I was talking to a client last week and she shared with me that she wished her children would try things even if they were not sure they will be good at it. As a Mom, she realized one of her sons was limiting himself, not trying new things, and staying home because he wasn’t willing to risk doing something. Luckily, she was self-aware enough to know that she shared this limiting approach to new opportunities. Through my training in Positive Psychology, I have learned how detrimental fear of failure can be to our personal and professional success. Luckily, Positive Pscyhology has the perfect antidote to fear of failure: the Growth Mindset
I always thought if (and when) I failed at something I was a failure. I believed that even though you can learn things, for the most part, “you are who you are”. I was either good at something or I wasn’t. I believed my personality was “my personality” and that I needed to accept that, even if I didn’t like parts of myself. I have since learned that this style of thinking has a name. It is called having a Fixed Mindset and I learned all about this in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. This book points out that we literally create self-imposed “fixed” parameters limiting our opportunity for growth beyond those self, or societal, imposed boundaries.
Here’s what I find earth shattering; at 52 years old I just, and I mean just, got comfortable with the risk of failure. I know that if I really want to do something, I have to go for it and risk not knowing if I’m going to be good at it and potentially feel foolish. The gift that came with that realization was to give myself permission to risk failure and put myself out there to really learn again.
Over the past few years, I have questioned whether there was more for me in life. I wanted to stretch, feel more fulfilled and reach new goals but didn’t know how to do that. I had seen a course listed at Kripalu, Certificate in Positive Psychology with Tal Ben-Shahar and it seemed like it was exactly what I needed. I wanted to take it for years–literally, for 4 years in a row, I would explore signing up for it but didn’t. I didn’t because I was sure everyone else who would attend would be more accomplished than I was. I wasn’t sure if my desire for taking the course was legitimate. I wanted to learn how to be happier.
Fortunately, at year 5, I decided to go for it and enrolled. This may not seem all that risky to you, but to me, I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Leaving my fixed mindset in search of opportunities for growth, and in doing so feared risking failure.
I wish for all of us to have a better understanding about failure as individuals, professionals, parents, teachers and leaders. Through Positive Psychology and by adapting a Growth Mindset we can see the opportunities that lie within “failure” and embrace it. So what if we changed our perspective about failing? When we are willing to go outside our comfort zone trying new things we offer ourselves an opportunity for learning, growth and the ability to become more resilient. What if we decided to be proud of our effort to try something new and be less attached to the end result? How much broader would our world be? How often would we try something new just to try it? How much more success would we create for ourselves in the process?
When I signed up to take the course in Positive Psychology I gave myself permission to step outside my comfort zone and risk failure. I decided to quiet my inner critic and self-doubt and go for it. Unbeknownst to me I adopted a Growth Mindset that said going into something “not knowing” is fine and the effort behind my desire was more important. I’m so glad I did! I found a Growth Mindset was like opening the windows and letting fresh air and natural light into my life.
I am Lisa Brown. I am a Positive Psychology Life Coach. I still have fears but now I think of them as a challenge and decide for myself if it’s a challenge I want to take on, and with that I embrace the opportunity for growth and success. What opportunity do you want for growth and how can I help?