The fear of failure is so common in my clients that I often wonder what we are teaching our children regarding success and failure that makes this fear so limiting and obstructive in our lives. What is failure? Is it the opposite of success? If it is, then how do we define success? One of the most popular statements from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming is that “there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.” This is something I truly believe.
The story of Thomas Edison is that he tried over 10 000 different types of materials to invent the light bulb, before he finally discovered one that worked. That is 10 000 failures! That is 10 000 mistakes, 10 000 dead-ends, 10 000 wrong decisions! How many of you reading this would be able to sustain so many failures? Most can’t even deal with the hurtful emotions of more than a handful of failure before giving up. But according to Thomas Edison, he saw each incorrect material, not as a mistake, nor as a measure of failure, but rather as feedback to him. Each “faiure” gave him the information of what didn’t work; guiding him ever closer to one that would provide him with the level of success he was looking for.
Sportsmen and women use competitive losses as an opportunity to analyse and dissect their performances in order to improve. To take the loss personally and become emotionally involved would be a waste of precious time and information available to them to create enhancements and future success. Personal development comes from so-called “failures.” There is a famous quote by John Wooden which says that “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
A perceived failure gives us the opportunity to look inwards, re-evaluate and discover our strengths and weaknesses. It allows us vital information to go back to the drawing board and create new plans, new strategies. One failure may end up facilitating many, many future successes. In my opinion, the only time failure can be deemed a failure is when the only information we take from it is to give up. When it is judged by ourselves or those around us as something negative, something to be avoided at all costs, only then have we failed. This is the point where personal development stops and suddenly it becomes dangerous to attempt anything out of the comfort zone of definite success. Our self-esteem weakens our lives become limited by self-judgement and the judgement of those around us. One can give as much unconditional love as they want to their children and loved ones, but unless a safe environment is created that allows for failure, and then this failure is used as a springboard for learning, instead of something to be protected from and eliminated at all costs, then we cannot become anything other than afraid of failure. This fear of failure will always limit our opportunities to create success. There are many ways to treat these fears, self-judgments, embarrassments and past hurts from our previous failures.
The therapies I use work fantastically on the causes and roots of these limiting emotions, releasing them completely from our lives for good.
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