A headline caught my eye recently: “It’s amazing what you can do when you take away the fear of failure”. It was an interview with Ben Duckett, an English cricketer who’s had a great season. While I only understood about six sentences in the whole article – I’m no cricket connoisseur, and I have no clue what a pull shot is – the last few paragraphs really hit home for me. Duckett says that letting go of the fear of failure and focusing on just playing cricket, rather than trying to be England’s “best ever opener”, has made him a better player.
There’s a reason this point about not trying to be ‘the best’ resonated so much with me.
My YouTube Project
Recently, I’ve been (supposedly!) working on a YouTube channel with resources for my clients. This is a project that’s really important to me; I’ve been planning it for a few years now and this was the year that I finally decided to get it done.
Except I’ve been worrying so much about creating the ‘best’ channel, I haven’t actually made any videos yet!
I’ve built up such high expectations for this channel that when I think about working on it, I start feeling very overwhelmed. I know this is something many people experience – you put so much pressure on how you want something to turn out that suddenly it becomes really daunting, or you feel totally underqualified. This makes it really difficult to actually get down to work – you might find yourself listing all of the things you need to learn how to do before you can even begin to tackle the task. Or you might procrastinate by doing something that gives you comfort or is easier to do.
These tendencies act as roadblocks – they make it much harder to get things done. I could spend a lifetime improving my script-writing skills or scouring the internet for examples of great videos. However, producing the ‘best’ YouTube channel would still be an impossible task. For starters, I don’t even really know what that would look like! But I know that in reality I already have the skills to produce something that’s at the very least good enough, and actually probably pretty great.
After I had read this Ben Duckett interview, I heard psychologist Thomas Curran talking on Radio 1’s Life Hacks about procrastination, and he touched on these same issues I’ve been facing. He made a point that really made me pause: When we get stuck in these ways of thinking, we give more weight to the consequences we imagine of something not being perfect (which are usually much worse than the reality) than we do to the very real consequences of the thing not being done at all!
If I think about my social media efforts, the actual consequences of it not being the most interesting, the most entertaining channel on the internet, are in reality dwarfed by the negative consequences of not doing it at all. If it’s merely “good enough”, then, true, some people may not love it, some people might even dislike it. But the downsides of it not getting done are much bigger: I continue to feel bad about myself for not moving forward with this project, and most importantly my clients don’t have easy access to interesting and helpful resources when they need them.
Comparing the consequences like this – being realistic about what might actually happen if something is imperfect, versus the downsides if it doesn’t get done at all – can be really helpful. It can make it easier to set reasonable expectations, which in turn can help us to feel more confident in our ability to do the task. If you feel confident that you can do something, you’re likely to do a better job!
So if, like me, you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or avoiding a task, because you’re worried about failing, give these techniques a try:
- Ask yourself what would actually happen if it wasn’t perfect. And what would happen if you didn’t do it at all?
- Reset your expectations and work out what would be good enough.
- Just make a start! Most tasks seem much less daunting once you actually get going.
If you struggle with this, contact us, and let’s have a chat about how the Lightning Process can help you.