When you get to my age and in my kind of work, you get to see people with so much talent but very little success. On the other hand, you’ll see people with little talents that go a long way because of their ability to apply themselves well in any endeavor they pursue. The difference between these two types of people is courage. By courage I don’t mean lack of fear but the ability to act despite it.
I don’t think it’s laziness that causes people to not apply themselves fully in their endeavors. I think It’s a lame excuse. I think it’s fear, debilitating, paralyzing fear of failure. Some people are willing to accept that they’re lazy rather than cowards.
So the important question of the day is how do you overcome this debilitating and paralyzing fear of failure? I have a suggestion. Create your magic switch.
I have always been afraid. I still have those debilitating and paralyzing fear of failure that keeps me wondering how much further I would have reached had I not allowed them to stop me from taking more risk. But I must also say that on more occasions, I was able to work my way through fear so I can face and succeed over a challenge and this is how I do it.
Step 1: Be clear about what you want to achieve in your life. Remove any doubt that you want it and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. I want to be a successful training professional who helps people realize their full potential. Nothing’s going to get in my way from fulfilling that goal.
Step 2: Recognize that there are certain things you fear that you will come across with and question whether you can succeed or not. Here’s a list of mine:
- I fear that I do not know enough. I don’t have the educational pedigree that others have.
- I fear that I might be wrong, that people are laughing behind me because they find what I say ridiculous
- I fear that I might not be a good model of what I say. I often find myself with guilt whenever I say things that I myself have difficulty doing
- I fear that I do not communicate well enough
- I fear that people might not accept me and won’t believe me because they don’t like me
- I fear that my being a short, fat guy with poorly lined teeth, gets in the way of my message
- I fear that I might hurt people with what I say and I don’t like it whenever that happens. There’s nothing in this world that I like least than offending people
- I fear that I am not smart enough
- I fear foreigners.
- I fear people who have power and poor listening skills
Believe me when I say that this, the above list is not even half of the things I fear. Each of this should stop me from going out there and do what I do. I spent sleepless nights scolding myself for accepting a project that exposes me to any and all the risk of failing as I outlined above. It continues to happen and even with my best effort, it will continue to happen. I will always be afraid.
Step 3: Create your magic switch. Whenever I am faced with a challenge that I fear, I quickly ask myself if it contributes to my journey towards my higher future self. The ultimate realization of what I want to be in this life? If the answer is yes, I imagine a yes or no switch. And I flick that switch to yes. It’s a signal, a command for me to do the following:
- Accept the challenge
- Accept that I have to do what I am afraid to do to get the best result
- Accept that failure is a possibility I must accept
- Accept that I should be okay.
Step 4: Honor the switch. Recognize that when you turn that switch on in your mind, you become a slave to it. You must follow its orders and the orders are, do your best, extend yourself, don’t show fear. Yes, even if you feel it. Fake it till you make it.
Step 5: Practice switching as often as you can. When you hold the door going to the office, turn it on. When your boss, gives you a task, you’re not sure how to do, turn it on. When you have to talk to people whom you feel are above your league, turn it on. When you don’t feel like working but you have to work anyway, turn it on. Let it energize you, let it get you used to being at your best. It gets easier to turn the switch on.
Our mind is a like a muscle, it gets stronger as we exert it. And our life gets better as we make it a habit to practice turning that positive switch in our brain.