There is a saying in baseball that “you can’t steal second with your feet on first.” Would Ricky Henderson have stolen more bases than any player in major league history if he were afraid to risk being thrown out? The answer, obviously, is no. And yet, the fear of failure, more than any single thing, can keep us from realizing our goals. The fear of failure actually makes us fail more. The thought of negative consequences threatens us, inhibits us, and tightens us up. Fear of failure leads to contracted muscles and shortened breathing. It overloads the system with stress. Fear makes you play safe. Fear makes you play small.
Here is a fun exercise to look at fear of failure. Give each person in the group several wadded up sheets of paper and ask him or her to toss them into a wastebasket from three different spots: directly over the basket, from fifteen feet away, and from forty feet away. Then discuss how each person felt at the different distances. Studies have shown that those who fear failure will feel most anxious from fifteen feet. Standing over the basket they know success is guaranteed. Standing forty feet away they have no expectations to succeed. From fifteen feet, they feel they should be able to toss the paper ball into the basket, but they know there is a chance they may fail. When you are not afraid to fail, your chances of succeeding improve.
From an early age, most of us were told what we did wrong on a test instead of what we did right. Soon, we develop a fear of doing things wrong so we stop taking risks. Sometimes, however, the greatest risk is not to take a risk. Remember two things; none of us is perfect, and our greatest lessons usually come from failure. So the next time you get the sign to steal second, get your feet off first and run as hard as you can! You can do it. Keep trying!