Everyone faces fears and failures, risks and rejections. Yet there are those, like Sidney Poitier, who instinctively know how to fear less and hope more. Consequently, when they are struck down by disaster and crisis or when they face long odds, major obstacles, betrayal and rejection, they are not paralyzed by fear. Rather than run away or be intimidated, they confront the issues directly and move forward with grace, dignity and courage. Here are some ways that anyone can reduce and even eliminate the fear of failure.
* Remind Yourself Everyone Experiences Failure. It is a universal truth that the fact of being human means knowing the pain of a failure. Walt Disney went broke several times and had a nervous breakdown before he became successful Scientists, Albert Einstein and Werner von Braun both failed math courses. Enrico Caruso failed to hit the high notes so many times that his voice instructor advised him to quit. Instead he persevered becoming one of the worlds greatest tenors. The issue is not failure but the response to it. Rather than give up or give in, people who fear less and hope more pursue their goals relentlessly.
* Abolish Fear And Failure Statements. Examine your language carefully. How often do you use sentences like these: “I’m a total failure.” I’ll never amount to anything.” “I hate myself.” “I’ll never recover.” “It’s all my fault” “Nothing ever goes the way I have it planned” These are fear and failure statements which only serve to heighten feeings of inadequacy while suppressing optimistic attitudes.
* Such thoughts and sentences need to be banished from the mind. They must never be permitted to function as controlling forces. Cleaning up your language is an effective way of liberating yourself from the tyranny of self-blame. Try talking back to your fears by saying: “Failure is simply the sign of my humanness.” “I’m not perfect; no one is.” “I’m human.” “All human beings make mistakes, experience failures and have setbacks.”
* Let Adversity Become Advantage. Trouble, hardship, reverses and failure can all become powerful motivators to reshape your life differently. The ability to transform adversity into advantage is what many of the most successful people have done with their lives. Michael Caine, in his autobiography, ‘What’s It All About,” tells of his deep discouragement about acting. At the time, he was living in severe poverty. His roles were small bit parts and his income sporadic, never enough to cover his modest expenses. To survive, he also worked in a steel yard.
During that low time, he learned his father was dying. Caine returned home and spent two days at his father’s bedside before the elder Caine died. As Michael Caine was leaving the hospital room a nurse ran after him holding out her hand saying: “This was in your father’s pajama pocket.” She handed him three shillings and eight-pence, an amount less than $10. Caine describes the energizing impact that moment held for him:
“This was everything my father left to us. Nothing else after 56 years of working like a beast of burden. I thanked her and walked on slowly down the long dark corridor, my heart and mind hardening with every step until they set into an unbreakable determination that I would make a success of my life and my family would never be poor again.”
* Take One Step At A Time. When some people meet with failure, they allow themselves to be permanently frozen in place. They simply never respond or recover However, the path to overcoming failure, adversity and hardship is to carefully move forward one step at a time. Keep in mind that no major setback or obstacle can be resolved quickly It takes time but can be done when methodical steps are taken. Sixteen years ago, Pam Lontos was unemployed and 40 pounds overweight. “I was afraid of everything,” she says. “Nothing was going my way.”
One day in 1976, on impulse, the 31-year-old woman joined a health club. She began listening to motivational tapes as well. Her mind began working thinking and dreaming As her appearance improved so did her self-esteem. “I was still plagued with fear of failure but I decided I had to take steps toward a career goal,” she recalls. Lontos asked the club’s owner for a job selling memberships. Within a few months, she was the club’s top salesperson. After two years, that experience led to a better job in advertising sales with Dallas’s lowest rated radio station. When Lontos arrived sales began to soar. Her impressive record was quickly noted by the station’s owners, Shamrock Broadcasting They promoted her to corporate vice-president. “In 3.5 years, I’d gone from an overweight housewife to an executive with a major entertainment company,” she says proudly “I did it by taking small steps. That’s the only way I could overcome my fears of failing.”
* Reject Rejection. No one likes to experience rejection. Yet many allow one refusal to become a source of total demoralization. The most successful people are those who are challenged by a rejection. Patricia Davis, 43, was recently appointed the first woman to manage a power station in Virginia Davis has a budget of $20 million and manages a work force of 240. At her plant, she is responsible for running a power station which burns 1,400 tons of coal and 7,000 barrels of oil daily. Early in her career when others tried to discourage her from working in a traditionally male environment, Davis maintained this winning attitude: “I’ve always been resistant when people told me I couldn’t do things. I’m challenged by ‘No.”‘
* Eliminate Perfectionism. Don’t be too harsh or judgmental with yourself. Ease up on yourself. Think realistically. Remind yourself that nobody is perfect and that failure is simply proof that you are human. Remain open to the truth of this observation by British writer, Max Beerbohm: “There is much to be said for failure. It is more interesting than success.”
Also, keep in mind advice from author and minister Dr. Robert Schuller: “At least you had the courage to try. It is more honorable to try something worthwhile and fail than never to attempt any worthy venture. Play-it-safe people seldom win the applause and the respect of others — they never do anything to merit congratulations.”
* Keep Trying. There is great wisdom in the proverb, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Michael Blake is the author of “Dances With Wolves” who received an Academy Award for the movie adaptation. He often meets with grade school children encouraging them never to give up, even if they have failed previously. “I tell them that if you stay committed, your dreams can come true. I’m living proof of it. I left home at 17 and had nothing but rejection for 25 years. I wrote more than 20 screenplays but I never gave up.”