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The Reason Why the Fear of Failure Can Lead You to Fail

This morning I was trying to convince myself to do something I love to do (isn't it funny how that works?), and I thought, why do I even have to convince myself to paint? I love painting! And it all came down to what I think our culture is crippled with: the fear of doing something and failing at it.


This is the crux of so many important facets to life: goals, careers, hobbies, mental health, spiritual health, physical health, health in relationships, etc. The problem is not that we are not well-intentioned. We have good intentions in spades. Loads of it. We are heavy-laden with good intentions if we are wanting to accomplish something that really matters. Why else would we want to do it? So, intentionality is not the issue here. The problem is fear of failure.


So what do we do?


We research.


We research the crap out of "How to Do the Thing You Want to Try" to the point that we could be experts. By the end of the day, we've read so many articles on how to build a table that we could probably give an hour-long Power Point presentation on different methods of table-building.


And I think this is a big part of why our society/culture is so riddled with anxiety and depression. We want to do something meaningful with our time, so we decide to try that thing that we really want to do. Okay! I'm gonna do this! I'm gonna do this today! First, let me research how to do this thing.


Three hours later, we feel accomplished! We feel as if we are conquerors! We have learned how to do the thing! How exciting!


But that evening, we feel sort of like a half-deflated balloon because we didn't actually do the thing. We only temporarily convinced our brains to think that we did the thing because we were learning how to do it.


But the brain knows better.


The brain subtly reminds us that "hey, the thing wasn't actually done." And then we realize that for all our research and learning about doing the thing, we never even tried it.


The deflation ends up infecting our feelings of motivation, and then we start to think less-excitedly about trying it. "Well, I'll try doing the thing sometime soon because at least now I know how to go about it, I think." But then you wonder if you really do know how to go about it.


The next time you have free time it doesn't get done, either. Or even tried. Your desire to do the thing is still there, except the desire to not fail at doing the thing is even stronger.


So the thing is left untried.


I'm gonna make a quick disclaimer here: I am not saying to not research how to do the thing you want to try. Some things need to be checked out so you have a head's up. It is generally a good idea to know what you're getting into with a project or whatnot. I'm just saying that where I and other well-intentioned people get hung up is in the fear of failure driving you to end up not actually doing the thing. And isn't that what you feared in the first place? That you wanted to do something that mattered because you're afraid of not doing something that mattered?


There is a quote I love by Jean-Pierre de Caussade that says: "When one is thirsty, one quenches one's thirst by drinking, not by reading books which treat of this condition." Our souls are thirsty for meaningful creative output. So thirsty. But we end up reading about quenching the thirst instead of actually giving it something to drink.


This is the reason that the fear of failure is actually a catalyst to failure. The fear of failure tricks us into the very thing we are afraid of: the thing not happening, that we don't produce something that matters. Isn't that what failure is? Doing something but it was not up to some standard, and so since we are disappointed in the result, our intentions seemingly didn't happen at all? On the contrary: at least something was produced!


I'm preaching to myself, too. Don't just read about quenching your thirst. Drink the water.




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