We all have plenty of excuses as to why we don’t chase our dreams, start that business or run that race, but most of the time it boils down to simply being afraid of failing.  It wasn’t always this way.

There was a time in all of our lives when everyday was filled with new and exciting things we’d never done before. Think about learning to walk. You obviously weren’t afraid of failing because we all learned how to do it at some point.

When did we begin to be afraid of failing? Part of it comes from the negative meaning we give to failure and the other part comes from the way we define success. To overcome your fear of failure you need to do two things.

Redefine Failure

When we were kids we failed at everything. You always fail at things the first time you do it, but back then we didn’t call it failing. We called it learning. Somewhere down the line we stopped calling it learning. I’m not sure why that is. Even the best athletes in the world “fail”, but they watch the videos of their performance and learn how to improve for the next challenge.

As you go through life you will regret the things you don’t do a hell of a lot more than the things you try (and fail at). Michael Jordan said “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Seems pretty logical. Why do we think that not doing something is the same as not failing? If you have a dream, and you never go after it, aren’t you failing? It would be a hell of a lot better to work towards that dream and learn as you go.

Redefine Success

For most of our adult lives we’ve been trying to hit other people’s targets. In school you were aiming for an “A” because that got you a better GPA, into a better college and more or less defined your self-worth (at least it felt that way). Then when you finished school you thought “now I’ll start living life on my own terms.”

Except you didn’t. Then you got a crappy job or internship (where they didn’t pay you for the privilege of running their errands) and proceeded to aim for the targets or KPI’s set out by your company and boss. So again, we began defining our own self-worth and achievements based on someone else’s ideas of success.

But in order to truly be successful in life you need to figure out how you define success and happiness. By taking control of how you define success you release yourself from the anxiety of always pleasing someone else.

Of course at work you will still have targets to achieve, but those are your company’s targets, not yours. Those don’t define who you are. Is getting a better title on your business card going to make you successful? Think about what it is you can truly contribute to this world.

I’m willing to bet that you have loftier goals and more to give than whatever the title on your card says. Because we’ve been letting others define our success for so long, it’s actually difficult to define our own, but take the time to really think about it. For you, success might be:

  • leaving a legacy for your kids
  • creating abundance in the lives of those closest to you
  • Being more present giving the most important people in your lives the focused attention from you that they deserve
  • rescuing 10 dogs a year
  • helping 1 million people with your unique skills

Whatever it is you’re looking to do, don’t let fear keep you from running towards it. Only you can define what success looks like and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn and correct course along the way. The only way you’ll truly fail is if you never get started in the first place.


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