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Don't Fear Failure

Written by: Christina Carter
Published: March 2015

There is still snow covering the grass, ice patches concealing the driveway and the weather is a frigid twenty degrees but that doesn't seem to get in the way of the kids dusting off their gloves and heading outside to play ball. Baseball season is about to officially start and with it will undoubtedly come some great wins and losses. The wins are always so intense, exciting and often leave us feeling with a thirst for more; the losses more often than not just leave us feeling discouraged and least at first. When the dust clears; we've wiped the dirt from our clothes and the tears from our eyes and have shaken off the feeling of failure, we see that usually the failure was not as bad as we thought or feared. Ok, so losing, failure, and making mistakes doesn't necessarily leave us with the same feeling of euphoria as a good win but there are usually some great lessons to be learned. Unfortunately, most of us are so averse to making a mistake that we refuse to take a chance in the first place. This is certainly a mistake. As Babe Ruth simply stated and yet profoundly suggested, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."

The fear of failure can sometimes paralyze us from taking action or making a decision especially when we have such high expectations for the outcome, or a strong desire to want to succeed. Often we make the choice harder than it should be because we fill our heads with anxiety and tension thinking about the what-ifs; we worry about the results too much or focus too much on the social approval aspect of our decisions. The fear of striking out can get in the way of our success and lead to self-sabotage. Self-sabotaging behavior can play out in many ways including creating failure-oriented or false outcomes or negative self-talk. Often, the actual potential failure, mistake or loss is not as bad as it's been created to be and even if it should play out that way there will certainly be some worthwhile lessons to be learned.  

Every now and again we have all the right intensions, we step up to the plate and swing and it's a big miss. One of my most proud (maybe not best) moments as a mom is talking to my two boys about their mistakes, failures and losses. Sometimes in a not so eloquent way by saying, “Ouch, what the heck happened?” and sometimes with a softer, "Sorry, how do you feel you did?" Each time, I get a response that awes me. They tell me how proud they are of their teammates, how they didn’t communicate the way they should have, how they didn't understand and now do, or how they did the best they could and feel good about their effort. Sometimes we laugh, we cry and we feel frustrated about the outcomes. There are even times where feeling embarrassed is in order. As my oldest son can attest to as he scored two points for the other team during a basketball game and was called "negative two" for the rest of the season. But they have an envious type of resilience to failure. There is always a sense of glad they had the experience attitude.

Sometimes they experience a big miss that swings them around so hard that they almost lose their footing and sometimes it's more subtle. I'm proud that my boys have learned to put themselves out there; are learning to manage the feeling and fear of failure and to learn from the failure or mistake when it happens. For what seems to come second nature to them is still daily work for me. I am, as we all are, a work in progress.  

I recently had a conversation with my mother, who as a side note seems to be getting wiser as I get older about some of the choices I've made in my life. Depending on the day, I go back and forth between whether I'm moving forward or standing still. On occasion, one of the topics we discuss is my career. We talk about the choices I've made over the past few years, mostly due to trying to satisfy competing priorities and where I'm at in terms of my goals. As I often do, I began to question myself; in the midst of questioning myself, my mother so gently reminded me that I would not be the person I am today without having made all of the various choices. She went on to tell me that it is unrealistic to think of myself as I am today in past times and places. As fun of an idea as it is to think, "If I knew then what I know now," it really is unrealistic. Each choice I've made, whether a great achievement or a grave mistake, has provided me with ample opportunities to learn more about myself. And, actually, it has been my not so shining moments from which I have learned greater confidence, humility, and self-love. As much as we would all like to have one success after another, it’s unlikely to happen without a few mishaps.

One of the best lessons I've learned is to try not to let the fear of making a mistake get in the way of taking chances and being brave. Step up to the plate with a plan to hit it out of the park and, if for some reason you hit a pop fly, run out the base anyway, be proud of yourself for making the effort and get ready for your next chance at bat.

Christina Carter

Christina Carter

I am an introspective introvert who has a passion for people. I have spent much of my career in HR learning, reflecting, and exploring my own and others thoughts and feelings. I am a life-long learner, an avid reader and compulsive book buyer (because there is nothing better than the feel of a hardcover book). Mostly, I love being a mother, think candy should be a food group, like to pretend I'm a chef because I watch the food network and try to laugh at myself at least once a day...oh and I always try to wear crazy or mismatch is too short not to!