Imagine if the fear of failure didn’t stop you from following your heart.
What would be possible?
What would you do?
How would you be in the world?
The more we shrink away from fear, the smaller the world becomes, but it doesn’t have to be that way. To reverse this, curiosity is needed.
Curiosity to examine what is true, and what is really going on.
And that is exactly what we’ll do in this article.
What is the fear of failure?
Unexamined, it feels like a real thing, but how do you know it is there?
A thought tells you so. You may hear a voice, see an image, or just have a feeling of unease, but mostly it’s either sound or image.
Now, look at whatever it is. If it’s an image, is that image itself the fear of failure?
If you’re unfamiliar with this kind of inquiry, you may immediately find yourself confusing the image with what it is supposedly pointing to.
The image claims to know what’s going to happen, and how it’s going to happen, but is that true? Of course not, otherwise you’d know the lottery numbers.
2. Identify the Feeling
Before the fear of failure emerges, there’s an unpleasant feeling in your body. The image of failure is a distraction from this feeling.
Do you notice this?
Becoming aware of this feeling and distraction mechanism may take time, so let it simmer if it isn’t immediately obvious. Don’t force it, but wonder: What is really going on here?
You can do this with any fear, anxiety, or negative story about yourself (such as “I’m not good enough”). Bring it up and notice that there’s a feeling underneath the mind-stuff.
Once you’re aware of this feeling, dive into it, and welcome it.
The distraction mechanism may kick in and boot you back into thinking, but keep returning to the feeling. Notice that the mind wants to label it and call the feeling something. Let go of any labels, and feel the sensations.
The sensations are alive, dancing, and constantly changing. Putting a name on a feeling makes it seem like it’s a thing instead of a movement.
As proficiency grows, a fear will immediately alert you to a feeling in the body, instead of being carried away into a story of what’s wrong.
4. Worst Case
A great way to get in touch with what you’re truly afraid of is to imagine the worst case scenario.
If you fail, then what will happen?
And if that happens, then what?
Keep going until you reach the end. Then ask yourself: If this happened, what would I have to feel?
And now notice that you’re already feeling what you’re afraid of feeling. Just feel it fully, without stories or labels.
If you keep coming back and feeling it, you may discover that it eventually runs out of steam. When this happens, fear of failure loses its charge, because it was built upon a feeling to be avoided.
Let’s say I want to write a book. Standard practice is to think about all the steps that go into writing a book, get scared, and never start.
But the question is not: Can I write a book?
The question is: Can I take one tiny step? Can I write one sentence?
Simplify everything into tiny steps. Yes, you may want to accomplish a large goal, but that goal doesn’t happen all at once.
You know where you’re going, but bring it back to this moment, and notice what you can do with what you have, right now.
There is no failure.
Failure is an idea, and failure needs clear start and end point.
The truth of the matter is that the more you fail, the more you succeed, assuming you’re interested in what went wrong.
This is where welcoming feelings comes in. At first you may not like failing, or constructive criticism, but when you notice your resistance to it, and feel it fully, it starts being something you welcome.
To stick with our book analogy; so what if you fail?
You may not sell a million copies. You may not even finish the book. So what?
Notice the stories that come up with this. The stories are a distraction, remember? Don’t aim for instant success. Aim to learn.
7. Observe Thoughts
Are you your thoughts?
If yes, then do you disappear when there is a gap between thoughts?
These kind of questions about the nature of thoughts can bring tremendous freedom. Don’t think about them, but observe and look. How do thoughts hook you into believing that they’re important?
Thoughts make many claims, but these claims crumble under closer scrutiny.
What is here that doesn’t come and go with thoughts?
I’ll leave you to explore that one.
8. Challenge Thoughts
When a thought tells you to stop doing something, do you immediately take that thought as your own, and stop?
What if you began to play with your thoughts, and defy them?
When the fear of failure pops up and tells you: “Don’t do that. Bad things will happen.”
What if instead of backing down, you went: “Let’s see if that’s true.”
Somehow I started doing this at an early age, and it eroded the authority that is given to thoughts, which led to a feeling of stepping out of a mind-made prison.
9. Let Go
The next assumption to examine is control.
How much control do you have over your life? The knee-jerk reaction is to make all kinds of vague claims over what you control.
You control your thoughts, right? But pay attention. Can you predict the next thought?
Look at all the small things that were vital to how your life unfolded. Look at the major events and notice all the small things that made them possible.
Were you even aware of all the moving parts?
The point I’m making here is that it’s okay to relax. The mind will try to think about what’s going to happen. This gives an illusion of control, yet it’s only an illusion.
Let go of the steering wheel. You’re not going to do it at once, but do it for a few minutes here and there. Later, if you feel frisky, do it for an hour, just letting life live through you.
10. Follow Your Heart
All this comes down to following what makes you come alive, doesn’t it?
The fear of failure isn’t a problem until it stops you from going after what makes you heart sing. As thoughts and fears lose their grip, you naturally become more fearless.
Fearlessness leads to naturally doing what is joyful, even if it fails.
So what if you fail? This is an adventure that includes bruises and bumps.
And remember, don’t try to get anything perfect. Notice what resonates in this post and allow the application to naturally unfold, or not.
Enjoy the ride,
P.S. Would you like to learn how to follow your heart, and live a fulfilling life? I invite you to check out my popular book Follow Your Heart: 21 Days to a Happier, More Fulfilling Life. (Amazon affiliate link that supports me without adding extra cost to you. Thank you in advance!)
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