One of the biggest challenges that I face on a day to day basis is the fear of getting “it” wrong. I remember a time in a job where I was supposed to be the leader of a project to try something that few people had done at the time. Because few people had done it, there were no guidelines to follow. I didn’t know what the outcome was supposed to look like. There were no “right answers”. Because I didn’t know what things were supposed to look like I didn’t know what actions to take. I was afraid of getting the whole project off track. I was afraid that I would screw up the research and that I would look like an incompetent idiot. So I did nothing much. I fiddled around the edges without taking any risks. You can figure out by now that by doing nothing I did mess everything up and I did hold the project back. I ended up looking like an incompetent idiot anyway. I may as well have looked like a brave incompetent idiot. Like an idiot who was willing to try, to learn and to pass that learning on to others. I can also tell you, it would have been more fun and I know I would have felt better about myself.
Fear of failure is a common fear. The corollary is the fear of getting “it” right. I’ll write more on that another day.
In the fear of getting it wrong we face our fear of failure. That we will look like fools in front of the people we value most and that, as a result, they will reject us. That we won’t eat. That we will end up homeless and on the street.
In the fear of getting it right we face our fear of success. That we’ll find out the people we thought were our friends really don’t care about anything but what we can give them. That we’ll be too busy to have time for friends. That we’ll change in ways we don’t like. That we’ll lose the people we love because of that. That someone will find out that we were frauds and we’ll fail after all.
These two fears can lock us up tighter than a frozen video game.
There is only one cure as I learned in my situation at work.
Do something. Even if it might be wrong.
Do something. Even if it might lead to the wrong answer. If it might not start. If it might not meet your expectations for perfection. Just do something.
Then, accept the results. Accept those results without judgement or self condemnation. Ignore, to the best of your ability, the condemnation of others. (There can be supportive critical review where the process, not the person, is critiqued for adjustments. Accept that kind of critique.) Yes! It is nearly impossibly hard to ignore the ridicule of others, especially when they matter to us. But nearly impossible… isn’t impossible. Use your conscious effort to ignore their judgements anyway. Seek refuge in the people you have that don’t judge and who will lift you up.
Then evaluate the results for the actions you can take to improve the results. Take those actions. Rinse. Repeat.
By behaving this way, step by step, you’ll move forward. Because you did something and learned from it. Even though it might have been less than perfect. (hint: everything we do is less than perfect.) This is courage.