Fear of Failure? 10 Tips to Insure Your Success

At the beginning of a new year, we often begin new projects and set goals for ourselves. Many times our attempts at improvement are not as successful or don’t deliver the results that we expected. When this happens, it is easy to become discouraged.  

Many years ago when I was practicing law, I was visited by a number of people who were contemplating divorce. They came seeking advice and an understanding of their options should they decide to proceed. I remember one individual who couldn’t seem to make up her mind about what she wanted to do. Finally, I asked what was keeping her from making a decision. She sat quietly contemplating an answer, and then finally said, “The devil I know is better than the devil I don’t.”

Over the years I have thought about that woman and what she said. Though she was probably just using a common idiom to express her hesitation about stepping into unknown and unpredictable territory, what if we were to take her expression literally? What possible assumptions could we identify if we examine the words she chose to use?

Of all the assumptions we could draw from her statement, perhaps the one that is most damning is that her language hints at a fundamental underlying belief that “My relationships are doomed to failure, so I must resign myself to living in some kind of hell.” In the end, the woman decided to remain in her difficult marriage. I can only hope the relationship improved. Although our attempts at success may not be so dramatic, the thinking behind our actions will contribute to the success or failure that we experience. Here are a number of tips to help you achieve success in your personal or professional endeavors.

1. Set realistic goals. There is nothing wrong with setting an audacious goal as a way of motivating yourself. However, make sure that you break that goal down into doable, attainable pieces that can be accomplished over time.

2. Seek learning. Find people who have been successful in the attainment of the goal that you would like to accomplish. Learn everything that you can from them. Additionally learn from your own failures as quickly as you can. There is nothing wrong with failure because that is how we learn. The challenge is to fail quicker, learn, and move on. You will find people who will be willing to offer advice and assistance in helping you achieve your goals. Seek the knowledge that you need and be open to learning things you didn’t know before.

3. Notice your feelings. Feelings indicate that there is something creating an emotional response. So, if you find yourself feeling down or depressed, identify the thinking that is contributing to your feelings. You can change your feelings if you change your thinking, but you must identify your feelings before you can get to the thoughts that created them.

4. Identify your story. Every one of us has a story that we tell ourselves to explain our lack of results. We often become more involved in telling our story than we do with making changes to achieve different results. The stories we tell often paint us as the victim and others the villain. Or, you may describe yourself as hopeless, helpless, or hapless. If you can identify your story, ask yourself if your story is absolutely true. You can do this by asking yourself if there is another way to interpret the same set of facts. Once you do this you will probably notice that the stories you tell yourself are usually inaccurate or at least partially untrue. You must closely examine your story and recognize that you are not your story.  

5. Create a different story. In a quiet moment, visualize a different story. Identify what you want and how you will succeed. Imagine and see yourself having achieved what it is that you would like to accomplish. Identify the feelings that you would have if you were successful. Also identify all of the good things you would be able to do if you were successful. In your mind’s eye, see the success that you want and all that will flow out of your success. You have to create a different story and vision of success if you ever hope to be successful. We create first in our minds before we create in the physical world.

6. Notice your results. Someone once said to me that there is no failure, only feedback. But you and only you can determine what that feedback means to you. As a presenter, I am most interested in the negative feedback because it tells me, whether I agree or not, how I am being perceived. The feedback also becomes the fodder for introspection and helps me to identify some things that I might change or need to work on.

7. Forgive yourself. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Acknowledge and learn from your mistakes and move on. Spend your energy in deciding what you will do next and then execute your plan. Wallowing in the mire of your failures does not move you forward. I believe the operative word in that last sentence is “move.” You have to keep moving if you are to be successful.

8. Shift faster. When we experience failures or temporary setbacks, it is easy to stay stuck. You have to make a deliberate, conscious decision to shift out of the place where you are and out of the feelings that you have. If you keep thinking and feeling negatively, you will continue to get more of the same. See where you are and shift out of that place by focusing on what you want and examining your plans for success.

9. Develop hope. Hope is the precursor to faith. Faith is belief in action. Our actions deliver results which reinforces hope which impacts ongoing faith in your actions. Identify the things that you hope for, write them down, and assess if your plans are in alignment with your hopes and if your actions align with your plans.

10. Persevere to the end. I had a roommate in college whose goal it was to eat a bicycle. He thought that if he could eat a bicycle he could get in the Guinness Book of World Records. Every night he would take out a file and grind himself a teaspoon of bicycle that he would eat in his hot cereal in the morning. During the time I lived with him, he ate the front tire, rim, all the spokes, the front forks, and half of the handlebars. As crazy as this all sounds, you can eat a bicycle one teaspoon at a time. You must persist and be committee to not give up.  

Thank heaven every day is a new day. Those days turn into months and years. Our results are determined by what we do over time. If you make a conscientious effort to work at your goals and dreams, I know that you can be successful. Your success is the result of the assumptions that you hold about your own life and what is possible. My hope for you this year is that you will make the commitment and take the action that will help you to be wildly successful. Best wishes to you as you make it all happen!  


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What people are saying

Patty Jake | January 21, 2016 | REPLY
John, thank you for this email. It was just what I needed to read today. Having never heard it before, the devil idiom mentioned at the beginning of this article was particularly striking to me. I am at a definite crossroads in my business life and I will return to this article for inspiration in the coming days.
John Stoker | May 10, 2016 | REPLY
Thanks Patty. Hope you are well. Thanks for reaching out and for your kind words. J