Failure or Learning: What’s Your Perspective?

I’m sure there are a lot of reasons people don’t do well with failure.  What I can guarantee is that all of these reasons, whatever they may be, can be overcome by a simple shift in perception.

First, consider how much your fear of failure is getting in the way of your superachiever awesomeness.  Do you fear public speaking? I’m guessing it’s due to a fear of failing in a very public way. Are you risk averse? Perhaps you’ve allowed your fear of failure to keep you from going after some potentially great opportunities that might have been too “risky.”

Let’s start by looking at how your thought processes are locking you up when it comes to failure and your perception of it.  There is this pesky little thing called cognitive dissonance.  This is a fancy term for how uncomfortable we get when we have two competing cognitions floating around in our heads. (Cognitions is another fancy term for thoughts). When we have two thoughts that are incongruent, our mind gets real uncomfortable and will do some pretty interesting stuff to reconcile them.  This is where a lot of self-justification and blaming others comes in.

What does all this mean? Well, let’s apply this to the fear of failure.  Let’s say you have two separate beliefs just floating around happily in your head. The first one is that you believe yourself to be a smart person.  That’s a good one, right? Okay, now the second one – only stupid people make mistakes. Pretty harmless until, uh-oh, you make a mistake.  Alarm bells go off and your mind goes into action trying to bring congruence between the two competing thoughts. I am a smart person and only stupid people make mistakes, so that must mean that someone else made me do it or it is somehow their fault. This is not a very powerful stance to be in and definitely not owning one’s inner superachiever.

So what’s a person to do? We change the second belief by tweaking it a bit. I’m a smart person and smart people use making a mistake as a growth moment, or stupid people don’t own up to and learn from their mistakes (aka failures) as moments of growth. Inevitable moments in one’s journey to awesome superachieverhood.