What if I Fail?

Question:

I decided that my string of failures comes from my lack of self-confidence. I was always fearful and timid and I can see now that this brought me just what I used to dread.

But I’m on a new pathway now. I started my own business, I have a new marriage and a I’m keeping to a solid fitness plan. I know that in the past I would have found some way to sabotage this initiative with doom-and-gloom thinking. This time it’s going to be different! My only enemy is my own fear. I’m visualizing success and refusing to consider a bad outcome. I’m not stupid enough to think failure is impossible, but I do know that we tend to create the reality we expect.

Agreed?

Answer:

Not quite.

Of course confidence is good, and we need to visualize where we want to go. But to think the positive visualization itself has much power is naive. Instead, I might coach you to study your enemy. That is, imagine and list all the ways in which this initiative could fall dead. Not enough business? Or so successful that you can’t fit in the full workout…or that you have to grab a burger just this time…and one more time the next week…

This is not a lack of self-assurance; it’s a recognition of reality. It’s not pessimistic thinking; it’s strategic foresight. And it’s not a lack of hope; it’s building the confidence to know you won’t come upon bad surprises ill-prepared.

If you made a mistake with your past “gloom-and-doom” thinking it wasn’t in predicting bad events, it was in dwelling on them passively, over-estimating their power, and thinking you couldn’t cope when they came. And a mistake now would be to think that fear has more power than it does. Or that you have the power to control an emotion. These are the surprise enemies, oddly familiar to us all.

So visualize failure. Welcome your fear. Harness it as caution, make your contingency plans and build your preparedness. Then go forward with the confidence that makes you strong. Tempered with the anxiety that makes you human.

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Tom Linde M.S.W.
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