Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. — Henry Ford
Fear is good. Failure is necessary. I could end this post here and just hope you the reader accept that as fact, but most of us have grown up under the fiction that fear is weakness and failure is unacceptable.
The truth is fear is the instinct keeping us from being extinct. The natural fight or flight response in us is a good thing, having kept our species alive in times when we were the hunted. Now we are a prey of another sort, prey to the culture we’ve created, prey to our ever developing minds. To take back control we’ve tried to redefine fear, dismissing it as false expectations appearing real instead of unpleasant emotions caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, or a threat.
The latter is nature, the former nurture. “We learn to become fearful through experience with the fear event, or learning from those people around us like our parents, our siblings, our colleagues,” says Michael Lewis, director of the Institute for the Study of Child Development. “Fear has a certain contagious feature to it, so the fear in others can elicit fear in ourselves. It’s conditioning, like Pavlov and the salivating dog.” (via Scientific America)
There is a distinction between real concern and concern created from an overly stimulated mind. However, most of us don’t need to experience real fear, we don’t live in poverty, war zones, or environments where we are at risk of being prey. While it’s critical to fear physical harm and death, what we fear instead, what creates an empty feeling in our heart and gut, is ridicule, lack, failure, and not belonging. So, while likely safer than at any other point in our existence, we have allowed social fears to consume us. It’s leaving many of us cowering with no real understanding. Psychologists, scientists, philosophers, theologians, are trying to explain and solve fear. Why? In order to stop the paralyzing emotion that keeps us from being who we are meant to be. Perhaps we don’t need to solve and explain, just accept and keep moving forward.
Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. — Oscar Wilde
The fear of failure is a significant barrier to living our potential and following our dreams. Failure is simply defined as a lack of success. Who determines how one measures success? It seems such an abstract definition. Failure is perception, based on ideas and ideals pushed upon us. However, when we fail at something, we typically learn, so have we not succeeded in learning? When we push our physical limitations to failure, were we not successful? Technically, in the brief moment of failure we weren’t, but pushing that boundary is where growth occurs and in the growth is success. No person in history has gone through life without having failed. No person has gone through life without having succeeded. My definition of each is different than yours, and should be. The only one who should define failure and success for you, is you.
If we redefine anything then, we should begin considering failure a positive occurrence because at it’s core is learning, growth, and small successes. Small successes that will lead to a successful life. We can accept fear, control our reaction to it, and embrace failure as positive necessity if we stop looking outside and begin looking within.
The fountain of youth is no longer the holy grail, it has been replaced with a quest for the spring of courage and river of resilience, for what good is youth if it’s spent in fear wasted on an existence not meant for you.