Are driven by the fear of failing or the will to succeed?
From an outward perspective both drivers are in hope of obtaining a singular goal, it is only internally that we can truly see the source. It may seem obvious when addressed; can you expect to fully gain from a given situation without fully providing the input. Focusing on the win, the result or maybe the perfect delivery; you may relate to the internal comment, “I need to do this!”. How can you expect anything less from what you provide; if at the exact moment you should be present, you are concerned with the outcome. The boxer, too focused on the knockout, discards the plan, not sticking to what’s been practised a hundred times before to end up sprawled out on the canvas, with victory prized from their clutches. Why do we practice, rehearse, prepare and train if only to lapse discipline in a moment of emotional reasoning or with concern of others judgement, or gratification; seemingly more interested with the perception of glory rather than the attainment. If your thoughts are on the next summit or the photo when you reach the mountain top then you should assess your reasoning for the journey. After all why would you not appreciate this view, when it was your goal to get here in the first place.
The fear of failing can provide a powerful trajectory; but is built on instability, and with instability comes weakness and eventual failure. It can often be met with an almighty fall from grace, tied up with anxiety and self-fulfilling defeatism. Maybe it’s that voice that says, “You're never good enough”, but is that your voice; or is it someone else’s? It can bare itself as rigidity of practice and/or within micromanagement. It can shape itself as perfectionism; with everything having to be just right, or anxiety; fear over the unknown path ahead or smallest changes, needing to know every detail. Some masquerade it by not even preparing before they begin, some by not showing up at all. This is known as self-sabotage and is a cruel means of denying your potential. ‘What if It goes wrong?’, but ‘What if it goes right?’, what if you are able to deliver on what you have prepared for, what you have practised and rehearsed time and time again.
The will to succeed, can be a formidable driver and there is a certain mindset that promotes inoculation. It requires self belief and confidence; validation that is sought internally rather than externally. For success is leased and every single day it must be earned, whether that be in your relationships, in your physical and mental body, your career, education, or whatever discipline your endeavour may be. It takes self awareness, realisation that you are not so special, you have flaws and in you lays the capacity for good and bad, but that’s also what makes you human, and that means you have the capacity for choice. Reflecting on this provides genuine insight in who you are. Be honest and objective when recognising what you are good at; trust this judgment, grab it by two hands and own it, after all you have worked hard to attain it. Human qualities are not fixed but flexible and the truth is, if the path has been walked before then it can be walked by you. Winston Churchill said “If you are in hell, keep going.”, what he meant by this was to not simply persist under punishment, but thrive - to stand forthright, with conviction and confidence, with the whites of your eyes showing and have grit to dig deep.
On August 13th 2008 during the Mens 200m Butterfly Finals of the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps prepared himself for the start position. Phelps would have no doubt felt the relentless pressure of the roaring crowd, the millions watching and having to deliver on the years spent in intense training. Renowned for his diligence, Phelps, prepares by visualising the ideal swim before he goes to sleep each night, a rigorous mental exercise in which he imagines gliding and undulating through the water in real time, stroke by stroke, divining the intimate rhythms of the perfect race.
As the Klaxon sounds, the Olympian ignites off the block with such ferocity that as soon has he hit the water, his goggles began to rapidly fill up with water. At the turn of the 100m point he was swimming blind with a final turn still to undergo, followed by the last sprint to the finish line. To those unknowingly watching could see that there was something off with the American swimmer. Persisting, he maintained a solid pace at the front of the pack reaching the finish line nearly a full second ahead of second place. As he ripped off his goggles and rubbed his waterlogged eyes, he could just make out his time 1:52.03, a new World Record.
By Phelps accepting that his filled goggles where blinding his vision he was accepting what was out of his control, in doing so he was able to prioritize what was in his control; years of experience and visualization culminating in an intuition, a gut instinct that provided him an ability that he could trust to embrace adversity, meet it head on and conquer. He won 8 gold medals, broke 7 World records and 1 Olympic record during those games; while his 200m Butterfly record has since on to be overthrown, Phelps’s mentality has meant he is now the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 Medals, 23 being gold.
There is no one size fits all; be prepared to meet difficulties or even failure with resilience, for failure drives opportunities for growth; in growth we find resolve for self improvement and in self improvement, we are led on to a path towards success and even mastery. In being the best version of yourself, you can contribute the best to others around you. Remain humble in the pursuit, after all, what is the value of the success if not met by the success of the other wolves within the pack. But chose your pack wisely, for unity provides strength. Step forward with conviction in your actions, burn bright and venture boldly upon the frontiers, and conquer whatever suffering you deem your trials worthy to be. It is in treading these paths that greatness is found.
Any obstacle must be met with conviction, after all the obstacle in the way, becomes the way. In facing the obstacle, we have a choice and it often comes down to one truth – “Whether you think you can, or can’t. Your right.”
So are driven by the fear of failing or the will to succeed?