Be willing to crash and burn sometimes
We all have trouble dealing with failure. We play so many mental tricks on ourselves in order to pretend we aren't avoiding it, that they can sometimes become all consuming. At night, while asleep, we have terrible nightmares of others disapproval, or the world rejecting us. I think most people, if they're honest, will admit that fear of failure is a core driving motivation for them.
This is a shame because failure is much less costly in today's world than our emotions make allowances for.
If you go up and talk to a stranger and they laugh at you, who really cares? What have you really lost?
If you apply for a new job and don't get it - big deal! All you've paid is a little time and effort.
Every day, most people don't do something they know they should, simply because they're afraid of it not working out. That dread can become suffocating - paralysing even. It can hold you back in powerful ways that feel outside your control.
So why do we have this dread in the first place?
There's a very good reason. The human mind and body is a machine that wasn't built to deal with our modern world. Our emotions don't understand things like cities, hospitals, and job opportunities. For most of human history, bodies and minds like ours have had to deal with a very different environment to the one we live in.
Our bodies still think we're hunters and gatherers. Most of humanity's history was spent living in small tribes trying to scratch a living from the surrounding wilderness. In such circumstances, having emotions highly-tuned to avoid failure was a big advantage.
Let's say you were a man living such a life. Physically, you'd be little different to how you are now. You might be a less clean and have worse teeth, but generally you'd be almost exactly the same. But, you'd have to be very careful taking physical risks. There were no hospitals to treat broken bones or infected sores. Such injuries would most likely lead to death. Of course it would pay to be very cautious under such circumstances.
Or let's say you were a woman living in a tribe at that time. You decided you'd like to learn how to throw spears like the men, and did so. But the tribe's culture was very conservative about such things and as a result you were rejected by them. Once again, alone and unable to fend for yourself, you would likely die. The consequences of taking such a social risk could be catastrophic.
These are the types of circumstances our emotions are wired to deal with. They haven't caught up with the advances in human societies and technology from one thousand years ago, let alone what we're used to today. They're still running the same old default software program of "Failure likely means death".
But they're wrong. And while you can never completely reprogram your emotions, you can at least let them see that you'll recover from such failures. And the way to do that is to push past the fear, try and ... well fail. With each failure (and the odd success hopefully) your emotions will learn that things aren't as desperately serious as they may imagine.
So go out there and give things a try. Be willing to crash and burn sometimes in pursuit of your goals. When it happens, laugh it off and focus on ways to do better next time.
The "fear of failure" emotional program is a powerful one we all carry inside us. But it can be turned around to some extent.
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