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Fear, Failure and the Continuous Loop of Learning

In Chapter 10 of Core Confidence we talk about facing our fears, and the most common one for many of us is the fear of failure. Intellectually, we all know failure at some point is a given; the trick is to learn to cope with its inevitability otherwise it becomes a roadblock to pursuing and achieving our goals.

Unpacking our relationship with failure and understanding our response to it gives us an insight into our mindset and resilience and the good news is, both can be changed and strengthened. There are two general responses to failure:

1. Pull back and raise the red flag
2. Lean in and take the learning opportunities

American psychologist Carol Dweck distinguishes between two mindsets – fixed and growth. With a fixed mindset, failure is seen as a measure of the self, a personal shortcoming. Those with a fixed mindset will often react as number one above.

Conversely, a growth mindset understands that while failure can be painful, it doesn’t define us. In fact, it is something to be faced, dealt with, and learned from as it often reveals other pathways and approaches to challenges that arise.

In her work, Dweck discusses the benefits of moving out of our comfort zone to build a growth mindset through continuous improvement. If we’re not trying, we’re not failing and if we’re not failing, we’re not learning.

Applying this idea that failing is the quickest way to success fosters the courage to fail. Getting it out of the way and to the other side makes the learning curve faster and as Zig Ziglar said, “FEAR has two meanings – Forget Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise”.

Reframing a fear of failure will determine our response to it – because what is failure anyway when there is so much to be gained from making mistakes, trying again and learning lessons from each of our experiences? Insights from not getting something right can truly be liberating – we just have to believe it.

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