Fear of failure

Uneasy half dreams in

the dead of night,

fear, like a ghost, whispering

‘you are not good enough’.

Daylight brings clarity,

but fear grabs my arm,

pulls me back

says with authority

‘you are not ready’.

Fear climbs inside me

tenses my muscles

speaks with my voice

‘you must not get it wrong’.

Fear walks before me,

removing the risks,

smoothing the way

to conformity.


Ah, fear. I’m feeling pleased with myself today because I faced a fear, the fear of failure, of getting things wrong, of looking foolish in front of a group of people.

Since I signed up for a coach training course, I have been feeling very nervous about being observed while I coach. As part of the learning process, we attend classes where a student coaches another student and then gets feedback from the class and the teacher. It really is the perfect way to learn a new skill; listening to other people coach, being a client and also coaching and getting feedback.

I have to do three hours of coaching in these observed coaching classes as part of the course, all the while practising and improving the skills that I’m learning about in the other lessons. Then , when I’m ready, I have to do 10 hours of observed coaching in front of an assessor, as part of the assessment for the course.

So today, I dialled in to the beginner level observed coaching class, fully intending to be an observer, but when the teacher asked for someone to coach, it all went quiet. I waited a while, still no-one volunteered. Eventually, heart racing, I said I’d coach. Gulp!

It went OK, although nerve wracking. I didn’t do everything perfectly of course, there is loads for me to learn and practise. The feedback was really useful and I now know which aspects I need to work on next.

And it feels so good to finally have done it!

But it got me thinking about fear, particularly fear of failure.

For some reason I felt that I wasn’t good enough to coach in the class, even though the whole point of the classes is to learn, to make mistakes in a safe environment.

The teachers constantly remind us that we are learning and it’s normal to get things wrong, because we are learning something new.

But there is a perfectionist part of me that feels that I should already be good at it, which is ridiculous, why am I paying for a training course if I should already know how to do it! This part of me stops me from trying new things, stops me from stepping out of my comfort zone.

Fear of failure. Fear of doing something wrong in front of other people. Fear of looking stupid.

Of course, no-one else cared if I got things wrong, or thought I looked stupid, or thought I was a failure. The rest of the class and the teachers were there to support me. They were glad I’d stepped up to coach, because it meant they didn’t have to!

Fear is so good at holding us back, stopping us from doing what we really want to do. And the best way to deal with it? Well, I wish I knew! But one way to deal with it is to become aware of it and to do the thing you are scared of regardless.

This is what I keep telling myself. Allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to learn. You don’t have to be perfect.


How do you deal with the fear of failure?

Letting life unfold

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,

spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.

Basho


I have loved this haiku ever since I first read it. Twenty-five years ago I wrote it out on a piece of card and stuck it over my desk when I was revising for my final exams at university.

I felt instinctively that the words were true, yet I was stuck in a life where I had to strive to make things happen; work, and work some more, worry, then work harder, in order to get a qualification, so that I could get a job, so that I could carry on working hard.

The end was never in sight, just a life of effort and busyness.

I longed for a life where I was like the grass, biding my time and then growing when the conditions were right.

Or a life where I was just sitting, observing, not worrying or striving to control the grass (a pointless task!). Just relaxing, waiting for it to grow in its own sweet time and trusting that everything would unfold as it should.

Neither of these were true for me at the time, instead I was full of anxiety about the future. But I always felt that Basho was speaking across the centuaries to me, pointing out a better way to live.

I’ve been drawn to the haiku again recently as I talk to friends and coaching clients and think about my own life.

The idea of something happening, growing, reaching fruition in its own time and when the conditions are right. Of not knowing what the outcome will be, just letting life evolve and grow.

So often I’ve asked the question ‘now what should I do with my life?’ or ‘what should I do next?’ and expected an answer, fully formed and shiny, a new goal.

What happens when no goal appears, when I’m not sure what to do next? Can I allow my life to unfold naturally, following my interests and passions to see where they take me, without expectations?

My biologist self looks at the grass growing by itself and knows that it is only growing because of the coming together of the right conditions for grass to grow; warmth, sunlight, rain, suitable soil, the right numbers of grazing animals, strong roots that have survived the winter, viable grass seed.

So how can we create the right conditions in our own lives?

Sit quietly, do nothing. Or go for a walk, or whatever allows us the space and time to listen. We need the equivalent of sun, rain and sweet time to let us grow.

An idea nudges us in the quietness, whispers in a small voice ‘this is what I want’.

More ideas emerge, possibilities reveal themselves, action unfolds because it feels effortless, the right thing to do.

It takes faith and courage to let things evolve, to see where your path of life leads. Sometimes it can be a lonely road, it seems that not many others are taking it. But they are.

And eventually a goal emerges, a path appears in the undergrowth. There is a map and someone has been that way before. It might take some effort, risk and persistence to follow the path, but it feels right.

You just have to start walking through the grass, which is growing all by itself.


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Garden newsflash….baby slow worms

As you may know if you’ve been reading this blog recently, there is news in the garden too. And usually it’s more interesting than the actual news.

Today’s breaking garden news, baby slow worms, curled like bootlaces under some old roof tiles. So small! I see adult slow worms in the garden occasionally, but never baby ones.

Here is one, it’s not a great photo, I was tempted to poke it so it unfurled, but the slow worm would not have liked that, so I didn’t!

Seek stability where you are

I found this today in an old tai chi notebook, a quote by Wolfe Lowenthal from a workshop in Scotland 10 years ago. 10 years on and I’m still working on this, in tai chi and in life. Decided to share it, despite the spelling mistake, because it’s a great quote.

Rock rose

Ephemeral beauty,

tomorrow just

a pile of petals.


I love these pink rock rose flowers. In the morning they are closed and covered in dewdrops. As the day warms up they open and face the sun. By evening the petals are starting to fall and by the following morning petals lie like crumpled pink tissue paper on the soil. Luckily there are plenty more flowers waiting to open.