough to make the examination," or "I'm not smart enough to get on that team," are proves that you have low self esteem.
·    Perfectionism – A willingness to try only those things that you know you'll finish perfectly and successfully. Also it shows in an attitude that isn’t willing to accept any error or imperfection in your activities.

It's almost impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of failure. People who dare to live failure-free lives live so cautiously that they amount to nothing. In effect, they're not really living at all.
The wonderful thing about failure is that it's entirely up to us to decide how to look at it.

We can choose to see failure as "the end of the world," or as proof of just how inadequate we are. Or, we can look at failure as the incredible learning experience that it often is. Every time we fail at something, we can choose to look for the lesson we're meant to learn. These lessons are very important; they're how we grow, and how we keep from making that same mistake again. Failures stop us only if we let them.

Learning from Failings

There are different angles we can look at failings from. We can consider them to be fatal blows to our progress and give up or we can look at them as opportunities to learn something new. These are differing perspectives and they have differing consequences. It is of this I will like to speak to you about today – how to learn from failings.

Note that the constant in the equation of success is failing. To fear failings therefore does not help overcome it. The person who has truly overcome failings is the person who learns from every opportunity he or she has to fail. This means what should have had the potential of discouraging and in fact destroying future possibilities turns out to be the teacher. When Thomas Edison tried several times to make the electric bulb and didn’t succeed he reportedly said, “I didn’t fail. I learnt 10000 different ways the electric bulb cannot be created.” That’s the paradigm of a person who understands that failings are effective teachers.

The flip side of this is that people find it difficult to perceive how failings can be our teachers. I mean, how can something I detest be what will teach me how to do the thing I want to do effectively? It is always important to keep in mind the fact that failings are inevitable. Show me a person who never fails and I will show you a person who never tries to achieve anything. In fact, this same person will not amount to anything worthwhile. To establish this point I often ask folks how they learned to ride bicycles. Without an exception they all state that they fell several times in the process of learning. In fact some say that they didn’t know exactly when they perfected the skill of riding a bicycle. This is so because the transition between imperfection and perfection, between failings and mastering, is seamless. You move from one world to the other without knowing when you cross the border.

Overcoming the Fear of Failing

It's easy to find successful people who have experienced failure. For example:
·      Michael Jordan is widely considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time. And yet, he was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach didn't think he had enough skill.

·     Warren Buffet, one of the world's richest and most successful businessmen, was rejected by Harvard University.

·             Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin empire, is a high school dropout.

Most of us will stumble and fall in life. Doors will get slammed in our faces, and we might make some bad decisions. But imagine if Michael Jordan had given up on his dream to play basketball when he was cut from that team. Imagine if Richard Branson had listened to the people who told him he'd never do anything worthwhile without a high school diploma.
Think of the opportunities you'll miss if you let your failures stop you.
Failure can also teach us things about ourselves that we would never have learned otherwise. For instance, failure can help you discover how strong a person you are. Failing at something can help you discover your truest friends, or help you find unexpected motivation to succeed.
Often, valuable insights come only after a failure. Accepting and learning from those insights is key to succeeding in life.
Although there is always a chance that we will fail in some life ventures, there are a few ways to reduce the fear of failing:
·      Analyze all potential outcomes – Many people experience fear of failure because they fear the unknown. Remove that fear by considering all of the potential outcomes of your decision.

·     Learn to think more positively – Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful way to build self-confidence and neutralize self-sabotage.

·    Look at the worse-case scenario – In some cases, the worst case scenario may be genuinely disastrous, and it may be perfectly rational to fear failure. In other cases, however, this worst case may actually not be that bad, and recognizing this can help face the fear.

·      Have a contingency plan  – If you're afraid of failing at something, having a "Plan B" in place can help you feel more confident about moving forward.

If you are afraid of failure, you might be uncomfortable setting goals. But goals help us define where we want to go in life. Without goals, we have no sure destination.

Start by setting a few small goals. These should be goals that are slightly, but not overwhelmingly, challenging. Think of these goals as "early wins" that are designed to help boost your confidence.

For example, if you've been too afraid to talk to the new department head (who has the power to give you the promotion you want), then make that your first goal. Plan to stop by her office during the next week to introduce yourself.
Or, imagine that you've dreamed of returning to school to get your MBA, but you're convinced that you're not smart enough to be accepted into business school. Set a goal to buy a form fill and submit.
Try to make your goals tiny steps on the route to much bigger goals. Don't focus on the end picture: getting the promotion, or graduating with an MBA. Just focus on the next step: introducing yourself to the department head, and purchasing the form. That's it.

Taking one small step at a time will help build your confidence, keep you moving forward, and prevent you from getting overwhelmed with visions of your final goal.

Failings and Failures

So to redefine failure, it isn’t just about how little money you have stored up or even how little you earn. It isn’t how “small” your office is or how insignificant you think you are. Failure is when you live life aimlessly on the wrong path. Failure is also when you pursue a life goal either because someone else feels you should or when that is the direction society is headed. The failure is the teacher who is teaching only to earn a salary. The failure is the nurse who does it simply because she didn’t have any other thing to do. Also – and get ready for this one – the failure is the Local Government Chairman, State Governor or even President who is occupying that hallowed office only because he had the money to buy it or because “people said he should contest.”

Failing is an occurrence, a happening, an instance. Failing is external. It is a thing that happens to people when they get out of their comfort zones and try something different. Failing is a natural episode in the process which leads to expertise. A failure, on the other hand, is a person, a way of life, a life pattern. Being a failure is internal. It isn’t something that happens to a person but the person himself. A failure is a person who depressingly sits back in his pool of sorrow and feels he can never be anything better than he is at the moment. A failure is someone who has truncated the failing process by making it his destination.

So the question which naturally arises is whether you fail or are a failure. It was the Late Maya Angelou that said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Believe me when I say to you that I know firsthand the pain and difficulty that comes from failing. Interestingly though, I will not sacrifice the fleeting peace of not trying to take away the excitement of trying something. I understand that it is only those who dare to fail that can ever achieve anything worthwhile.

Finally I’ll like you to consider the golden words of Winston S. Churchill: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

A Discourse on Failings

I will like to begin with a question which will sound like a rhetoric one but of which in all intents and purposes I desire that it triggers a chain reaction of thoughts in your heart. Here it is: have you ever failed in your life? It is safe for the goal of this discuss for me to assume that the answer to this question is yes. I say this because I have personally had several bouts with failings and although with every bout I feel like a loner on a deserted island, I have witnessed the desire many have to break free from the bondage of failure and realized that I am not alone after all!

Funny as it may seem, not too long ago – precisely during my university years – I considered some people impregnable by the sharp claws of failings. I remember a colleague we tagged “Prof.” He was a brilliant chap and deservedly excelled with a First Class degree in Chemical Engineering. On one occasion he was asked if he had ever failed academically and he surprised most of us by stating emphatically that he has. He was asked to elaborate and he explained that he once set a goal to score an A grade in a course but got a C. That didn’t in any way sound like a failing to students like me who were oscillating between Cs and Ds.

Sometime later I understood what Prof meant when I heard the legendary Earl Nightingale define success as “The progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” This definition was revolutionary to my psyche because it meant two things:

·    The first is that success is a journey. This means you don’t become successful when you attain something or even a goal but you become a success the moment you begin a journey towards a predetermined end.

·       Second to that is success is predetermined. This means that the success isn’t just the person who attains a big office or becomes rich but the person who is doing intentionally what he or she decided to do. A success is hence the school teacher who is a school teacher because that is what he wants to be and do. The success is the nurse who chose that profession herself and is doing a great job at it. This also applies to every other field of human endeavor.