On Dreams, Fear Of Failure, and Not Facing Up To Reality

A light bulb but no (good) ideas... (17/365)Your precious dreams. You share them with me so sincerely. You tell me how unhappy you are about the current state of your working life. How you feel unfulfilled. Punching below your weight.

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?!

Hell, no.

So, I’m going to get over myself and face the music. Come with me?
Creative Commons License photo credit: LifeSupercharger

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  1. Gee Backhouse says:

    Absolutely. I’m with you. Choose Your Direction and go to it, girl! Isn’t it great? Gx

  2. Fantastically powerful post Christine and just the kick up the b** I need! Thanks

  3. Bravo Christine! Go for it!

    When fear of failure (or success) gets me down, I always come back to what my third grade teacher said when I told her I was bored: ‘If you’re bored, what are YOU going to do about it?’ Funnily enough, you can substitute just about anything for ‘bored’ and the sentiment still applies. . .

    • That’s a very, very wise thing to offer me, Ali. Thank you so much for it, and for your support. Much appreciated. :)

  4. Alison Chisnell says:

    Great post, really honest and inspiring. I think these things are stuff we all struggle with, but having the clarity and strength to articulate it makes it a powerful catalyst for change.

    Good luck! :)

    • Hello, Alison

      I’ve been away for a week and just found your delightful comment languishing in my spam catcher. Uurgh!!! Akismet is normally so good too. My sincere apologies.

      And thanks for your words. I found them, in turn, inspiring. Articulating a situation is often half the battle in making change happen; helps one galvanise one’s energies in a positive, forward looking way. :)

  5. Joelleharris says:

    Oh how true! I’m doing ok my business is getting busier & I’m doing FD need time for that as well, perfect excuse not to push things further. Thank you!!!!

    • We always have good reasons, don’t we?! Dig in, Joelle, and push through. Can’t wait to see things take off further for you :)

  6. Michael Martine says:

    In the movies, this is the do-or-die moment. The heroine clutches for her sword… I’m smiling but I’m serious.

    Why did I let my business wither on the vine while I played World of Warcraft all day? FOR A YEAR. Same reason: my success shot me out of my comfort zone and I had to sabotage myself in order to get back into it. We’re like thermostats: too hot? Air conditioning kicks on. Too cold? Heat fires up.

    We need to change the thermostat’s setting. Like Bikram Yoga or “polar bear” diving.

    Your comfort zone is a prison. And we have the key the whole time.

    P.S. – If you don’t succeed I’ll pretend I don’t know you! :D
    Michael Martine´s last blog post ..Open Discussion- Can You Weave Idealism into Your Business WITHOUT Losing Money or Looking like a Phony

    • Thanks, Michael. You’re right, it is that “call to adventure” moment. I guess the thing is that, if we’re true to ourselves and the hero in us, we’ll accept the call. Even if, at points in our story, we choose to deny the challenge.

  7. Thanks for your honesty Christine & I can really identify! Well done for putting it out there and taking it to the next level. Let’s fight those fears and hell yeah, I’m coming with you! ;)

    Jen x

  8. Julie Walraven | Resume Services says:

    That fear of failure sure gets in the way. But you are so right. Success comes to those who have faced failure and moved past it. Those who sit on their hands and hope that nothing will challenge them will never move forward. Get up, fall down, and get up again… You’ll never know unless you try!
    Julie Walraven | Resume Services´s last blog post ..What’s wrong with “Duties” in your resume or LinkedIn Profile

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Julie. I think that fear of touching the darkest edges in ourselves is huge. It has certainly hung around for me these last months. Still, as you say, there’s no knowing what one is capable of, without trying!

  9. OMG, I needed to read this post this evening. Been feeling quite out of my comfort zone with my new business for a week or so – although thankfully I AM taking action, I have more moments of feeling like a deer stuck in headlights.

    Thanks for your wonderful honesty. Heck I’m joining you Christine…no giving up now!

    Kate Bacon´s last blog post ..Thinking time

    • So glad this resonated and helped, Kate. Your phrase about feeling like a deer stuck in the headlights is apt for me too.

      Glad too that you’re taking action, and very happy to be able to share a sense of a similar journey. :)

  10. Ali Davies says:

    You know Christine, there is something so powerful about sharing our own challenges and vulnerability. It connects with people at a deep level. I take my hat off to you for calling it as it is.

    I set a theme for myself this year (something I haven’t done before – wouldn’t have been my “thing”). But it sort of just came to me and wouldn’t go away (sounds a bit woo woo eh?). So I am riding with it. It is “Stepping Up and Being Bold”.

    I am sharing it with you because as I read you post it reminded me that “Stepping Up and Being Bold” has to be a way of being every time we hit obstacles and challenges (and even when we are getting in our own way).

    So am cheering you on as you tackle this stuff and wishing you every success as you step up, be bold and kick some serious ass!
    Ali Davies´s last blog post ..Where Have All The Dreams Gone

    • Oh, Ali, I love your “stepping up and being bold” – that is sooo powerful and I so appreciate your sharing it.

      I’m going to kick ass, my friend. It may be a different kind of ass I’m about to kick than the one I first imagined, but I’m pretty excited about that. Thanks for your lovely support. :)


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