It seems whenever we embark on something worthwhile, it isn’t long before you encounter those infamous F words. (No, not that one.) Fear and failure appear from the shadows, forcing the weak of heart into retreat and surrender. But these two assailants are actually here to aid your journey if you let them. They are perhaps sheep in wolves’ clothing, misunderstood and therefore cautiously avoided.
But when embraced, fear and failure are the greatest allies you never knew you had.
How to harness the hidden power of fear and failure
With a confident and optimistic mindset, fear can quickly transform from an obstacle into one of the greatest motivators. And with that same attitude, failure becomes one of the greatest teachers. Thus, with a simple mindset shift, you transform your journey’s greatest obstacles into two of the strongest tools you will ever be equipped with.
We may as well accept the inevitability of both fear and failure. The avoidance of them ultimately become futile and crippling. As humans, we are naturally going to be afraid and averse to the mere thought of anything that proposes discomfort or ambiguity.
Fear as a motivator
Fear is one of the foremost obstacles, one of the largest perceived negatives, but if you can discover its positive motivating power, you can transition it into one of your greatest propellers towards your dreams.
The trick to harnessing fear is to assess the end rather than the middle.
Remember there is a result to defeat or be defeated. And one of these results is better than the other, even if the process is not.
When you think about it, sometimes this result is scarier than the threat itself.
Fear generally motivates us to cower, back down, retreat. But if you flip fear on its head, you will find equal and opposite motivation hiding on the other side. This is some of the strongest motivation that you can use to propel you forward.
The result of your choice, not the obstacle, is what you’ll have to live with. Compare the destination, not the journey. Take this winning result and make it imminent. Marinate in this destination before you get there.
Find the lesser of two evils
With fear, there’s always two sides of the same coin. When you’re at that glaring obstacle, we usually are equipped with two choices. Going boldly towards our fear or retreating to safety. But there is a third perspective to introduce to the equation: the result of your retreat.
When you are facing a fear, you generally have two options. To proceed or retreat. But we forget that is not where your decision ends. You need to weigh the end result of each decision. The end result outlasts any temporary discomfort. In fact, the end result is likely more uncomfortable than the fleeting encounter with fear. And when we look at the result rather than just the process, we may find retreating has the more detrimental impact. Then you can use this insight as a motivator towards the side of the least negative effect.
For instance, if you are confronted with a fear of launching your idea because of rejection, try relating that fear with the one of retreating. You may now see yourself stagnating, staying in a job that you hate, failing in an unproductive direction. Now you have two results to weigh the lesser of two fears: One that will allow you to break barriers, reconcile what ifs, change your life, maybe change the lives of others. And then one that will atrophy your mind, willpower, and life, leaving you with regret and a pile of woulda, coulda, shoulda’s.
Personally, I find that I am more afraid of regret, stagnation, what if’s, mediocrity, than I am of trying, failing or being rejected. I am more averse to long-term discomfort of remaining in a comfort zone than I am of the short-term pain it takes to approach my threat.
And with this sentiment, I press on only to find that after I traversed past my fear, that it wasn’t as big and bad as I previously thought. Unless you try, you will never know if that fear is just a harmless Scooby-Doo villain in a costume.
Conquering fear makes you stronger
With each fear contested, you will gain confidence and momentum, the building blocks necessary to achieve your goal. As you push through your scary obstacles, you will become less and less daunted, more focused on that preferred end result than a measly obstacle.
Fear can no longer distract you, only push you. You become uninterested in the options that retreating provides, absolute and firmly determined. You will begin to attribute that this fuel came from battling your fears and you will begin to crave it for the protein you need to keep moving.
Failure as a teacher
You don’t know what you don’t know and failure is the most efficient teacher to expose those shortcomings. Even with a mentor or a stack of books, rarely is an expert made without their own failures to reference.
Remember that failure is a universal experience of the successful. Someone who has no failures to their name will probably eventually be a failure for simply having done nothing worthwhile.
Failure is fleeting
It is never a permanent state unless you allow it to be. Failure is never the final score—it’s just a quick lesson with an ugly name.
There may be failures that have more lasting results, but you must approach these with the same conviction—that you are more durable than they are. This is the first acknowledgment you must make, no matter how large or small the mistake may be.
It’s all in how you spin it
Your mindset is powerful when it comes to interpretation. And not to sound cliche, but, short of disaster or tragedy, there is usually always a silver lined cloud in failure. Train your mind to seek the learning opportunity, the potential for growth. Approach failed attempts as lessons learned and lessons learned as building blocks to mastery.
Before wallowing in self-pity, train yourself to say “What have I learned from this?” and then “how can I apply this new knowledge to my next attempt?”
Fail strategically. Fail confidently.
All of that being said, you don’t necessarily prepare yourself to fail for failure’s sake. You should try to the best of your ability. You should make intentional and purpose-driven effort which means that should failure arise, you have failed with intention and purpose. This way, you fail in the direction of your goals.
Also published on Medium.