Friday, July 13, 2012

The paralyzing fear of failure

We all fear risk and taking chances. We all fear choices and change, especially if they have long-term implications. But most of all—and really, the underlying fear—we fear failure. Paralyzing failure.

Failure is seared into our brains. The mind takes measures to make sure we never forget that we've failed. That we remember forever—well, at least for a long time—that we made a mistake, taken the wrong turn. And that memory is vividly conjured at need: Thinking of making a change? Take that! Planning on risking something? Take this! Pow, pow, pow — the memories pop into your head...

But those memories are used by us in the wrong way. We tend to use them as rationalized answers to why we shouldn't try an action again. Even worse, we mistakingly attribute those memories to our abilities, and by doing so we deem ourselves as failures and our self-esteem takes a dive.

Instead, we should be using the memories as lessons on how not to repeat the mistakes we made the first time round. Think about it like a math quiz: failing to reach the correct result doesn't mean you don't know math. It just means that there was a problem with the way you calculated the equation.

Learn your lesson and try again when you're ready. Don't give up math all together.

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