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How to Deal with the Fear of Failure AND Success

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If I’m being honest, I’m scared…

I’m scared of failure…

But I’m also scared of success, or at least that’s what the little voice in my head tells me…

We all want to be successful. What success means is something unique to us, based on our morals, values, and motivations. For me, I’ve been working every day towards creating a team and working on myself to help high-performing people all over the world get to the next level. But I’m sometimes held back by my fear of failure. What if I put myself out there, but I’m not good enough? What if they disagree with me? Or the worst: What if they reject me?

When I hear that voice in my head that says I can’t do the things I want and need to do, I think “What a d!©k.” And that’s what I call him: d!©khead (but for our purposes, we’ll call him DH). DH wants nothing more than to see you comfortable. Not in a drinking hot chocolate under a warm blanket kind of way, but an unfulfilled life where you never leave your comfort zone. You stay safe, you stay small, you stay unsatisfied.

That’s no way to live. If we’re so doubtful of ourselves that we never indulge in our ambitions, how is anyone expected to achieve anything? Georges St. Pierre (GSP), a legendary MMA fighter, says it best: “Everyone is scared. Those who say they’re not are either lying or crazy.” EVERY time he stepped into the ring, he was scared. So how come he did it anyway?

“Everyone is scared. Those who say they’re not are either lying or crazy.”
– Georges St. Pierre

The answer is quite simple: he wanted to win.

So let’s talk about what it means to win. It’s an accomplishment, right? But there’s a lot more to it than that. Winning the lottery is one thing; that’s all about getting the right ticket on the right day. It’s just pure luck. But winning a competition, that takes commitment and courage, regardless of whether the competition is athletic or intellectual. So what’s the difference between winning the lottery versus a more skill-based competition?

Honestly, that all depends on the person. People who want to win the lottery see the prize. It’s more about the money than the act of buying the tickets. After all, it’s not that hard to buy a lottery ticket. But for someone like GSP, he wants to EARN the prize. If it’s just handed to him, that’s not good enough. He wants to prove to the audience, to his competitor, and most importantly, to himself, that he has the audacity and the ability to push himself to the limit and achieve the goals that he sets for himself.

Though a competition helps, you don’t need one to achieve this type of winning mindset. What you need is a challenge that pushes you. And creating that challenge is the act of goal-setting. But when I say, “set a goal,” I mean a goal that pushes you beyond your comfort zone, beyond where you are right this minute.

“What you need is a challenge that pushes you. And creating that challenge is the act of goal-setting.”

I cannot stress enough how important it is to set meteoric goals and not just mediocre ones. I don’t want to be “some guy” who shares interesting facts with people. I want to create a brand that spreads Psychology-Fitness™ worldwide and can change people’s lives forever! If everything you want is something you can “push off until tomorrow,” what motivates you to get it done today? If you want to get stronger, set goals that will get you moving this minute. If you’re working on getting in shape, make a goal that sounds ridiculous in your head and get started on it! Just don’t forget to break it down into manageable chunks (I talk more about working on goals here).

But of course, the DH in your brain makes this seem much easier said than done. There’s a good chance they’re asking something like, “That sounds good and all, but what if I screw up?” The way that DH thinks, it’s all about winning or losing, succeeding, or failing. One or the other, no gray area. But in reality, we know that’s not true. Winning and losing isn’t the same as being a success versus a failure. All that matters is winning and learning.

What do I mean by that? Well, when we think the way DH does — that there are winners and losers and we all fall into one or the other — it’s an inherently negative mindset. Think about it: if your best friend tried their best at something, regardless of the results, would you call them a loser? They might not have reached the goal they set out, but it says a lot more about their character that they put in the time to commit to something they love. So when you’re acting on your ambitions, instead of highlighting the negatives, think of each “failure” as a learning opportunity. Celebrate your accomplishments and learn from your mistakes.

“Think of each ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity.”

If you’re familiar with basketball, you’ve seen that mentality in action. When the greats miss their shots, even the game-winning ones (Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 in his career), the coach reviews the footage with their players to come up with a routine to perfect that motion or counter whatever strategy that messed them up. This happens a lot more after a loss, so you could honestly say that we owe it to their losses that they come back stronger at all. After all, if they were to just win all the time, would they need to spend so much time reviewing their mistakes? Probably not.

Even beyond the scope of a game, mistakes are an ample opportunity to put ourselves into problem-solving mode, to figure out how we can make that mistake into a success. An actor stumbling with their lines will figure out a memory trick to deliver their next line effortlessly (shout out to Jim Kwik). Ultimately, losing accelerates winning!

A way to move towards that mentality is by considering fear versus excitement. When we’re scared of a challenge or fearful of an undesired potential outcome, we’re not thinking of how to overcome it. Instead, we’re dreading, and that’s when our fight or flight kicks in. When we’re excited and look at our goals with confidence, we are more in-control, so we’re better equipped to problem-solve as challenges come, making success far more likely. So when making a goal, you want to be excited to take those steps instead of hesitant, otherwise you’re less likely to do them. If you’re not excited to workout, instead of resisting the challenge, work to reframe it. That way, you’re motivated and empowered to step up to the plate every single day.

At the end of the day, nothing beats going to sleep feeling fulfilled and accomplished. To do that, it takes ambition and the ability to stick to those plans/goals, even when the DH in your head tells you otherwise. It’s taken me a long time to realize that the DH does not represent my thoughts, but I also struggle sometimes with performing at my peak every day. That’s fine, because we’re human. Just remember, whether you’re performing at a 10 or a 2, to push yourself just a little further to accomplish something that you didn’t think you could.

“The DH does not represent my thoughts.”

To do something you’d be proud of, you have to put in the effort. It might be cliche, but it’s also true. The more time you spend rationalizing why you can’t do that thing you’re always talking about or why you’re putting off working towards a big goal, the less time you’re giving yourself to actually make it a reality. Please don’t be your own obstacle to pursuing what makes you happy. The road to success starts with separating the DH from yourself, and recognizing they’re not the same.

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