What would YOU attempt to do if you KNEW you could not fail?
Would you start your own business? Would you learn how to play an instrument?
Would you invest in the stock market? Would you begin a weight-loss program?
This phrase is on a paperweight I bought to put in my office…because I absolutely love this question. Thanks to asking myself this question, I have attempted many things in my life that I am certain I would not have otherwise: leaving a “paid job” and going into private practice as a therapist, becoming a mother, writing a support book, starting a website and blog, and attempting homemade spanakopita are all examples.
And there are many more things left on my “bucket list.”
I believe the power of this question does not lie in the reassurance that no matter what you attempt, you are not going to fail. Because of course not everything you attempt will be successful. (I have literally dumped many of my attempted recipes down the garbage disposal. My cat wouldn’t even touch it.) For me, the power of the question lies in helping you to overcome any fears about failing that you have, so that you can at least begin and make the attempt.
Putt-Putt Golfers Look Silly…
I know too many people who will not attempt anything unless they know they are going to be good at it first. (As if you can know before you try!) And I know exactly what goes on behind this way of being because I used to be this way. I wouldn’t pick up a putt-putt golf club and give it a whack for the longest time, because I was afraid I would look silly and suck at it.
Spoiler alert: everyone holding a putt-putt golf club looks silly! I’m not sure it’s possible to not look silly. I’m actually quite sure now that the whole point of putt-putt golf is to provide us with an excuse to be silly! I get now how much I used to miss out on because I didn’t want to look stupid or perform badly at something.
I could have been on the Putt-Putt Pro Tour by now…I coulda been a contender!
Ah well, lesson learned.
I realize now that everything we do is that proverbial “learning experience,” and as long as you are learning something, you can’t really fail….
So, beyond the fact that asking “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” will help you get started if you’re afraid of failing at something, there’s something else that has helped me about considering this little-big question. It has made me completely question the concept of failure itself. Webster’s defines failure as: “nonperformance of something due, required, or expected.” Whenever I am trying to work something out, I search definitions for meaning and try to make sense out of things.
Webster and I are good pals.
And in looking at this definition of failure, I finally found the little hobgoblin (definition: “something causing superstitious fear”) that was hiding out and making me and other people afraid of failure…it was hiding, as usual, behind expectations.
It’s the fear of not meeting an expectation that provides the fuel for fear of failing at something. If there is no expectation (or if the expectation is completely realistic), then all fear is removed. Let me say that one more time: If there is no expectation, then all fear is removed. Instant Fear-Be-Gone! Wish I could bottle this stuff.
I Suck at Putt-Putt- Golf… Just Keepin’ It Real
So, to go back to putt-putt golf, because why not?…if your expectation is to perform poorly since it is your first time, then you’re going to do just fine. How are you going to fail at performing poorly? Hmmmm… I guess you could do really well.
Then you’d have to decide if you want to pout about that. Not. Am I confusing you yet?
Or if your expectation is that you are going to learn something about this “sport” because you’ve never tried it before (a realistic expectation), then you’re also going to be fine. How are you going to fail at learning something new? I suppose if you completely close your mind, it may be possible. You might even learn that putt-putt golf is not something you ever want to play again…and that could be valuable information. In case someone wanted to sign you up for the Fall putt-putt golf league…you never know.
So, what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? If you knew that as long as you learned something from the experience, that would be good enough? If no matter the outcome, you would not label it as a failure? What would you attempt to do?
C’mon…let’s go hit those putt-putt greens!
Dr. Anita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist
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