In the previous post, we looked into what it means to be wrong and why making mistakes is not only human and inevitable, but actually necessary in order to create truly powerful solutions and achieve lasting success.
But however much we may understand this, even internalize it, it is usually not enough in helping dispel the fear of failure. Most of us wait and hope for the fear to first go away before we feel safe enough to act. Yet it rarely works because the fear is based on present confusion and anxiety – and imagined future disaster – of what might happen as a result.
What DOES work is recognizing the fear and acting anyway FIRST.
So how do you do that?
A good place to start is to understand some effective next steps in how to resolve the mistake.
Whether it is a life-altering decision or a smaller matter, the good news is that many things are “fixable”. We may not always be able to correct the mistake but usually there are ways to lessen the damage and still come out on top.
What we often don’t realize is that our mindset in solving a mistake is different before the mistake happens and after.
Before it happens we are focused on the consequences of getting it wrong. And once the mistake has occurred and is a reality, we become focused on solutions. These are very different ways of operating and even if previous mistakes have left your blocked, the good news is you can decide to enter “solution mode”, which is ultimately what you need to do to “right it”. After enough times of acting and making mistakes and realizing that the world doesn’t end, the fear starts to diminish.
The mistake many make is that the very discomfort of being wrong leads them to resist the solution and they fail to do the key steps to righting it:
- Admit it – to yourself first, then to everyone else who is impacted by it (you can decide to what degree is necessary but it is important to be upfront about it).
- Take steps to fix it – take it as yet another project where “no solution” is no option. Once you start communicating your needs and looking for answers, they will come.
- Learn from it – sometimes the most important lessons and revelations can only come through getting it wrong. But really. Without having had the personal experience of the mistake, and the process of finding resolutions, certain lessons would only have been learned superficially.
Even if you make a mistake with a client, you can apologize and look for ways to repair the damage. Think about all the times we were so disappointed in big governments and corporations who caused great pain and could not own up and simply say “We are sorry, we will fix it, and here’s how”. Maybe they will not give you a second chance but the humility, dignity and honor in trying to do the right thing is rare and often goes a long way.
If it is in your personal life, again, admitting that things went wrong, apologizing for the effect it had (even if it was an unfortunate consequence of trying to do the right thing), can be magical.
Let me give you an example: you have an argument with a loved one. You really believe that you are “right” by saying or doing what you did but the result in the end is not helpful. The person is hurt, upset, against you in that moment. And if they matter enough to you, more than the need to be right, you can say “I’m sorry that I hurt you. That was not my intention. I just really want you to understand X. Let’s try again and I am ready to listen to your end of things.”
There have been a great many lives and opportunities ruined over the simple failure to say “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong”. This does not mean supplicating to others or giving up your values or point of view. But if you can sincerely communicate your desire for another’s wellbeing, for a mutually beneficial outcome, that apology for it not having come across well can be the golden key to creating an open dialogue towards resolution.
This is not easy, but it is achievable. If you are in such a situation, contact me to talk about it.
Which brings me to the question of what is failure?
For me, it is giving up, when giving up is not the true best option. Not admitting. Not taking responsibility. Not communicating. Not trying to find new solutions to fix it.
If we give up because we are too afraid to confront the situation and work to fix it, failure is inevitable. Yet if we gain confidence in our own willingness and ability to continue looking for the right solutions, regardless of how many times we get it wrong, the very fear of failure starts to dissipate.
Anna Ferrer, co-founder of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation said, “If you approach your goal with an open heart and are truly willing to work and fight for it, you cannot fail.” You cannot, because eventually you will find the solution. Read here more about their work.
In the next posts we will cover the key other fears around this issue:
- “How will I recover from the mistake?”
- “People will ridicule and reject me.”