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Fear of failure.
It’s like a boulder in the middle of a narrow mountain road. It stops us in our tracks and keeps us from moving any direction but backward. Which is ironic because that is what we fear when it comes to failure. That, by trying something and not succeeding, we will move backward.
Failure isn’t final. Failure is, in fact, a jumping-off point. It is the beginning of virtually everything we do in life. Yet somewhere along the way we forget that and instead convince ourselves that if we can’t be successful at something from the very start we have no business doing it at all.
I could fill an entire volume of encyclopedias with the failures I’ve faced in life. My childhood years alone would probably fill half the books—walking, talking, reading, writing, riding a bike, kissing, dating, navigating mean girls. I wasn’t born knowing how to do those things. They didn’t come easily or automatically to me either. Instead, the learning process came with an extraordinary amount of pain—both physical and emotional—before I could claim I had mastered the skill. Yet, somehow I found the wherewithal to push through the pain and keep doing despite not having the years of wisdom and experience I can now claim to possess.
It’s funny because a fear of failure is what almost kept me from pursuing the single change that transformed my entire life. Failure can dog us in so many ways that we eventually stop trying new things because we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that we just aren’t capable of being successful at something.
That’s how I felt when it came to controlling my drinking. My failures were so numerous that I’d lost track of them. There were my rules for moderating that I would set for myself:
*No more than two drinks
*No drinking before 6 p.m. or after 10 p.m.
*Only drinking on the weekends
*Never drinking alone
And on and on the “rules” would go as I would desperately search for the right set of rules that would allow me to be successful at controlling my drinking. In between those came my numerous attempts to just stop drinking altogether. I had more “day ones” than a five-year planner!
Failure after failure was leading me to believe that I was indeed a failure myself. I just couldn’t take on this or any other change. That line of thinking almost brought me and my entire life to a standstill.
Something revolutionary happened at this time in my life though, which would lead me to never fear failure again. Through Liminal Thinking I was taught to reconsider my entire belief system about my failures and instead of looking at what I wasn’t able to achieve to instead use these experiences as data points.
No longer was I keeping track of all the ways I had failed to succeed.
Now, I was focused on analyzing each of these experiences and choosing to learn from them instead. Apparently we were onto something as children when we were learning to walk or ride a bike and we’d file away in our brains the things that didn’t work the last time we’d tried. Rather than using those unsuccessful attempts as reasons we couldn’t do something, they became the reasons to do things differently.
The value in that does not stay locked in our childhoods.
Practice can be seen as controlled failure. It isn’t that we can’t be successful; it’s that we need to keep adjusting what we’re doing until we find what makes us successful. That looks different for each and every single one of us. The path to success does not come with a single set of directions. It’s not a straight or a one-way road. In fact, you’ll find it has as many potholes and detours as Route 66. Going off course isn’t failing. It’s learning that you can get to where you’re going from many different directions.
I failed at controlling my drinking. I failed at stopping drinking. I failed at making rules, following them, and at keeping promises over and over again. With each of those failures, I learned what didn’t work for me and ultimately I also learned what did work for me. It took facing that first big failure in order to be brave enough to take on dreams I’d never even considered a possibility before. Sure, I could fail again, but imagine what I could learn from it and where it could take me! That mindset shift created opportunities I’d never realized were out there for me.
Find your direction. Pave your path and don’t get discouraged if you find that getting there wasn’t as clear and smooth as you’d imagined it to be. Often the most beautiful discoveries happen off the beaten path. That’s even true when it comes to discovering what you can do.
If you are curious about your drinking and want to take this time to evaluate it rather than diving deeper into it, join me for The Alcohol Experiment. You will receive encouraging and mindset shifting daily videos and emails and an incredible community of 130,000 people also experimenting with their alcohol intake. It is completely free (and always will be) at The Alcohol Experiment.