Have you ever had that situation where you’ve wanted to do something, you’re even on the verge of doing it, but something is holding you back? It’s as if there’s an invisible barrier sitting between you and even starting this thing you want to do. If we try to move forward before we know what it is and have dealt with it, we’ll be fighting this barrier all the way and it’s going to sabotage our efforts.
So what is it? My guess is that it’s fear, fear of failure. We can disguise it by pretending that we don’t really want to do this thing, or that it’s too much work or that we’re not good enough or not ready but often, it’s fear. There’s a tendency not to want to try things that we think we might fail at and this raises a couple of things. First, what constitutes failure and second what’s wrong with failing.
What is failing?
Specifically, this depends on the situation, but ultimately it depends on where you draw the line along the continuum of success and failure in any venture. At one end of the spectrum we have success, at the other end, failure, but how do you measure it? If you’re going to be afraid of failing, you’d better know at what point you’ve considered yourself a failure.
If it’s exam scores, is it over 50%, over 30%, over 80%? Yes, some people feel they’ve failed at 85%. It’s up to you to set a reasonable bench mark – if you’re still going to measure your success that way after reading this. If it’s going for a job, is it getting the job, or getting an interview or simply plucking up the courage to have a go? If it’s publishing a book, is it selling 100, 200, 500, 1000? What is a reasonable expectation? I don’t know and if I don’t know, then the part of me that suspects I’ll be a failure because it thinks I’m not good enough will tell me that I’m a failure no matter how many I sell. Since I’ll then be a failure in its eyes, it will prove the original belief that I’m not good enough. See how it works? This is the cycle of the self fulfilling prophecy. Dealing with this self defeating belief is another post, for now we’re just looking at the concept of success and failure.
I’ve done a bit of research and have discovered that most authors who put their own work out there don’t sell very many books in the first few months. Around ten in the first month, maybe 20 -50 in the second, maybe none in the third. Some never sell very many, some sell heaps but only after a couple of years and having several books available.
I could set an arbitrary figure and say that I am successful if I have passed that figure, but if I set it low so that I won’t fail, then I am lowering my expectations and that could be a self fulfilling prophecy. If I expect to sell only ten, will I put only ten sales worth of work into selling it? And who am I kidding when it’s such an unknown and vastly variable figure, and when others have a different benchmark against which to measure me. Can you ever win in this game? Not so long as you hope to succeed and fear to fail. The only way to avoid killing your potential and your happiness is to get outside of the bind of thinking this way.
Success and failure are arbitrary concepts & have no real existence.
Since they are two ends of a sliding scale, in reality the concept of success and failure is meaningless. If that’s a bit too radical a statement, then consider setting the point of success at the failure end or the point of failure at the success end. Our minds can do that to us and it’s our mind that sets the benchmark based on whatever criteria we consider valid. So we can drop the whole idea and get off the hope and fear round about. We can stop chasing after this thing we call success and running from this thing called failure, and we can simply do our best whatever that is. What freedom!
But if we can’t manage to drop the whole success and failure slave driver straight away, then we need to ask ourselves another question.
What is wrong with failing anyway?
Really. It is better to have tried and failed than never tried at all. Otherwise, we will never know what the outcome may have been had we tried, and we may come to regret our lack of courage. I like to live my life with no regrets and if that means that I fail in other people’s eyes, so be it. That’s their view, not mine. If we have a go at something we want to do even though we face failure, then we are courageous. If we don’t have a go, we’re a coward. If we only try things that we know we’ll succeed had, we’re cutting off countless opportunities for growth. I’d rather be a courageous failure than a cowardly success. Think about that one.
Do you have something you’d like to do but are holding back from? What’s stopping you?