“If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” “Better safe than sorry!” “The higher you fly the harder you fall.” “Bloom where you are planted.” “Better play it safe!”
These are all quotes from our upbringing and beyond. Well-meaning parents, teachers, friends, partners have at times tried to protect us by helping us take the safe route.
And this is fine.
And then there is this inner doubt that is created from this kind of conditioning. We fear failure.
It happens to each one of us many times in our lives: we are in a situation that forces us to make a choice. A choice between the known and the unknown. The known might have grown too small and constricting, yet the unknown seem like a mountain in front of us with untold possibilities and risks at even measure. We are at a cross road!
When we face new situations and with it our fear of failure is activated, we might look to inspirational stories. We all know the one about Thomas Edison and why he hadn’t failed but knew of 10,000 ways that didn’t work, etc. And there are many others. It is useful and inspirational to read such stories, yet might not really cut to the core of what we might be feeling.
Inside we might be hearing a little voice that sounds something like this:
“You’ll fall on your face if you try that” “Who do you think you are?” “They will laugh at you for trying this.” “What makes you think you can make this work now when you couldn’t before?”
And no matter how many inspirational quotes and empowering stories we read to boost our courage, this little pesky voice always seems to yell the loudest. This voice might even feel comforting, like a friend who is trying hard to protect us from our own foolishness.
This little voice does want to protect us. And it is important to acknowledge this. It is not an enemy we need to destroy or annihilate!
The problem comes in when that little voice of caution becomes so loud that it blocks our perception of what we might miss if we only listen for the cautionary tale it tells.
Are you going to take the Opportunity Exit – or just keep going?
This kind of work is often part of coaching sessions. We work on our inner voices of caution that hold us back from stepping into our highest potential. Here is a version that you can use yourself:
Express your wish for new possibilities. Write it down.
What will be possible for you when you seize this new opportunity?. Write it down.
Welcome the voice of caution. It is trying to protect you. Do not fight it. Write down what it says.
Ask the voice of caution where it comes from (is this the voice of a well-meaning parent, is it the voice of previous defeat, is it the voice of convention, etc.) Notice which parts of this voice truly feels aligned with your highest purpose and what parts feels constricting and not really your own. Write it down.
Now with both want for new opportunities and fear of failure clearly separated out in front of you, it is time for you to make a more informed decision. You now have a clearer view of which part of these voices of caution are the voices of convention and conditioning versus the voices that align more fully with your highest purpose.
Keeping in mind that we rarely get all or nothing scenarios. Every new opportunity holds within it aspects that might be difficult to deal with as well as exhilarating new possibilities – and every staying within what is known and perceived as a safer (and possibly more comfortable in the short-term) choice likewise has perceived positives and negatives.
Here is to making a more aware choice in every decision in your life!