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There's a Fortune in Failure

By Gary Bradt, PhD
Posted: January 30, 2008, from the February 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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      4. Manage fear before it manages you. Perhaps nothing holds people back as much as fear. Fear is your natural protection against threats to physical survival. Too often, however, fear is triggered when physical survival is not an issue. No one is going to die if your promotion doesn’t come through. Physical harm won’t follow if your idea gets shot down at a meeting. You won’t lose an appendage if you return from your sales call empty-handed. Heck, even getting fired doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Just because fear often gets triggered in these situations doesn’t mean you have to succumb to it. Gather yourself, take a deep breath, tell yourself you’re okay, and go about taking your next step forward, whatever it may be. Don’t let your autonomic nervous system convince you that you are about to get eaten by a tiger when you’re not. Learn to control your fear, or it will end up controlling you.

      5. Stay in the moment. “What if?” can be a very useful question for anticipating scenarios and stirring creativity. “What if you doubled market share next quarter? What if you could take the best aspects of your competitors’ products and roll them into yours? What if you could use your expertise to aid the less fortunate in your community?” All good questions. Unfortunately, too often, your internal dialogue goes more like this: “What if I say something dumb at the meeting, and everyone laughs and decides I’m stupid? What if the economy takes a turn for the worse? What if the company gets bought out and I lose my job?” You begin to imagine negative what-if scenarios and put so much mental energy into them that you have little left over for more positive endeavors, and failures mount. To counter this trend, notice when you are becoming anxious. Then, pay attention to your thoughts. Likely, you have mentally raced ahead to some scary place that doesn’t exist. Bring yourself back to the here and now. Ask yourself, “What’s going on right here, right now?” It’s likely not nearly as bad as what you were imagining. Dealing with the realities of the moment will help you avoid creating unnecessary failures in the future.

Think again
      If fear of failure is holding you back from pursuing your dreams or accomplishing your goals, challenge yourself to think again. Specifically, rethink how you think about failure itself, and its relationship to your self-concept. Often, failure is a first and necessary step toward discovering your fortune; it points the way to success. Perhaps Henry Ford put it best: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”