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The Courage to Act

"If we take a risk we might fail. If we don’t take a risk we surely will fail. The greatest risk of all is to do nothing." – Unknown

Why would anyone go through the process of setting and planning goals and then not follow through? One possible answer is that the rewards aren’t sufficient to motivate you into action. Another probable answer is that procrastination has derailed or stalled you. The inability to act can often be traced to fear, doubt, or the absence of a clear picture of the potential rewards and consequences. Fear, in general, can be defined as False Evidence Appearing Real.

Common fears can be divided into three basic categories:

  • Fear of criticism, rejection, or exposure
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of failure

Although any one of these can cause you to become immobile, it is usually a combination of all three that create the most difficulty. Here is a closer look at the barriers to goal achievement …

Fear of criticism, rejection, or exposure is linked closely with the need for social acceptance. People will go to great lengths to adopt a mode of dress or a certain type of behavior because they fear criticism and rejection of others. Fear of having an idea rejected causes the loss of billions of dollars for American business.

Fear of the unknown can also inhibit achievement. Many times, our need for security (the need to feel safe) causes us to be fearful in those situations in which we’re not sure what is going to happen. Our fear of what might or might not happen can cause us to keep from doing those things we should do to bring us closer to our goals. One key to addressing fear of the unknown is examining the possibilities and then weighing them against doing nothing.

It is not unusual for a person to want something intensely but, because of the fear of failure, not even try to attain it. Whether it’s the CEO who’s afraid to make a change in structure or the manager who is afraid to develop a more competent, self-directed team, fear can be a major deterrent to success. If you promote a risk avoidance mentality, innovation, growth, and the entire goal setting process can be stifled. If mistakes are met with criticism and/or punishment, people will be inclined to do only what they know how to do. It will inhibit creativity and improvement. By not trying, people frequently ensure failure – the very thing that they’re trying to avoid. Fear of failure has blinded many people from seeing opportunities.

Many people view failure as a permanent, indelible, and negative state. It’s not that at all! In fact, failure can be a very positive experience. Failure provides an opportunity to learn. Any newly attempted endeavor invites failure. The first time you try to ski you are guaranteed to fall. If you don’t fall you haven’t moved or progressed. Without failure there is no progress. When you stop failing, you stop learning. Failure is important to success if it is viewed as an opportunity to learn. To change failure from a negative experience to a positive phenomenon, eliminate those conditions which contribute to fear of failure. Develop a culture in which individuals are recognized and rewarded for innovation and creative problem solving.

"Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." – Oscar Wilde