You list out your ideas for change. At times I get seduced and equate your talk with action. But weeks, months, years pass without seeing any major difference.
Of course there’s always some reason why not.
- You’re not quite clear yet on which one of your ideas to go after first.
- The economy is not the best. No-one in their right mind would rock the boat on their working lives till things get better.
- You have a bonus coming, or a stock option maturing, in another year or so, which you’d be crazy to miss.
All sensible, logical, understandable reasons on the face of things for stalling on that breakthrough.
But could something more sinister be lurking under the surface?
Fear Of Failure
“I suppose it’s fear of failure,” you tell me, smiling.
And I smile back at you and nod. That old thing, we seem to say. In the new age shorthand, we both recognise that we have something in common. Some vulnerability that allows us to relate to one another more easily. And we talk about it for a while.
I notice how tempting it is to sit here and stew in our shared weakness, allowing it to define us, like the victims of abuse often do. How it gives us plenty to talk about on the one hand. And makes sure we never move beyond it on the other.
But if you were to reach beyond the phrase, and the euphemisms that get spouted along with it, like not really fearing failure but fearing success, what would it look like? And how does it serve you to identify with the label?
As much as I want to know your answers, I feel a sudden, pressing need to get curious about my own fear of failure. I’ve been aware of it for some months now. So, how come I still haven’t cracked it? It’s that, not you, that’s really making me angry.
My coaching business, this thing about being on a mission to support people find a way to make work fit life rather than the reverse, is doing okay. I’ve built this blog to a certain level of grooviness. But the honest truth is that my ambition was always not that it do okay, but that it excel. That the blog become a business in its own right.
And I’ve done tons of work on stuff that should help me get to the next level. I’ve been studying the whole guest posting thing, and figuring I could write some cool articles for top sites that would help take my traffic to the next level again. I’ve also played with and drafted some information products to add to the site: an eBook for subscribers, a virtual workshop, and a interactive learning environment to offer a community-based life-changing experience.
But I’ve hedged.
Coaching, sure, I’m tried, tested and pro at that. But the information products that could set me apart? Who would want them? Who would buy them? What if I dared to put heart and soul into developing them and they bombed?
Would people laugh at me? See me as a complete fool for trying?
Of course all of this allows me to continue to play at being an amateur, good enough business blogger. But it also allows me to never be anything more than that.
Why am I sharing all of this? Well, first I want you to know that even the best of us hesitate, and that it’s okay.
Not Facing Up To Reality
But what’s not okay for me is thinking that that’s where it ends. Because, the insight I’m having as I write is that my fear is not just about failing. It’s about having to confront some of my own realities and limitations too. If I sit here with my dreams and do nothing beyond a certain point, well, I still have my dreams. And they can keep me cozy on tough days.
But if I dare to see my fear of failure as a call to action, I have to really dig into myself. I have to stop being ambivalent about things that matter to me. I have to focus down on the few actions that will make a real difference. I have to stretch myself to learn new skills and to express myself in different ways.
And if I’m going to fail, best I fail fast. Because that’s how I’m going to learn what will work in the longer term.
The choice is that or turning hesitation into an art form.
You and I can hesitate all we like. We can tell ourselves we haven’t yet chosen what it is we’re doing. But even in that place we’re choosing. We’re choosing to hesitate.
In that case, I’d be choosing to be an okay, also-ran sort of blogger. Is that REALLY what I’d choose for myelf?!