The statement 'do not fear failure' rolls off the tongue easily, but in reality is one of the hardest things to put into practice, yet is one of the most important.
There are two dimensions to how you can go about not fearing failure. The first is being clear on how you define success and failure, the second is having in place coping mechanisms for when you experience a perceived failure.
Success and Failure
Linking your definition of success and failure with the results of the work that you do, rather than the way in which you go about your work, can build up a distinct fear of failure. This is because you have defined your own self-worth in terms of external results, something that can often be out of your control.
I recently interviewed one of New Zealand's top triathletes, Gina Crawford. Her key piece of advice was that results cannot define you, you can only give your best, and what matters is how you conduct yourself off the course and the type of person you are.
The first step to not fearing failure is through separating your self-worth from your results.
A good way to do this is to write down all the roles you have in your life, i.e. manager, coach, wife, mentor, mother, and ensure that you are not defining failure against only one element of who you are.
Another proactive step is to really define what failure is, what is the worst that can happen in a given situation, and is that truly failure or just an obstacle that can be overcome?
For example, when racing I would define failure as not giving 100% effort, rather than not winning the race.
As proactive as you can be, it is also human nature to take things personally.
Whether in working or personal life you will inevitably experience a perceived failure that will bring into question your self-worth and value. Although it is hard to do at the time the first step is to rationalise the situation.
If your team has a culture of open communication, then the easiest way to do this is to talk through what has happened with your manager or colleagues. This will enable an outside perspective without the emotive response attached. Once the emotion is taken out and the situation is viewed objectively, rather than personally, then it is much easier to develop a positive path forward.
Working through a situation in this way allows you to get a clearer idea of what is perceived failure versus what is actual failure, and more often than not it is perceived.
This will significantly reduce your fear of failing and give you confidence to take on challenges head-on as the downside of doing this is minimised.
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