Earlier this week I spent three days with a group of 20 passionate yet overworked and nearly burned out video game developers. My task: to help them to better understand the impact of the choices they make. Specifically the ones that prevent them from performing at a sustainable high level and keep them from experiencing more consistent happiness and fulfillment.
Without exception, every time I’ve had the opportunity to guide people to greater understanding of the forces that shape their behaviour, and help them to identify new behaviours that they WANT to do, KNOW is good for them, and KNOW will serve the greater good, there is one common question that arises.
Will it really last?
It happens every time.
Change is hard. Can I really change?
Whether it’s a 25-year old video game coder or a 55-year old global business leader, the self-doubt is the same. After all, they’ve been building up years of well-trodden excuses and reasons not to change, an identity of “I’m a procrastinator” and often rooted beliefs that “I don’t deserve more”.
As humans, so much of the intensity of our self-judgement and the volume of our self-belief around our ability to change is determined by our individual perspective of one epic battle: I Want To Change vs. But I Might Fail.
For many people (maybe you?), the threat of failure is incredibly scary, daunting and consistently a barrier to taking consistent action. One little stumble sets you reeling backwards. Facing the first hurdle knocks you off track and derails your momentum. Yet for some people, failure is just part of the process and carries no extra weight, baggage or intimidation.
If you peered into a dictionary, you would see failure defined as “A lack of success” where the definition of success would be “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose”.
Which creates an interesting and empowering paradox of failure: Failure is part of success.
What if failure was the purpose at that precise point in time? What if taking one particular path towards your goals wasn’t the right one. Wouldn’t you want to know that sooner than later?
What if the only way to fail was to not try at all?
Ask anyone who has achieved at the highest level and they will quickly tell you that their greatest lessons – the lessons they needed to learn – were experienced in times they failed. They wouldn’t have succeeded to the level they did without failing along the way.
If you are someone who fears failure (and the impending doom that your imagination has fabricated), I offer you this refreshing and empowering perspective on the battle of your Desire to Change vs. the Chance you Might Fail.
There is no failure, only feedback.
If your approach didn’t work, that’s feedback. If your first five attempts didn’t get the result you want, that tells you your method isn’t the right one.
Tweak it, revise it, ask for help, search for assistance, review what’s worked for you in the past, or look at the problem differently.
Aim for progress not perfection.
You don’t need to be perfect, you need to take action. You don’t need to be perfect, you need to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can’t fail as long as you move in the direction you want to go. The road won’t be perfectly paved but you will reach your destination as long as you keep taking action.
Recently, Richard Branson tweeted this comment on his recents logs from Antarctica:
“To all the doubters and individuals who believe we can’t change I ask this:
When a child stumbles with their first steps, should we tell them to stop trying?
When a student does poorly on their first test, should we tell them to stop studying?
When a teen has their heart broken for the first time, should we tell them to stop loving?
When an adult loses their first job, should we tell them to stop working?
When an entrepreneur fails at their first attempt, should we tell them to stop attempting?
When a senior gets their first serious illness, should we tell them to stop living?”
As I told the group of young, ambitious game players this same message you could see a weight lift off their collective shoulders.
They had the tools to change, the clarity of what they wanted and now the belief that yes, indeed, there is no failure to be afraid of — because failure is not final judgement.
It’s rather empowering feedback along their journey to happiness.
What could you start to take more action on if you adopted an empowering perspective on the meaning of failure?