From Fear of Failure to Failure as Part of Success

July 11, 2020 Open Leadership No Comments

In our hypercomplex society, failure is a certainty… that we may use for the better.

Everyone fails. Even someone successful, sometimes fails, except it will be even more noticeable. The fact remains that the bigger you are, the higher you fall. And you may hit the ground with an almighty wallop.

One is more surprised to see that, or one may even be gloating modestly.

This leads us immediately to the core of anxiety of failing. It is the anxiety of ‘falling.’

This anxiety is, like any anxiety, mainly symbolic. Rationally, one does not know what exactly causes that anxiety in falling. Anxiety is something other than fear. At anxiety, it’s about deep meaning. If this is not understood correctly, it might hurt more than needed. Something that may seem, at first sight, a case of pettiness may be of great significance. For example, an unpleasant evaluation may be a minor occurrence for one person, while it is an insurmountable obstacle for the other. Not for fear of being fired, but because of something like a boss-parent symbolism, for example.

Anxiety of failure is also anxiety of losing something very important, a substantial part of oneself.

It may seem strange at first glance, but one can lose not only realities but also possibilities. Most of the time, at least underlying, it’s about respect and appreciation. Think of a midlife crisis: as a young lad, one thought to head to mountains of appreciation. But, despite all that has already been achieved, those mountains of appreciation are beginning to look more like small hills, while the future, including the possibilities one once had, is getting smaller and smaller. It’s as if life is slipping through your fingers. That life itself becomes a succession of failures.

Even stranger: ‘success’ is also a form of ‘losing’, ‘falling’, failing.

Success is always a result of choices. Success in one direction comes at the cost of other directions. One can have made it in life and then realize that one also has other expectations. This, too, can lead to anxiety of failure, even in the form of anxiety of success. It’s the anxiety of failing in ‘self-development in breadth.’

Of course, one may and cannot expect a leader to be without any fear of failure. ‘John without the slightest fear’ is either a Zen master or a psychopath.

Better than attempting to be completely fearless is an attempt to do something meaningful with one’s anxiety.

Not cutting out the fear of failure, but fully learning to live with it, may be a source of motivation, self-knowledge, humanity. In a responsible function, this may lead to caution, foresight… And if you do fail, at least do it wholeheartedly. You always have the choice of what to do with it. Either you stay down or, now you’re already lying down, you rethink the foundation. When you get back on your feet, you will stand more firm than ever before. Employees also fail sometimes. Giving them the assurance that ‘restarting’ is appreciated by you is a meaningful gift, provided that this ‘restart’ goes hand in hand with a substantial change.

The good failure is not a permanent breach in the wall but a reinforcement of the foundation.

That is, if there is a severe desire for an optimal result. As a leader, you stand on this road; you are not standing in the way.

This is also true for parents/educators of children with ‘anxiety of failure’: fighting against the anxiety increases the underlying tension. This tension can then manifest itself in increased anxiety, stress, depression, psychosomatics…

Do not try to teach a child not to fall, but learn it to fall well.

A good workshop on ‘anxiety of failure’ is like a course in a school where one learns to fall well. A tip: ‘falling’ gives you the energy that may lead you in a different direction, provided that you let that energy flow in the same motion. For example, if a writer lacks inspiration, he can use a possible ‘anxiety of failure’ to go in a different direction. Or, a little more challenging perhaps, not to go in any direction at all: having a blank mind until the inspiration comes naturally. A ‘good failure’ is a failure full of success. Failure is necessary because, in our hyper-complex society, it is a certainty. It is not a matter of avoiding failure, but rather of encouraging the risk of failure and the feelings that go with it. To arrive at the necessary, solid foundations, one must use the fear of failure in the right way.

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