Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Fear of Failure

Something about the fear of failure intrigues me. This intrigue is probably because I suffer from a bit of that fear and also because I see it everyday in the fitness industry. When it is a fear of failure regarding business and there is money on the line or when it is a fear associated with a life and death situation, I can fully understand it. When it is fear of failure of and by itself, however, I have a hard time with it.

When we don’t complete a run, a ride, a workout, or something else that is essentially without actual penalty, we seem to be simply afraid of letting ourselves down. This in itself is an interesting concept. The fear of not completing something that we start is obviously rooted in something beyond our fear of letting just ourselves down. It is most likely rooted in letting down our parents, family, friends, or loved ones (as if they will love us less if we don’t finish a run!).

This fear of failure can discourage us from trying things that are outside our comfort zone. Not only does this limit the potential for doing great things that we didn’t think we could do, but also it stops us from truly excelling at anything. How do you know your limits unless you have reached them?

When athletes compete, there is a feeling of anxious excitement leading up to the moment of competition. When we lose that feeling, it is time to hang up the sneakers because that feeling of excitement, that fear of the unknown, is the whole point of competition and, without it, we are just cruising along inside of our comfort zone never achieving our true potential.

As I mentioned above, if there is monetary risk or a life and death risk, then it is important to always weigh the risks and rewards of our actions. If, however, the risks are based only on our own fear of not being able to accomplish a task, then it is essential to look critically at the situation and step up! If you don’t, then you will never know your true capability. If you fail, then you simply have found your limit on that day or in that event. It does not mean you are less of a person. It does not mean that you won’t succeed in the future. It especially does not mean that anyone else should look at you with disappointment especially the people who love you. Those specific failures actually can be the best teachers and the greatest motivators because they give you specific, concrete information as to your current level and encourage you to reach for higher goals.

We've all heard the old quote about "fall down seven times, get up eight", but I prefer the quote by Rabbi Hillel: "I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing." The "dancing", in whatever form you experience it - the exhilaration of finishing a tough work-out, the smell and feel of the outdoors on a good run, the energizing pleasure of competition - is what will keep you from feeling that the momentary failures are permanent.

The fear of failure is in your head. Attack the challenge and you will experience more success than failure. Sit on the couch and attack nothing and you have already failed.


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