Dr. Robert Kornfeld
No one ever wants to fail at anything. No one ever sets out to fail. Most of us are deeply afraid to fail because it can publicly humiliate us. And if we are exposed as a failure, shame can set in. I would venture a guess as to say the majority of people will avoid failure at all costs. But what exactly does this mean?
Have you ever wanted to do something, really do something that you ache to do but you feel like you’re stuck, like you don’t know where to start? Is it really that you can’t figure out how to start (finding a starting point can be as easy as googling what it is you want to accomplish or simply asking the right person for help) or is it something else? Something deeper and sub-conscious? If you get stuck before you start, it may well be that you suffer from fear of failure. Fear of failure is a universal condition because taken at face value, trying to accomplish something and not succeeding at it means YOU are a failure. And now we’re back to humiliation and shame.
Think for a minute. Do you see yourself as a person who is capable of accomplishing anything you set out to do? Or do you see yourself as a very limited person, incapable of self-starting and succeeding? Is it possible (and give this some thought), that you already see yourself as a failure in your own mind and want to hide that from everyone else? Well, what better way to never expose yourself as a failure than to avoid failure at all costs! Never failing means no shame, right?
It is critically important to know and understand that the greatest minds fail. Sometimes over and over again until they get it right. Why are some people able to fail and continue on while others can’t even get started? It is because those people who keep on keeping on see the method or path that they chose as the failure. They do not personalize it. The beautiful thing about seeing the method as the culprit and not yourself is that there is always “more than one way to skin a cat”. You just have to “go back to the drawing board” and chart a new approach to the desired goal.
In the first instance, the person who is so afraid to fail that they never start, is a person with a fixed mindset. They have convinced themselves that their only talents are derived from birth and they don’t challenge themselves to grow and change to morph into a newer, “better”, version of themself. The fixed mindset robs you of potential and ensures that you will only dream about your dream life.
In the second instance, the people who see themselves as capable of learning new things and developing new talents have what we call a growth mindset. The growth mindset is a belief that your basic qualities, including intelligence and talent, can be cultivated through effort over time. These are the people who do not personalize failure and dig deeper and work harder to succeed without fearing failure. Think of it this way: the halfback on the football field has the same ultimate goal in mind every time he carries the ball – i.e. to get a touchdown. There are 2 things that this halfback may have to deal with – 1) He is handed the ball and gets tackled either for a loss or very little gain. He still has to get up, get back in the huddle and prepare for the next play. He cannot get caught up in the fear of failing again because he will not be able to find the holes in the defense. He will just be waiting behind the line of scrimmage to get tackled. 2) He breaks through the line of defenders and now is running in the open field. He sees his path to the goal line. Unfortunately, a defender comes running to block his path to the touchdown. He now has 2 choices. He can stop running and just get tackled. Or, he can change his direction mid-stride to find a clearer path to the goal line. And herein lies the point! His goal has never changed. He wants to score a touchdown. But his path had to change to improve his odds of success.
We are dealing here with 2 major issues, both of which are managed by the way things get framed. You cannot give up because you were tackled behind the line or only gained 2 yards. The halfback knows that every time he gets the ball, he has a whole new chance to succeed (growth mindset). Does he succeed every time? Of course not. Most running backs fail more often than they succeed if you count all the times they handle the ball. And, you must be willing to change your path when you see a tackler coming at you.
The same thing applies to life. You can’t give up after a setback or failure and you cannot be rigid. You must be willing to evaluate why something didn’t work and have another go at it. We have all heard the saying many times that most successful people started with failure. Do you think it’s possible to overcome the fear of failure? It absolutely is! Is it possible to change your mindset? Of course it is. Can you ever grow to trust that YOU can be successful at something you desire? Yes, yes, yes! Just like the halfback that practices all week long, running plays over and over again, you need to practice changing your mindset over and over again.
Once you have worked hard enough to overcome those pre-conceived thoughts about yourself, you can accomplish anything. But it may have to start with failure!
Dr. Robert Kornfeld is a life coach and holistic podiatrist based in NYC and Long Island. He is the Founder of Change Your Story Coaching (www.changeyourstorycoaching.com) and assists people on their journey to making their dream life happen. Sign up for his email list and get all of his timely and informative articles in your inbox. Are you ready to change your story? Change your life? Contact him today. For coaching, he can be contacted at [email protected]. He also practices functional medicine for chronic foot and ankle pain at The Chronic Foot Pain Center in NYC and Port Washington, L.I. (www.drrobertkornfeld.com). For foot and ankle medical problems, he can be contacted at [email protected].