Of all the obstacles on the road to success, the fear of failure is the greatest. It doesn’t help that our society looks at any failure as the result of a lack of character or personal deficiency. Each time you attempt to achieve greatly you run the risk of falling short, experiencing embarrassment, and doubting yourself.
As a result, there is a lot of cultural avoidance on the subject of failure that trains people to avoid it at all cost. The problem with avoiding failure is that it makes you avoid the very thing that will help you grow and achieve your dreams.
Failure is a critical component to your greatest success but only if you have the right mindset. Failure isn’t fatal but instead offers you valuable lessons on the way to achieving your goals.
Here are 3 ways failure helps you succeed:
1. It keeps you growing
Having the right mindset in the face of a setback will determine whether allow it to keep you stuck or grow past it.
Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, writes about the importance of having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. Fixed-mindsets held by an individual reveal a stagnant way of thinking. That there performance is just stuck at a certain level and lower standards are then accepted. A growth-mindset comes from the position that your condition can be improved by focused effort and incremental improvement.
A tool that you can use to help you build a growth-mindset is the SWOT analysis method. SWOT analysis is an acronym for a structured planning method that stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats”.
If your goal is to get in terrific shape and then lower your bodyfat from 18% to 12% or lower but your progress is getting stalled then use SWOT to help. Your strengths may be that you’re physically, very strong but your weakness is that you don’t like cardio training so you avoid it.
You then look opportunities to support your goals that emphasize your strengths like high-intensity weight training, to burn up calories without the need for cardio. However, future threats like mental burnout are possible so make plans in advance to periodically change up your workout routine to avoid burnout.
SWOT can be used for personal, career, or business goals as long as you remain honest about your strengths and weaknesses and apply all four steps. Skipping a step is like cutting off one of the legs of a chair. Eliminate one, the chair becomes wobbly, skip two steps then the chair falls over. Bottom line, don’t skip steps or you’ll end up cheating yourself.
2. It refocuses your efforts
Arnold Schwarzenegger burst onto the bodybuilding scene in Europe winning every contest he entered. But, he soon lost a contest to a contestant who had a smaller physique compared to Arnold’s. Schwarzenegger later commented that it was one of the only times he ever cried in his life because he truly thought he was the better bodybuilder.
Soon, he refocused and reviewed the results of the contest. Studying photos and talking with judges, he realized the tides were shifting.
The sport had changed from empathizing sheer size to a more defined, muscular physique. He then adopted new training methods to help him continue to grow his body but refine it at the same time.
When he emerged, he made a quantum leap in improvement that redefined the standard for the sport. He went on to win contest after contest including the coveted Mr. Olympia title multiple times. He later took this approach and applied it to business, becoming a best-selling author, real estate investment, and becoming a major Hollywood action star and eventually claiming the governorship of California.
Going back and refocusing on the lessons learned from that failure set him up to succeed wildly in the years to come.
3. You learn to set yourself up to win
When my son was around 5-years old I had taken him to a park where he noticed some teenage kids playing basketball. I could tell he was enthralled at them playing the game. I asked him if he would like to play but he began to withdraw dropping his gaze and looking dejected.
Performing at such a high level was beyond his current experience and well beyond his comfort zone. His fear of failure had already begun to limit what he thought he was capable of causing him to quit before he ever tried.
To help, I bought a small basketball hoop and stand that stood around 5 feet off the ground as well a smaller basketball that he could handle. On his first day of practice with me he was still hesitant. I told him to just give it a try and shoot the ball but he was still afraid. After he did that for a few times, he was willing to shoot the ball acting more bold with each attempt.
My son is 11 now and still a big basketball fan. He plays in the park with the bigger kids and though he is smaller than most of the kids he plays with he holds his own and gets better with every game.
In life, the standard which we judge ourselves as successful can often be too high. Consequently, we never set ourselves up for the small wins that lead to the bigger, more satisfying wins.
Society has set a standard that a person’s failures define them as a failure. This is unfortunate because failure isn’t something to be avoided but embraced.
Just beyond your comfort zone lies the place where you reach the upper limits of your performance and ability. Victories may be small but they keep you moving forward to becoming more capable and, ultimately, achieving your dreams.
How has failure helped you succeed? Please leave your thoughts below!