Don’t let fear of failure hold you back in your photography business.
Whenever you’re asking yourself questions about your business (and life!) try questioning yourself with this phrase – ‘If you knew you couldn’t fail…’
If you knew you couldn’t fail… what work would you be doing right now?
If you knew you couldn’t fail… what would your business look like?
If you knew you couldn’t fail... what kind of life would you be leading?
If you knew you couldn’t fail… what new thing would you try?
If you knew you couldn’t fail... what changes would you make?
If you knew you couldn’t fail… what would your goals be this year?
If you knew you couldn’t fail… what would you stop doing?
I’m always surprised at my answers when I ask myself this. Things can come out that I didn’t even realise were there in my head. So often when we ask ourselves questions and especially when we set ourselves goals, we limit ourselves before we even get them down on paper. We don’t even realise we’re doing it. It’s so easy for our mind to censor itself during the process of dreaming things up – we sometimes discount things before we’ve even consciously thought about them properly.
When we think, “What could our goals be?’ we’re instantly and subconsciously influenced by what our brains feel is possible for us.This involves our brains not only sifting through all the facts and data floating around in there, but also all our totally subjective thoughts, ideas, feelings, memories, fears, worries, insecurities and comparison to others.
It’s not an objective process and our brain loves to err on the side of caution – it’s our ‘lizard brain’ in full action (a topic for another day!) – a highly oversensitive, prehistoric, inbuilt, ‘annoying old fusspot’ mechanism for keeping us ‘safe’. It also loves to tell us we’re not capable of things we’re perfectly capable of doing. In short, our brains can be real a*seholes.
Often our brain will dismiss something as ‘not possible’ or even not consider it at all in the first place – when actually it’s just something we’ve never done before and that feels scary, or it’s something that our brain has decided for whatever reason is a thing ‘other people’ can do, but not us. It’s also hard for our brain to distinguish between real and perceived limitations – fear is a powerful force and our brains frequently confuse ‘scary’ or ‘the unknown’ with ‘not possible’. Our brain likes to take the easy route: easy = safe = doable. We confuse what we want with what we think is possible.
Our brain also very much resides in the present and past. Only using these as points of reference (‘What ARE we doing? What HAVE we done?) and rarely venturing into the unknown future (‘What COULD we do?) Our mind will often tell us that there are practical reasons things aren’t possible, when the reality is that we just haven’t worked out yet HOW to make them possible. Similarly, it will often just tell us to do what we can see others around us doing – because it’s an existing ‘beaten path’ that’s already been taken, that our brain processes as ‘safe’ – it won’t necessarily assess whether it’s right for us personally or whether there’s another as yet unseen path that could be even better for us.
Using the ‘If you knew you couldn’t fail’ question lifts us up out of this restricted range of options. It removes the instinctive fear reflex and any perceived practical limitations and enables us to consider what we actually really want. It forces us to be honest with ourselves about our passions and dreams… It enables us to cut through the bullsh*t… To focus not on the things we think are meant for us, nor things we think we should be doing, nor things that other people are doing… but the things we actually deeply want for ourselves when all the fear is stripped away.
Fear of failure is one of the most common limits we place on ourselves. For this reason, we usually only consider goals that fall within the ‘possible’ arena that our brains have pre-drawn for us – we only look within a limited number of options. We might set goals that push us, but we won’t usually set goals we feel are impossible. We look at where we are NOW, and then work forwards from there, setting goals that might feel big, but are also seen as doable steps from our current situation.
If you use the ‘if I couldn’t fail’ filter, our goal(s) might still feel undoable right now. But what you can now do is work backwards from this open-minded ‘ideal’ rather than forwards from a place of limitation. You can start to work out practical ways to get there, break it down into smaller, manageable steps. Connecting with your deeper passions and dreams will give you the impetus and motivation to push through things that feel a little scary – to find ways to incorporate more of what you want into your life and work – to work out ways to make things possible that right now seem impossible. Build your goals from hope, not fear.
Try asking yourself these questions – have they turned up anything unexpected for you? What has fear of failure stopped you from going after?
Let me know in the comments!
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