Fear can startle. Fear can halt. Most likely a strain of fear is holding you back from doing something. But fear isn’t really real, unless we make it real. So let’s stop it, before it stops us.

It could be something small like not watching an episode on Netflix, out of the fear it’ll spiral into a full-on all-day binge. We’ve all been there. Or maybe fear’s affecting something more important. Like not attending that networking event, or even resigning from your job in pursuit of the dream you’ve been contemplating for years. Whatever it is. Many of us allow fear to control our actions. And, inevitably dictate our life.

Fear exists on different levels and manifests in differing ways. But it’s argued that most fears are rooted in a fear of failure. Whether it’s failing an exam or failing to please others. Possibly it’s a fear of failing to make fruitful connections or even the fear of failing at life (whatever that actually means).

So conscious of it or not, we’re failure-phobic. Which isn’t all bad. But the more we focus on failure is the more likely fear will creep in, and the more authority we give it over our lives.

But why’re we failure-phobic anyway? It can be said that our society, especially our education systems, have programmed us to be obsessed with passing tests. Tests created by others, I should add. From primary school all the way up to university, we put pressure on ourselves (and let other put pressure on us) to pass tests, meet or exceed expectations set by others.

Many argue this obsession with passing tests, takes away from actually learning the topic. We revise to remember in order to recite, not necessarily to learn. It’s ironic how our fear of failing could actually result in our failure to learn. Regardless institution-set exams are encoded into our world and there isn’t much getting around them.

However, we can reprogramme our relationship with failure. By shifting our focus away from the subject of the fears, to our fear of failure itself will help us in combat. We need to put our fears under interrogation. And adjust our interpretation of failure. Here are some ways we can reconfigure our relationship with both fear and failure:

Failure is not the end.

Stop seeing failure as the end. Just like success it’s not binary, it’s often not even a destination but rather a feeling of fulfilment (or lack thereof). And since it’s not the end, you can still dust yourself  off and get back out there.

Failures are lessons.

Maybe it’d be better to say “lessons… learned the hard way”. Nevertheless any failure can be a lesson. We just have to be attentive enough, conscious of what went wrong and know how we could switch it up next time. Remember, failing the first time often means you’re less likely to fail a second.

Failures build resilience.

If we don’t ever fall, we wouldn’t learn how to get up. So the more we fall, the easier it is for us to get up again. Failing more makes us resilient, enough to bounce back stronger (with little down-time).

Failure is not defeat.

The two terms are not synonymous (although it’s often used interchangeably). There’s a huge difference when we really look at it. And it’s defined by our perception mostly. Failure is the lack of success. Defeat is being prevented from achieving- it’s more conclusive. We choose to be defeated by failure. But just because we fail doesn’t mean we’re defeated. In fact, experiencing failure get us one step closer to success.

The Fear Fighting Playlist

Reprogramming our approach to both fear and failure isn’t something that’ll happen overnight. But the more conscious and critical we become of our relationship with failure and fear, the more control we’ll have over our lives. So here are some great talks to fuel your development journey, consider it your fear fighting playlist!

1. Adam Grant: The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

In this talk, learn three unexpected habits of originals — including embracing failure. “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says. “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

2. Tim Ferriss: Why you Should Define your Fears Instead of your Goals

How can we overcome self-paralysis and take action? Tim Ferriss encourages us to fully envision and write down our fears in detail, in a simple but powerful exercise he calls “fear-setting.” Learn more about how this practice can help you thrive in high-stress environments and separate what you can control from what you cannot.

3. Jon Bowers: We Should Aim for Perfection, And Stop Fearing Failure

Sometimes trying your best isn’t enough; when the situation demands it, you need to be perfect. For Jon Bowers, who runs a training facility for delivery drivers, the stakes are high — 100 people in the US die every day in car accidents — and it’s perfection, or “a willingness to do what is difficult to achieve what is right,” that he looks to achieve. He explains why we should all be equally diligent about striving toward perfection in everything we do, even if it means failing along the way.

4. Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating

Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress,” devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

5. Luvvie Ajayi: Get (un)comfortable

Luvvie Ajayi isn’t afraid to speak her mind or to be the one dissenting voice in a crowd, and neither should you. “Your silence serves no one,” says the writer, activist and self-proclaimed professional troublemaker. In this bright, uplifting talk, Ajayi shares three questions to ask yourself if you’re teetering on the edge of speaking up or quieting down — and encourages all of us to get a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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