NZ Herald - Do not fear failure
Sports Psychology, June 04, 2016
Linking your definition of success and failure with the results of the work that you do, rather than the way in which you go about your work, can build up a distinct fear of failure - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11647437
Anna Russell’s passion is to inspire and energise those people around
her - to reach their potential and become true high performers.
The statement ‘do not fear failure’ rolls off the tongue easily, but in reality is one of the
hardest things to put into practice, yet is one of the most important. There are two
dimensions to how you can go about not fearing failure. The first is being clear on how you
define success and failure, the second is having in place coping mechanisms for when you
experience a perceived failure.
Success and Failure
Linking your definition of success and failure with the results of the work that you do, rather
than the way in which you go about your work, can build up a distinct fear of failure. This is
because you have defined your own self-worth in terms of external results, something that
can often be out of your control. I recently interviewed one of New Zealand’s top
triathletes, Gina Crawford. Her key piece of advice was that results cannot define you, you
can only give your best, and what matters is how you conduct yourself off the course and
the type of person you are.
The first step to not fearing failure is through separating your self-worth from your results.
A good way to do this is to write down all the roles you have in your life, i.e. manager,
coach, wife, mentor, mother, and ensure that you are not defining failure against only one
element of who you are. Another proactive step is to really define what failure is, what is
the worst that can happen in a given situation, and is that truly failure or just an obstacle
that can be overcome? For example, when racing I would define failure as not giving 100%
effort, rather than not winning the race.
As proactive as you can be, it is also human nature to take things personally. Whether in
working or personal life you will inevitably experience a perceived failure that will bring into
question your self-worth and value. Although it is hard to do at the time the first step is to
rationalise the situation. If your team has a culture of open communication, then the
easiest way to do this is to talk through what has happened with your manager or
colleagues. This will enable an outside perspective without the emotive response attached.
Once the emotion is taken out and the situation is viewed objectively, rather than
personally, then it is much easier to develop a positive path forward.
Working through a situation in this way allows you to get a clearer idea of what is perceived
failure versus what is actual failure, and more often than not it is perceived. This will
significantly reduce your fear of failing and give you confidence to take on challenges head-
on as the downside of doing this is minimised.
- NZ Herald
Three years ago, while working full-time, Anna Russell left the corporate
world to pursue her dream of becoming a professional athlete, competing
around the world in Ironman triathlons. Anna now writes about her
experience as a professional athlete and how her learnings can be applied
to drive high performance in both individuals and teams.