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COACH’S NOTE: MANAGING FEARS AND FAILURES PT. II
By Mitchell Thoreson
Last week we asked, who had a better performance in the gym, Sandy or Michael? The actual answer is unknown in the example above because it would depend on whether each person’s performance was consistent with his/her goals, which is best left for a different conversation (though it can probably be assumed that Michael’s actions were not consistent with his goals since they were motivated by fear and not by a conscious decision to act in furtherance of his goals). However, as a coach, I will tell you that I would have more confidence in Sandy than I would in Michael. In my eyes, Sandy has more drive, ambition, and mental fortitude than Michael, and therefore my efforts would be less likely to be lost in a person like Sandy.
In the end, while Sandy was aware of her potential failure, and though she may have feared that potential failure, her fear was overcome by her desire to succeed and move forward – another way of saying that Sandy had the courage to perform the workout with pullups.
Have the courage to overcome your fear of failure.
***Yes, courage can be stupidity in certain situations and that must be tempered. But you will note that in both examples, the members could physically perform the pullups. I am not advising those who cannot physically perform the movements to go headlong into attempting prescribed workouts with no regard to physical ability or safety. But it is a fact that far too often, people succumb to their fear of failure when they should be courageous enough to “stay the course”***
Taking these ideas a step further, it is my long-held belief that two fundamental bases for success are acknowledging failure and embracing failure. Acknowledging failure is just another way of saying that you can admit that you failed. This is a lot harder than it sounds. It is amazing just how many people are afraid to admit that they have failed. Why this is so apparent in our society I am not exactly sure (although our country’s failing education system is probably a good place to start). Regardless, the fact remains that too many people refuse to admit to others, and more importantly to themselves, when they have failed. The ironic thing about this is that usually, the most feared consequence of all is disappointment in ourselves by others or, you guessed it, ourselves, because the actual physical consequences of failure will manifest themselves regardless of our willingness to acknowledge or admit our failures. It is for this reason that we must begin to learn to acknowledge our failures, both to others and to ourselves. There is absolutely no shame in doing this. In fact, what is shameful is having an inability to admit failure, particularly when placing blame on others for your own failure.
A second fundamental basis for success is embracing failure. Let me say this again because it may seem counterintuitive at first glance: A fundamental basis for success is embracing failure. I don’t mean throwing a party every time you fail an exam or miss a lift or forget to turn off the stove. What I mean is that once you can acknowledge failure, do not sit around and cry (well, you can cry a little bit if you want). But do not mope and feel sorry for yourself, wishing you never took that chance that led to failure. Do not regret trying to advance yourself by taking that exam or attempting that lift or cooking your weekly meals. Immerse yourself in the failure by examining exactly why you failed, what happened, and learning how to avoid that failure in the future. Embrace failure by becoming best friends with that failed event to learn as much as you can about it. Over time, you will learn to not only efficiently and unemotionally analyze your failures, you will begin to see why that failure will lead to your success in the future.
When you can learn to acknowledge and embrace failure, you can then begin to harness failure’s true potential as a tool for success in the future. It is at this point that failure ceases to be an obstacle to your success and instead becomes an instrument or mechanism for your success. Going forward, the hope is that you can largely be unaffected by fears and failure. Just as with any other aspect of life, however, you must continually work on this, lest you fall back into those bad habits. That is because fears and failure are natural and will come and go constantly for your entire life (indeed, without fear, there would be no courage). In addition, know that while you may successfully manage fears or failure in one area of your life (school, gym, relationships, etc.), that does not necessarily mean you will successfully manage fears or failure in another area of your life. Therefore, you must routinely work on managing fears and failure in all areas of your life.
Ultimately, learning to manage fears and failure is merely one step in managing the control which many of us are trying to assert over not only our lives, but the lives of others. Learn to let go of control and you will be set free.