“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
We all dread failure. Why? Without failure, we would have no way to make progress. The world gives us feedback through failure. As Winston Churchill so eloquently put it, so-called ‘success’ is nothing more than repeated failure, followed by some degree of goal attainment.
Our minds don’t like this. Our minds want BIG successes, ALL the time, or at least most of the time, without much experience of failure.
Why are we so afraid of failure?
Evolution has seen to it that we are hard-wired to care about what other people think. Before civilization, before the agrarian age began, when we lived in hunter-gatherer societies, social rejection could actually lead to physical death. Being ousted from the tribe meant falling victim to death by cold, starvation, predators, or enemy tribespeople.
Our bodies do not know the difference between symbolic and actual threats. So when faced with the threat of failure and humiliation or criticism, we grow cold, sweat, feel our throats go dry, feel our hands tremble and our stomachs churn. This constellation of responses was once useful to prepare us for flight, freezing, or fighting. Our discomfort may also have motivated us to move closer to the tribe, to “tend and befriend”, ensuring our survival through submitting to those who have greater social power than ourselves.
Of course, nowadays social rejection or criticism rarely, if ever, leads to physical death or harm to the body. But we feel strongly as if it does threaten those outcomes.
We cannot avoid these feelings. But perhaps, just maybe, it might be worth feeling those awful fears of failure, rejection, shame and humiliation.
Could it be worth it to be very uncomfortable sometimes, if being so willing would allow us to fulfill our dreams?
Do you dare to fail, to fail again, to be afraid, to be disappointed, even shattered, again and again, if doing so meant that you could fulfill at least some of your dreams, in at least some form?