Stop Giving Yourself Permission To Fail

Copyright 2006 Christopher Green

It’s a powerful statement isn’t it? Because who on earth would ever give themselves permission to fail? But, and I say this without any fear of contradiction, most people I meet give themselves permission to fail time and time again.

The problem is that the permission is given without even realizing it. I’m going to give a couple of examples of this so you can be aware of it and so you can stop doing it.

1. An acquaintance of mine is a perfect example of the first type. Anthony talks the talk, sure, but never manages to walk the walk. Recently, his wife spent $1000 on a saxophone for a birthday present because he was telling all and sundry how determined he was to learn. 6 months on, I asked him how he was getting on with it: “Oh, I’ve not started yet.”

“How come?” says I.

“Well, I’ve had so much to do, I’ve just been too busy with everything.”

Having played guitar for 20 years, I thought I’d challenge this. He became angry and aggressive, determined to demonstrate that learning was beyond his power as other matters demanded his time. Seeing how animated he was becoming, I didn’t mention other matters such as: drinking every night of the week during summer; his absolutely huge DVD collection and how much time he spends watching them; and how on Sundays he does absolutely nothing other than eat a huge lunch and sleep most of the afternoon – before going out for a couple of drinks in the evening of course.

He gives himself permission to fail because he’s frightened to take action and put in the effort to learn. He then clings to the “I’m too busy” excuse. Please be aware of how much time you spend on pastimes that won’t deliver any rewards at all. TV, socializing, lazy days – they will rob your dreams from you if you over-indulge them. Value time – it is a very precious resource.

2. Another common way to permit failure is to ask others what they think of your ideas and plans. Now, this is an absolute beauty. Because most people don’t consult with people who’ve done something with their lives. Instead, they consult with people who haven’t done anything. They get negative feedback, their plans are dismissed as “pie in the sky”, or the classic “if it was good everyone would do it” and plans are abandoned on the advice of others. It absolves you of any responsibility: “I’d have tried but others cautioned me against it” so you can feel nice and warm and continue as before safe in the knowledge that it isn’t your fault. Wrong. It is. You give yourself permission to fail because you allow people who don’t know any better to influence you. If you want advice about your plans and ideas, consult with people who have done something. Asking advice from people who have never overcome their fears and took a risk is like asking a computer programmer to fine-tune an engine instead of asking a qualified engineer.

3. Finally, and one of the most common: Giving yourself permission to fail because you have a family. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has said to me: “I’d love to (move abroad, start a business, pursue an alternative lifestyle – whatever) but I have a family to think of so it’s out of the question now”. Honestly, I hear this from friends and acquaintances, from clients who email me, and I see it on countless forums that I frequent. Is it valid? It certainly isn’t, in fact, it’s just another way of permitting failure. There are numerous families who decided to pursue a dream together. Blaming family is a very cute excuse because you’re saying it’s OK to fail because a family has taken your choices away. It’s a way of absolving yourself from the responsibility of taking action so permission to fail is granted. A way to stop this excuse is to realize that as other families achieve dreams together, then so can yours. And the rewards will be shared by the whole family.

Each of the above have their roots in fear. But you don’t overcome fear by giving yourself permission to fail. Why not give yourself permission to succeed instead?

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