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Eliminate the Fear That Stops You

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Seth Godin did it again. I recently read his newest book, Poke the Box, and it's just the right book for our times. It probably will become his 13th bestseller.

If you've read any of his earlier books or his daily blog (which I devour as soon as it arrives in my inbox), you know that Seth is passionate about innovation and change. And, he stresses repeatedly, if you want to produce something new and change anything, you have to start, and you have to "ship" -- in other words, create a product or service and then make it available, or, in still other words, get an idea for something new that people will find valuable and willing to pay for, and then stay with it until it's ready to ship.

But everyone knows that. Do we need another book that repeats that obvious truth? The reason we need Seth's book is that despite the fact that the need to start and ship is obvious, most people don't do it.

The Fear of Failure

Seth correctly says that the major reason is fear of failure. We are afraid to make mistakes and to fail. And anytime you are trying something new, something that hasn't been proven to work before, there is always the possibility of a mistake or failure.

Seth spends most of his latest book encouraging people to overcome this fear and giving them tips on how to do it. I totally agree with Seth that what is needed most in this world is innovation that is turned into products and services and then shipped. I also agree that fear of mistakes and failure is the biggest barrier to people doing this.

But I have a slight disagreement about why so many people are afraid. Yes, we do have a reptilian brain where the only thing that counts is our survival. That's why anything we perceive as threatening our survival will produce the emotion of fear. But what determines what we perceive to be a threat to our survival? If you are a regularly reader of my posts, you won't be surprised when I say the answer is beliefs -- in this case, two specific beliefs.

The Beliefs That Cause a Fear of Failure

What make people fear mistakes and failure are two beliefs that most people seem to have: "Mistakes and failure are bad," and, "If I make a mistake or fail, I'll be rejected." If you think it is bad to make a mistake or fail and that you will be rejected if you do either of these two things, you will experience fear, and, in most cases, the fear will inhibit action.

Why are these two beliefs so common? Well, let's take a look at how they were formed. Most parents never take parenting classes on learning how to be an effective parent, and most parents bring their own "baggage" with them to the job of parenting. Moreover, most parents have unreasonable expectations for their children. For example, most parents expect toddlers to come when called, sit still, not make too much noise, and do what they are told to do. All of these things are virtually impossible for a toddler.

How do parents respond when their expectations are not met? In the best of cases, they respond with mild annoyance and frustration, but in the worst of cases, with physical abuse. The reaction of most parents is in between these two extremes. Most parents get angry and repeat the phrases that have become clichés in our society: "How many times do I have to tell you?" "Don't you ever listen?" "Why can't you do what I tell you?" "What's wrong with you?" Many of our clients tell us about their parents' "look."

What meaning does a 4- to 6-year-old give to his parents' response? I'm not doing what my parents want. I don't seem to be able to give them what they want. I'm making mistakes and failing. And because Mom and Dad are angry, that must be bad. And because it feels like my parents don't love me when they are angry at me and it feels like they are withdrawing from me, it feels like I'm being rejected.

Yes, most schools also create an environment in which these two beliefs are likely to be formed. Unfortunately most kids have already created these beliefs at home before the age of 6, before they ever got to school.

How do I know this? Because my associates and I have helped over 13,000 clients eliminate the beliefs that cause most of the problems in their lives, and most of these clients have had these two beliefs about mistakes and failure. And the type of parenting behavior I described above is the source of the beliefs for almost all of them.

That's the Bad News... Here's the Good News

Beliefs like these can be quickly and permanently eliminated. And what I've discovered from my work with clients is that as soon as these two beliefs are eliminated (sometimes a few other core beliefs are required), the fear of failure literally disappears. Forever. So maybe the best way to create a world in which most people are willing to "poke the box" -- to create a new idea, then start work on it and then ship it -- is to help millions of people get rid of the beliefs that are preventing such behavior.

Here are the steps of a modified version of the Lefkoe Belief Process® that will enable most people to eliminate these two beliefs about mistakes and failure (and most other beliefs) permanently. (Literally tens of thousands of people have gotten rid of these beliefs using this process.) Just ask someone these questions and allow them to answer. I'll provide the answers that most people with the belief that "mistakes and failure are bad" have given.

How to Eliminate the Belief... Permanently

Step 1: What is the belief?

Mistakes and failure are bad.

Step 2: What is the source of the belief? What happened (usually before the age of 6 if it's a self-esteem belief) that led to this belief being formed?

Mom and Dad were critical of me when I didn't do what they wanted, when they wanted, or the way they wanted. They said things like, "Can't you do anything right?" "When are you going to learn?" Sometimes they'd just look and sound disappointed, and sometimes they got angry and yelled.

Step 3: Can you see that, although the meaning you gave the events (your belief) is one logically valid interpretation, there are three of four others? Name a few other possible meanings for my behavior and Mom and Dad's reaction to it.

Mom and Dad's annoyance at me when I didn't live up to their expectations could have several meanings: Mom and Dad thought mistakes and failure were bad, but they were wrong. Mistakes and failure were bad in my house; they might not have been bad in other households. Mom and Dad didn't understand that mistakes and failure can be great learning experiences and aren't bad at all. Mom and Dad got annoyed at me, not because mistakes and failure are bad, but because they had unreasonable expectations of me as a young child.

Step 4: After helping find several other interpretations, ask: can you see that your interpretation (your belief) is not the truth, but that it is only a truth, one possible interpretation of several that explain the events? The answer usually will be yes.

Yes. It is only a truth.

Step 5: Imagine being present during the earlier events where your belief was formed. Doesn't it seem as if you can see [the words of the belief]? The answer usually will be yes.

I did see it.

Step 6: Can you really "see" [the words of the belief]? If you can really "see" it, tell me what it looks like, the shape, color, and location?

I can't see it. The belief was only in my mind, not in the world.

Step 7: Can you get that, although there certainly were consequences of Mom and Dad's comments and behavior, it had no meaning? In other words, you don't know anything for sure about mistakes and failure merely from how your parents responded to your behavior as a child, do you?

No, I don't. The childhood events have no inherent meaning, only the meaning I gave them.

Step 8: Say the words of the belief. Does this statement still feel like the truth? The answer usually will be no.

The belief is gone.

Try It Yourself

As always, don't take my word for what I am claim. I urge you to try the exercises I present in my posts so that you can discover for yourself that they work and result in profound changes in people. To see the steps of this process in action and to eliminate the belief that "mistakes and failure are bad" yourself, please go to recreateyourlife.com/free/mistakes.php. Try this and then let us know what results you produced. Tell us if people who eliminate the two beliefs start and ship more than they did before. Based on my experience with thousands of people, they will.

For more information about Morty Lefkoe and how his method for eliminating beliefs can improve business success, please go to lefkoe.com.