In the last few days, no fewer than 5 people said, in response to my asking them what is keeping them from doing the work they say they need to do to reach the goals they set for themselves, "what if I do all this and I fail?" Now, I've heard this before; most successful people fear failure. However, what is new here is the "all this" part -- it isn't just "what if I fail" but "what if I fail after I've expended tremendous effort or time."
To each I responded, "and then what? What happens if you did all this and failed."
Common response, "then it would have been a waste of energy/effort/time."
And I'm thinking how is this wasted time different from the time wasted watching tv., posting to facebook, etc.? But I don't say this because such a comment would take them to a different place -- defense or shame -- than where they need to go.
Me: "Ok, then what. You wasted some effort or time, so . . . "
1) So, then I would have failed. If I don't try then I can always hold out hope that if I were willing to spend the effort I might succeed. Whereas if I fail, I'll know the truth is I can't do it. Then, I might not try anything like it again.
2) I'd burn out from all the work. I need to conserve my energy.
3) I wouldn't have fun and if I didn't have fun then my life would be really sad.
In the context of my discussions with these folks -- one of helping them develop the capacity to solve their own problems -- I didn't want to lecture them from my perspective and values on these three responses. For the purposes of this blog, though, I want to ask my readers: what do you think about these three responses? If you were to give advice to these folks, what would it be?
Finally, while the "fear of failure" concern comes up frequently in my coaching work, I'd never heard concerns 2 and 3 before. Both were from people under age 25. Is this a new generation thing? Is there some new fear of over-exertion and lack of fun?