This post is for people who are ready to step up to option 3. If you’re someone who already has a healthy tolerance of failure, this post can help you influence others to adopt a similar mindset. And while some people will have an easier time with this than others, we know with certainty that anyone can build the capacity and fortitude to overcome failures and achieve their goals.
Let’s look at why failure feels so bad, why we’re afraid of it, and strategies for turning failure into a catalyst for success.
Why Does Failure Feel So Bad? Why Are We So Afraid of It?
The answers may seem obvious. But it’s worthwhile to dig a little deeper to understand what informs our views on failure.
1. We Like to Look Smart and in Control
We admire people who appear to have all the answers and everything under control. We want to be the same way and we worry about what other people think of us.
Failure is not a good look when you prioritize how others perceive you. It feels embarrassing and shameful. If you see failure as humiliating, you’ll avoid sticking your neck out in fear of scorn and judgment by others.
2. We Judge on Outcomes, Not Process
From a young age, we are taught to judge ourselves and others on outcomes. Getting an A on a test, winning a game, getting accepted to a prestigious school, these are defined as measures of success. But we often forget to acknowledge and praise the effort that it takes to achieve these.
Focusing only on outcomes, and not the process of success, makes us vulnerable to quitting and acquiescing to defeat when the going suddenly gets tough. It makes us question ourselves and withdraw the first time we get a “C,” have a bad game, or receive tough feedback.
3. We Overstate Risks
When we look at a new challenge or opportunity, we may obsess over the downside. We are prone to hyper-focus on what might go wrong. When we do this, we paint an unbalanced picture of negativity that prevents us from moving forward. We will say “it’s not worth it.”
4. We Are Impatient
Everyone likes instant gratification. It feels good to achieve immediate results. And even though we know that there are few overnight successes, we set our expectations unrealistically high.
The problem with this is that we will be easily disappointed and discouraged at the first sign of difficulty. If things don’t go well right away, we may be inclined to give up and jump ship.
Together, these factors may cause you to be paralyzed by the idea of failure and to develop a closed mindset about what is possible and worth trying. This fearful mindset can become worse if you do gather the courage to try something and it goes poorly. Instead of seeing the failure as an event, you may begin to think of yourself as a failure. This line of thinking can have disastrous consequences.
It’s Time to Rewrite Our Story on Failure