Courtney Elmer, host of The Systems Made Simple™ Podcast, reveals why fear of failing is actually a good thing, and gives you the tools to turn that fear into fuel for business growth.
For others, the fear of failing is a little thing that they’ve learned to live with, and learn from, which no longer holds them back (even though at times it may still try to creep in and undermine their progress).
Yet imagine what would become possible for you if you knew how to use it to your advantage, like fuel to propel you to the next level in your life and business. (That’d be pretty freakin’ awesome, wouldn’t it?) Your fear of failing would simply dissipate.
Inside today’s episode, I’m going to give you the tools you need to identify what fears are holding you back, where they come from, and how to shift your perspective so you can navigate through them and overcome the fear of failing for good.
BY THE TIME YOU FINISH LISTENING, YOU’LL LEARN:
Assuming your fears will never disappear, how long will you wait to move forward? What’s the key to learning from failure?
We all feel fear. The real question is, will you allow it to stop you, or allow it to fuel you forward?
How will you overcome the fear of failure?
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You’re Listening to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, Episode # 8--which is all about overcoming and learning from failure.
What we’re talking about today is something we’ve ALL dealt with at one time or another in our lives. Maybe, you’re dealing with it right now. In fact, I think to an extent, it’s something we each deal with a little bit, every single day. For some people, it’s a big thing, so overwhelming that it literally debilities them and crushes their chances of success; for others, it’s a little thing that they’ve learned to live with, and learn from, which no longer holds them back, even though it still tries to creep in and undermine their progress.
What am I talking about? Well, stay tuned.
I’m really looking forward to digging into this topic with you today, because this one’s really important. I know, you’ve heard me say that like a million times, bc yes, every topic we cover here on the show is important. But this one is really, REALLY important, because it’s one that affects us all.
What is it? The fear of failing and learning from failure.
What do you think of when I say that word? More importantly, what do you FEEL?
Even notice, where do you FEEL it? Where in your body?
Webster’s dictionary says: “fear is an unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined.”
Real, or imagined.
Ok so let’s think about your body’s fight or flight response for a second. What’s its purpose? Why does it exist? To alert us to danger, right? To let us know when things aren’t safe. When things have gotten off track. It’s not just being there for the sake of being there.
But this issue is a little different. It is something that at times is real and can alert us to danger. To keep us on the safe path. To show us where we need to go. But other times, it is exactly what the dictionary says it is — it can be real… or it can be imagined. And if it’s imagined, then that means it’s not real.
It’s the difference between actual danger — an armed robber breaking into your house, and imagined danger — a monster under your bed when you were 5.
So, how do you tell the difference? Because as we go through life, we feel fear. And we all KNOW it has this way of holding us back from doing the things we really want to do. And often, we LET that happen. It can feel scary. It can feel immobilizing. It can literally stop us in our tracks and keep us from moving forward. It’s kind of like your brain’s way of playing possum -- just reacting to ANY fear-inducing situation, regardless of if it’s real or imagined, because your body reacts the same way.
The important thing is to learn how to tell if it you’re feeling is REAL or IMAGINED. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
The easy answer of course is to say that most is imagined. Truly -- most of the fear we feel is the fear of things we just make up in our minds. Sure, anything can happen at any time. You could get car jacked today, you could find yourself in a situation that is truly life-threatening, something that is genuinely fear-inducing. But I think it’s safe to say that for the most part, if you’re not living in a country where war is happening on the soil outside your front door or if there is not some sort of imminent threat to your life on a daily basis, that a lot of this you might feel IS imagined.
And that’s a good thing, because that’s where we can go in and start to examine it and dismantle it.
In my work both with entrepreneurs and business women, this is one of the things that comes up a LOT. And not just women. Men too. Your own fear is one of, if not THE biggest obstacle you face. And more importantly, what you’re allowing it to dictate is or is not possible for you. And overcoming that fear of failing.
Luckily for most of us, our lives aren’t actually in danger every day.
But to your body, regardless of whether it’s REAL or PERCEIVED, your body can’t tell the difference. And that’s where it does get dangerous. Take someone suffering from severe anxiety in the aftermath of a traumatic event. PTSD, for example. Even though they are not physically in danger anymore, there’s no denying that their BODY and their mind is interpreting these past events as traumas to avoid. That’s why for someone suffering with this, simple things like a door slamming or startling loud noise can bring them right back to where that fear first happened.
And why, thinking about this trauma, can cause them to “relive” them, even though they are now only perceived threats. This is also why, with help, they can begin to work through the trauma -- which is causing the subsequent imagined anxiety after the trauma has passed -- and thus overcome the fear. Are you with me?
Our body’s response — our biological response to it is universal. We all have that. Across the board. So that stress, that overwhelm, that panic you feel -- that’s your body’s signals telling you “Hey, danger ahead!” You’ve heard me say that before, stress and overwhelm are just symptoms, and that’s exactly right.
The PROBLEM is that not everything you feel stressed and overwhelmed by is an actual, life-threatening situation. Most often, it’s a result of fear-based thinking patterns, which cause you to stay stuck and play small as we say in the entrepreneurial world. And these fear-based thinking patterns are OFTEN, not always, but very OFTEN based on a past trauma. The problem is, that you’re not always aware of what that trauma was. And it could have even been something small, maybe something like getting teased on the playground when you were 5, that you wouldn’t necessarily consider “traumatic” now, but at 5, in your mind’s interpretation, it was.
So just PTSD or anxiety or fear induced by trauma that we ARE aware of, our minds will act in a similar way based on a PERCEPTION of it -- anxiety-induced by traumas, big or small, that we AREN’T aware of. And I use the word trauma really loosely here, ok? To your mind, it doesn’t matter if the trauma is big, or small. Any event that induces negative emotion can be traumatic to your brain. Your MIND will interpret it in a similar way, causing us to feel it or feel afraid, activating fight or flight and causing stress, overwhelm, and anxiety.
And this EMOTIONAL response to apprehension is highly individual, which is what you need to learn how to tune into and pay attention to.
Now I know you’ve seen all these memes on the internet saying things like:
And whatever other variations of popular quotes you want to insert here.
Yay, double-tap, and keep scrolling.
That’s all good and fine. It’s nice to think about overcoming fear, fear of failing, or living a life without feeling anxious, or feeling invincible. But the reality is, it is incredibly complex. Some fears may be a result of experiences or trauma, while others may represent a fear of something else entirely, such as a loss of control. Still, others may occur because they cause physical symptoms, such as being afraid of heights because they make you feel dizzy and sick to your stomach, even if you're watching a video or looking at a picture and in no actual danger. Because again, your mind perceives it the same way.
Although our bodies all share the same kind of physical reaction, it can be perceived as either positive or negative, depending on the individual. Those people you know in your life who you might call an adrenaline junkie, may ENJOY certain activities that might make other people feel afraid. Skydiving, mountain climbing, other “extreme sports” or things that might excite them and petrify you. The opposite could be true. These so called Adrenaline junkies — maybe you’re one of them — might be deathly afraid of giving a speech on stage in front of a hundred people. Whereas that might be a piece of cake for you.
Case in point: I hate roller coasters. I will not touch them with a 10-ft pole. You would have to knock me out and strap me in to get me to ride one. But I can get up on a stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people and deliver a keynote without feeling like I’m going to die.
So what really matters here today are not universal fears. I don’t know if there are any universal apprehensions other than maybe having a gun held to your head or your life, your person, threatened in some way. What really matters are YOUR perceived anxieties… and YOUR unique, emotional response to them.
It doesn’t matter if someone else doesn’t share the same fear as you. The only thing that matters is if YOU feel afraid. That’s what we’re concerned about. And that’s what I want to help you begin to learn to identify: how to get to the root.
Let’s say you have a fear of public speaking. Again this can stem from anything — it can be rational or irrational — but let’s use public speaking because it’s an easy example.
Now, to your body, whether you’re actually standing on that stage or just thinking about standing on that stage, your heart might start racing, maybe you get a little short of breath, maybe you just feel a sudden sense of panic.
What’s interesting though, is that in one scenario you’re actually doing the thing you’re afraid of, standing on stage giving a speech… in another scenario, you’re just thinking about doing the thing you’re afraid of.
And so often, our minds will run away with us. We’ll talk ourselves out of doing something we may really want, because we feel a sense of fear just thinking about it.
And that alone is enough to keep us stuck, frozen in our tracks, unable to move forward out of what *might* happen if we do so.
Notice what’s going on here: The fear we feel from thinking may feel so overwhelming that we do nothing. We stay paralyzed. So, how can we overcome that fear of failing?
How many of your thoughts on a daily basis are fear-based?
A lot of them. Probably more than you think. This is why I teach my students how to recognize and stop fear based thinking patterns before they start by going back to the thing that caused the fear-based thought to begin in the first place.
Let me give you an example: 3rd grade. When I was in the 3rd grade, two of my classmates laughed at me when I told them the topic I was going to present to the class was “How to Groom Your Horse in 5 Easy Steps”
The truth is, this event HAUNTED me for years… in fact, I freakin’ BLOCKED THIS PAINFUL EXPERIENCE FROM MY MEMORY it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I remembered it when I realized WHY this event has kept me playing so small in my business.
Now maybe that sounds shocking, if you’ve been watching me here on IG or hearing from me in your inbox every week for a while. “Small?! Courtney, you play anything but small!” But don’t let my news appearances, podcast interviews, or fancy stages fool you.
It’s probably more accurate to say I’ve played it SAFE… for fear of none other than BEING LAUGHED AT (and feeling the deeper pain of embarrassment)
Yep. This thing happened to me in the 3rd grade, that I haven’t thought of for almost THIRTY YEARS since, has kept me playing on the safe side all these years. This, my friend, is the power of our BELIEFS. The funny thing is though, our beliefs don’t show up as “beliefs” … they just show up as the way things are. In other words, the lens we’re currently seeing life through is the lens we’ve *always* seen things through… and sadly, most people never realize that YOU CAN CHANGE THE LENS.
I’m here today to tell YOU that if you don’t like what you’re seeing, you CAN change it. I’m all about that reframe! You can shift your fear of failing and learn from failure overall.
Because where it gets dangerous is if we allow those apprehensions to dictate how we act… or more importantly, to let them keep us from taking action.
As I always tell my students and clients on our Retreats and in our programs, until you can SHINE A LIGHT on that anxiety, put a name to it, and call it out for what it is, and even begin to figure out what caused it in the first place, anxiety and doubt will ALWAYS feel scary, and it will always keep you stuck.
It can show up in different ways. Some people will literally bog themselves down with busy work, so that they feel like they are doing something, when really that busywork is just a distraction from taking the action they’re afraid of taking.
Other people will ignore it, try to work around it, focus on other projects or other things to avoid doing the thing they’re afraid of.
Still others will deny it, some people might get over-confident in other areas of their life, to avoid the sense of lack and insecurity they feel around the thing they’re afraid of. Going back to our public speaking example, someone who has a fear of public speaking might channel that into something like writing. Maybe they start doing a lot of guest blogs, or writing articles, as a way to use their voice without stepping on stage — the thing they really want to be doing, but that they’re afraid of. So the writing becomes this way they feed that desire, but it’s also a crutch. Because it’s keeping them from doing the thing they really want to do.
From the outside looking in that’s not bad. What’s bad is not recognizing the apprehension, or acknowledging that it’s perceived. So, this is where overcoming the fear of failing plays a huge role.
It’s only a rare few who can look that fear in the face and do it anyway. Why? Because #1) they’ve identified what the it is, and #2) they acknowledge that it is PERCEIVED.
And these are the tools I want to give you today, so that you can start identifying WHAT anxiety and apprehensions are holding you back, WHY you have them, and begin to come to the realization that they are perceived and they are NOT REAL -- which means, you can begin to shift your thinking around them and work through them so that you can truly overcome the fear of failing.
Now, the process for doing this is really simple. It’s similar to what you’d see in the world of psychology, something called Systematic desensitization. So let’s say you were in treatment for serious anxiety or fear-related illnesses. In this treatment, you'd gradually be led through a series of exposure situations.
For example, if you have a fear of snakes, you may spend the first session talking about snakes. Slowly, over subsequent sessions, you would be led through looking at pictures of snakes, playing with toy snakes, and eventually handling a live snake. This is usually accompanied by learning and applying new coping techniques to manage the response.
And this is great -- because we can follow a similar process for dealing with our anxieties and apprehensions. But let’s take it even one step deeper.
What if you were able to get to the ROOT of what caused your fear of snakes in the first place? Using snakes as an example. Actually let’s use a better example. Let’s say, fear of asking for the sale. Or pitching your product to that big influencer on IG. Or pitching yourself to get on that podcast you really want to get on. Pick one you have -- something you’ve been procrastinating is usually a great way to find one.
What’s that thing that you keep pushing to the back burner on your to-do list. Even something like that workout class you never seem to make it to -- that *could* have an underlying fear-based thought driving it. This is why our Mastermind Retreats are so powerful bc we get to the root of all this stuff, but for the sake of our purposes today, it’s about identifying a fear, acknowledging it could be attached to a deeper root cause -- maybe you’re not aware of that cause, just like I had this fear of being laughed at and for almost 30 years wasn’t aware of it… yet still it affected me.
So I’m going to give you 4 easy steps you can use to start uncovering and dismantling any fears you notice, any that pop up for you. Essentially the steps to shine a light, tune into what may be the root cause, and work through it to overcome that fear of failing.
Fear of failing isn’t the problem. Waiting to stop feeling afraid is.
Assuming they will never disappear, how long will you wait to move forward?
We all feel fear. The real question is, will you LET it stop you, especially now that you have the tools and resources now to change this story? How can you overcome that fear of failing?
Ok guys, that does it for today. As always, go forth and live your EffortLESS Life®. Overcome that fear of failing. You’re the best — see you next time on the Systems Made Simple™ podcast.