Lying side by side in the darkness one evening, at that time of night when we know we should be sleeping but have our most honest conversations, he asked me something he had yet to learn about me: “What are you most afraid of? Is it Spiders? Snakes?”
No, I’m not scared of spiders or snakes, although perhaps I ought to be. I used to say I was most scared of nothingness, the white space around the edge of the universe, the gap created by the page margins if you were to print it on a piece of paper. But I grew out of that idea.
My biggest fear is failure.
This is the kind of anxiety that permeates everything, runs soul-deep and will affect me on every level. I cannot stand the idea of going through life without achieving anything. While I know, on a conscious level, that I’m victim to my own ambition, it is much harder to dismiss on the emotional level. My fear is sometimes so overwhelming that it stops me getting things done.
Day to day, failure in the little things makes me nervous. Things like whether or not I make time to post that letter, whether I am on time for my lectures, whether I get any writing done, whether I remembered to check my emails or call my family.
With the fear comes that disappointment at the end of a less-than-perfect day, when at 10pm I have only managed number one on the to-do list scribbled in the dark the night before. I have been known to break down in tears halfway through a day like this, when an attempt to visit the bank on my cycle home was greeted with a blank look from a security guard as he motioned for me to leave. The fear of failing can be so impenetrable that it seem to work against me in every effort I make.
Long-term goals, though, are even harder to pin down, harder to plan for, and therefore harder to achieve. I find myself oscillating from one extreme to the other regarding my mid- and long-term goals. There are Friday evenings when I think to myself: ‘I did a lot of writing this week’ or, ‘wow, I used so many new Chinese words in conversation this week.’ But then there are those weeks when I have scheduled 13 days of solid work-work-work and all I want to do is crawl up and hibernate before work starts again. On those days, I can’t see the wood for the trees.
But those days are few and far between now. Why? Because there are ways to flip this fear on its head and turn it into a motivation tool!
While it’s been a steep learning curve, often struggling over how best to balance things, the past few months have taught me a lot about using my time productively whilst staying happy and healthy, and I feel like I am really achieving something tangible.
Want to know six things I do to improve productivity and turn the fear of failure into a vehicle of success?
Read the full article here: The Fear of Failure and How to Use it to Motivate You | …a lil piece of joy.