Dwell in Possibility – Fear of failure as ingredient for success

Fear of failure manifests in many ways, shapes and forms, including self-doubt, lack of clarity and procrastination, the mother of all anxious-ridden thoughts.

I love Emily Dickinson. Between a sip of orange juice and a piece of Parmesan cheese Emily’s quote “Dwell in Possibility” reminds me from a magnet on my kitchen fridge of being open-minded while pursuing my goals. Very little was published after Emily’s death in 1886 until her sister Lavinia discovered nearly eighteen hundred poems. Emily lived a withdrawn life and produced powerful slant rhymes that have been uplifting people all over the world. Some women truly make all the difference.

As much as I consider myself adaptable and open to change, I have learned from my own stubbornness that goals do not need to be attached to specific expectations. There are infinite paths to success when we linger in the flow of creative opportunities. Why is it so difficult to step into the unknown and let things unfold? Wanting to control is often times an attempt to handle the fear of failure, the self-sabotage thinking made of “I am not good enough”, “How is it going to happen?” and “Why me?”

Dreams and aspirations are the salt and pepper of life, without them our existence on the planet would become a dull journey without much flavor. We all want to improve our experience on planet Earth, have great romantic relationships, fabulous careers, wealth and health. Nevertheless, just as strong as our desire to achieve, so it is our reluctance toward new approaches to get from where we are to where we want to be. No matter how outdated our comfort zone may be, familiarity with past experiences is our unwillingness to step out from what we know.

Fear of failure manifests in many ways, shapes and forms, including self-doubt, lack of clarity and procrastination, the mother of all anxious-ridden thoughts. When is the right time to make a decision? What is the right decision to make? What if I make a mistake? The list goes on and on gaining category five status depending on how high the stakes are. I have certainly had my share of fear of failure and I procrastinate plenty, I still do. Can we stop fearing failure? I doubt, but we can certainly look at fear as a vital piece of the process. I call it “recycling”.

From my perspective recycling means experiencing and accepting an emotion “as is” rather than wasting energy and time to change it. Being aware of an emotion does not equate to dodging its emotional impact on our life. I can’t change an emotion, but I can choose how to interpret its contribution to my world. If it’s there, let’s use it to my advantage. There is nothing wrong about feeling fearful as fear makes us keenly aware of the dynamics, challenges and opportunities within a situation. Fear becomes a problem only when we turn it into THE problem:

Keep Calm & Carry On – I could fail and still succeed. I could fail twice and still succeed. Successful people are the biggest losers, their wins are inspiring cause they follow endless failed attempts. Stop trying is the end, not failing.

Get Data – Information is risk free and costs very little, just some of our time. By gaining a clear understanding of the pros and cons, ramifications and complexities of our choices, fear of failure lessens its bite.

Be Real – Failing is not the end of the world, although it may feel like it. Failures are inevitable pieces of the process, lessons to better aim.

Do It – Actions are always preferable to mental “what ifs” that may never come true. As long as you do, you know you are getting somewhere.

Trust Your Instincts – You know you are ready to make a decision when “it feels right” in your stomach and “it sounds right” in your head. You have a very strong chance to make a good decision when sense and sensibility align in perfect synchronicity.


I would like to be stronger, self-assured and resolute all the time. I’d like to be an Olympic medalist, an Oscar winning actor or a spiritual leader whose soul is filled with uncompromising optimism. I have many heros I look up to and I know their path to glory had doubts, set backs, break troughs and tears. We are all men and women of wishes.

Could we make a mistake while trying to nail the perfect choice? It happens, life is a process, a step to be taken one at the time, choice after choice. I do not like making mistakes and I resent feeling fearful. I also know my mistakes and fears were never the end of the world, and much of my present’ serenity is truly because of them. Most of all, I would never trade a life free of failures and fears for a life I never fully lived:

I felt my life with both my hands
To see if it was there —
I held my spirit to the Glass,
To prove it possibler —

I turned my Being round and round
And paused at every pound
To ask the Owner’s name —
For doubt, that I should know the Sound —

Emily Dickinson