Fear of Falling vs. Fear of Failing

fear of failure

Last week I wrote about how fear of falling is a serious health concern, particularly for the elderly. Such a fear prevents them from living their life to its fullest, and often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are ways to deal with such a fear. One approach is to improve your balance so as to minimize the chance of falling. Another way to deal with the fear of falling is to build up your muscular and bone strength, along with your resiliency, so that if you do fall, the consequences are not as devastating. In addition, it is helpful to have a team of therapists and others supporting you through your recovery if you do fall.

I think some parallels could be drawn between the fear of falling and the fear of failing.

The fear of failing is a serious problem that prevents people from trying something that might not work but has the potential to help a person fulfill their purpose and to possibly make a difference in the world. It can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy in that you become so worried about failure that you avoid it at every opportunity, and when you back on your life, you realize that the not trying itself was the true failure.

But just as there are ways to deal with the fear of falling, there are ways to deal with fear of failing.

One approach is to teach yourself as much as possible about the endeavor you are considering.  If your goal is to become an artist, learn as much as you can about your art and what it takes to succeed as an artist in that field. If your goal is be a writer, then practice your writing as much as possible, and learn from other successful writers.

This approach is analogous to the balance training used to combat the fear of falling. Both are designed to minimize the possibility that the failure actually happens.

However, there is still the chance despite all of your learning that your venture could fail. This is where the other type of training comes in, the type of training that will minimize the impact of a failure.

There is a big difference between investing one million dollars in a failed venture versus investing one thousand dollars in a failed venture. There is a difference between having a manuscript rejected that you spent 10 years working on versus one that you spent 3 months working on.

By failing on small ventures, you realize that the cost of failure is not devastating, and you learn how to recover from such failures.

It’s similar to strength training; you don’t start out trying to bench 200 pounds if you’ve never lifted before. You build up, you reach plateaus, you have setbacks, but over time you  keep getting closer to your goal. The result is increased confidence in achieving your goal and learning how to deal with setbacks.

In addition, it’s helpful to have a support team to turn to when there is a failure. Such a support team could consist of successful  people who initially experienced failure (that’s probably every successful person), as well as just friends and family to lend moral support when you do fail.

So just like there are formal programs designed to alleviate the fear of falling, it seems to me one could design a similar program to alleviate the fear of failing.

And the sooner one starts either program, the less likely the fear will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

 

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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