Ep. 94: “I’m Terrified of FAILING”

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In this episode I’m teaching you how you can jump off the “fear of failure” merry-go-round and move forward on a steady path.

My friends, before I jump🦘into the nitty gritty of today’s podcast, I have three questions for you:

  1. Do you sometimes feel that WORRY, DOUBT, and FEAR keep you from getting what you want?
  2. Are you so terrified of FAILING that you feel helpless?
  3. Would you like DIFFERENT OUTCOMES in your life, but you aren’t sure how to get there?  

If you’re nodding your head “yes” to any of these, you’re in the right place today🌞!

In this episode I’m teaching you how you can jump off the “fear of failure” merry-go-round 🎠 and move forward on a steady path.

This episode of the Fitness Matters podcast is near and dear to my heart💓 because I’ve been on the “fear of failure” merry-go-round🎠 myself. But you know what?  I’ve learned how to jump off and move forward on a steady path, and today I’m teaching you how you can, too.  

Plus, I’m sharing the TWO LITTLE WORDS that changed EVERYTHING for me✊😍! 

Ready to dive in?  Let’s GO!

(Don’t wanna listen? Download the transcript here)

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Ep. 008: GOAL Language

Ep. 050: Getting OLDER

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“I’m Terrified of FAILING” (Full Transcript) 

You’re listening to the Fitness Matters podcast with Pahla B, and this is episode number 94, “I’m Terrified of Failing.”

Hello, hello, my friends. That was a rather dramatic entrance, wasn’t it? I know. You guys, sometimes, sometimes we get really dramatic when we are talking about fitness matters that matter to us. This one actually came up for me really recently.

I was coaching somebody online about some choices that they were making, and I was kind of offering a couple of different solutions like, “You could go this way and give this a try, or you can go this way and give this a try.” And the person responded with something that I found completely fascinating because I have found myself in the same position. I felt like I gave decent advice in the moment, but the more I thought about it after the fact, the more I realized that her response, “But Pahla, I just want you to tell me what to do because I’m so terrified of failing,” really made me kind of ponder all of us and how we have this fear of failure when we are aiming for a specific goal.

Now the person that I was talking with really specifically is aiming for a weight loss goal, and I think that that is maybe the one that can be most helpful to you. I’m keeping this a little bit more broad and open today, though, because truly, this fear of failure applies to everything. I mean, honestly, every single thing, not just fitness matters, but life matters.

This is one of those topics that was so interesting. I was thinking really specifically about this person and about their weight loss goal and about what I could teach all of you here on the podcast about it, but I found that the more I was going over it in my mind, that it was an incredibly helpful concept to me personally, as so many of these podcasts are. I don’t know if you guys know it, but I’m always kind of talking to myself. I realized that I have a nervousness, not necessarily before all of my videos. This is so hilarious to me because I don’t feel nervous at all right before I sit down and do a podcast. I love recording podcasts. This is one of the most enjoyable things that I do in my job. And I also feel really relaxed and open before recording the workout videos. But the sit-down-and-talk-to-you videos still create a lot of nervousness in me.

And I know that “nervousness” isn’t exactly the word that I used with the opening line of “I’m terrified of failing,” but my nervousness about the talking videos, the podcast-type videos, comes from a fear of failure. And so it was really interesting to me while putting together this episode to work through my own fears of failure and really, really work through my own stuff. So I’m hoping that today is incredibly helpful for you, as I always hope, but I have more than one concept to teach you. And this is a little bit different than we normally do, so I’m just going to warn you up front, that ordinarily what I try to do during the course of a podcast is kind of encapsulate one concept for you to really take home. But this topic actually illustrates five different concepts that might be helpful for you in different ways by attacking even this one problem or attacking different problems that you might notice in your life.

So five concepts. Here we go. Concept number one. When we say something like “I am terrified of failing” . . . longtime listeners might have heard me talk about this before, and in fact, I will refer you to the episode “Goal Language,” where we talk about what the phrase “I am” creates for you in your life (Ep. 008 Goal Language https://pahlabfitness.com/goal-language/). And actually in that episode, we talk about a couple of other things as well, so I’m going to really home in on this one particular thing. You guys, I have come to the conclusion that the phrase “I am” is literally magic, and if I do nothing else in my life as a life coach but teach you this one concept, it is truly life-changing. It is the thing that has changed the way that I look at pretty much everything. When I notice myself saying “I am,” I stop for a moment and I imagine that I am literally waving a magic wand and creating that for myself in my life because that is what those words do. You guys, that is exactly what those words do. And here’s why. When you say, “I am terrified of failing,” you are actually creating for yourself a failure.

Now, I mean that in the nicest way, because truly . . . I mean, we’re going to get to this a little bit later, but truly there’s no such thing as failure. Failure is a construct in our minds that has no meaning except for the meaning that we assign to it. But, as a concept, we fear failure as though it is outside of us, and so therefore when we say, “I am afraid of failing,” we actually create it for ourselves. The way that you can actually see this is by putting it into the model, which is a tool that I got from my mentor, Brooke Castillo. Something that she talks about is the tool that she teaches for how to manage your mind, and what it does is it helps you understand what you are creating for yourself in your life with the thoughts you are thinking.

And this one really specifically, “I am terrified of failing,” what we do is we put it through the model. So that is a thought, “I’m terrified of failing,” and what that thought creates for us is a feeling. The feeling – when I sat with this sentence, what I felt was worry, a fear of the future. When I am worried, when I have a feeling of worry from this thought, I’m terrified of failing. And the actions I do are things like ruminating on all the ways that I could fail, all the things that could go wrong, which is, to me, a very spinning thing to do. I think about what could go wrong, and then I worry about what could go wrong, and then I think about more things that could go wrong, and then I worry about more things that could go wrong. So I kind of have a circular thought pattern. I call that spinning, where I’m not jumping off of that merry-go-round and getting anything done. I’m simply spinning in the thought and worry cycle. I end up kind of being distracted while I am doing the tasks.

For example . . . I mean, this is what I was talking about. When I am worried about failing at creating one of my podcast videos (or my “story videos” is actually what I call them in my own mind) . . . it’s a story video where I’m telling you a story about things, even though I tell a lot of stories there on the podcast too. They’re very related. Anyway, when I am actually getting ready for and then filming my story videos, I’m very distracted. I’m spending much more brain energy on the nervousness and the worry and the fear of failure than I am on actually preparing and actually filming. And then even afterwards, I still . . . well, what happens afterwards is I tend to already start judging myself or beating myself up a little bit, like, “Well, that’s going to be bad. Well, that was probably a failure.”

Those kinds of actions create for me a situation in which I have not produced my highest level of work. I have, indeed, failed at being my best because I was so worried about failing. The thought of being afraid of failure created a failure for me. Amazing, right? And that thought also creates evidence because once you have a thought, you guys, your brain always wants to agree with itself. Once you have a thought, your brain is going to go looking for evidence of how that thought is true, which is part of where that judgment thing comes in. My brain is already thinking that that video is going to be a failure, so it starts judging it as a failure before it can even think of anything else about it.

This “I am” statement is so crucial and essential of a concept for you to understand. We have talked about it numerous times, and I’m going to continue to talk about it. Maybe one of these days what I will do is create an entire episode where that’s all I talk about so that I can have something to point to later other than the Goal Language, which, like I said, is an excellent corollary but has other topics included as well.

Okay, so concept number two. That idea, that thought of “I’m terrified of failing” is rooted in perfectionism. Now, perfectionism is something that we really haven’t talked about a lot here on this podcast. And honestly, there are a couple of reasons. Number one is because I wanted to talk about it perfectly because I also have some perfectionism traits. Honestly, I think everybody does, because here’s the thing. This is a very, very, very natural thing that our brains do. All of our brains do these things, several really specific things. One of them that I talk about quite a bit is how your brain evolved really specifically to both look for and solve problems. So your brain kind of thinks everything is a problem. And from that, that thinking that there is a problem here, your brain gets kind of . . . I’m going to call it paralyzed, even though not all of us get paralyzed with perfection, but we slow ourselves down with this thought of perfectionism. Because your brain assumes that there is a problem and also makes an assumption that there is a right way to do something. That juxtaposition of “there is a right way” and “this could be a problem” is where perfectionism comes from.

The fact is it’s completely normal for your brain to react this way, like 100% normal. Like I said, I’m pretty sure we all have it to some extent. The trick here is to simply recognize it for what it is. It is just the way your brain thinks about things. Your brain wants to have rules. It wants to have categories. I mean, your brain takes in millions, millions, probably billions – I’m going to stop saying millions for most things, other than my million subscriber goal – but your brain is taking in billions of inputs at really any given time. By the time we assess all of the things we can see, all of the things we can smell, all of the things we can hear, all of the things we can taste and touch, your brain is actually ignoring more inputs than it is helping you see or taste or smell or feel or whatever at any given time.

Your brain has to categorize things, and it is incredibly good at categorizing things. Therefore, it essentially is always looking for a rule, a way to do things the right way, so that it can categorize something as either right or wrong and then move forward from there. So when your brain assumes that there is a rule, a right way to do things, and also is concurrently looking for problems in everything that you do, well, of course you’re going to get in this situation of perfectionism, of thinking that there is a right way to do it and you can’t possibly meet that standard.

My friends, accepting that your brain thinks that way and also overriding it to realize that the only rules that we have to follow are the ones that we create for ourselves in most situations . . . I mean, yes, technically there are laws that you have to follow as a citizen of a country, but 99.9% of things like, “How should I eat to lose weight?” – that’s a rule that you are imposing on yourself. “How should I create a story video?” – that’s a rule that I should impose on myself. Here’s how to overcome perfectionism briefly. When you take a moment to actually parse out the fact that A) there are no rules, B) the only rules there are are the ones you create for yourself, and C) the only way to do something right is to simply tell yourself that it is right, to set your own standard and then meet your own standard. My friends, perfectionism kind of doesn’t exist because it is all our own personal construct of the right way to do something and the wrong way, according to our brains. So by recognizing that this is just the way your brain is basically designed to look at things, you can set yourself free from perfectionism.

Okay, concept number three. Attachment to the outcome. You guys, I love this one. This was one that I learned a long time ago and clearly still have room to learn. When we want to create something for ourselves, we get very attached to how we’re going to create it. This is normal. This is, again, your brain being your brain. Your brain wants to imagine that it has control of things, for one thing, but also that it wants to know how something is going to happen before it happens.

I think very often of my oldest son. My oldest son still really, really, really wants to know how something is going to happen before he sets off to do it. I feel this way too, and yet as an entrepreneur – as a person who believes in the power of the brain – I’ve come to realize that I can create anything I want without actually knowing how I’m going to do it before I get started. I know that there is always a first step for me. The first step truly is turning on the camera or turning on the podcast recorder. Just get moving and it’s going to come out how it comes out. I mean, I do actually plan to a certain extent. Some videos I plan more than others. Some I actually write a script for. Some I do an outline. Sometimes I just have a concept and I know that I have enough to say about it, that I’ll be able to get it all out.

But here’s where I actually want to go with being attached to the outcome of it. We are incredibly complex. Our brains are capable of solving really complex problems. As I already mentioned, our brains take in billions of inputs and form them into categories and create impressions and interpretations of that data all the time. Your brain is incredibly complex, but it’s also really simple sometimes. Your brain, my brain, all of our brains really tend to make one-to-one correlations when there isn’t such a thing. I hear this so, so, so frequently. And it cracks me up every time because I have gotten beyond this one particular example that I’m going to tell you.

In fact, if I had a subscriber for every time I have heard somebody say, “The scale went up today so I started analyzing what I ate yesterday,” I would already be at my goal. We all think that the scale is only related to what we eat. My friends, let me disabuse you of that notion. I’m getting distracted from what I’m telling you about attachment to the outcome, but let me just tell you about this one particular outcome. The scale has nothing to do with what you eat, except that it has everything to do with what you eat, but only over the long term. The short-term fluctuations have almost nothing to do with what you ate yesterday. It almost always, especially short-term fluctuations, has so much to do with what you’ve done. Short-term fluctuations have everything to do with how you slept, how much water you had, and how much stress you had versus what you ate.

And yet, all of us, because we know that long-term results on the scale have everything to do with what you are eating – eating consistently in a caloric deficit over time is the only way to lose weight. That is a done deal. That is a one-to-one correlation. But the scale on any given moment has very little to do with what you have eaten recently. It is much more of a long-term game that we need to look at in order to see the results.

So our brains correlate this one thing with this one result, and then think it has to do with our overall results. My personal attachment to the outcome – when I think I have to make this perfect video – is a good example. Perfectionism seems to be the only way that I can get the results that I want long term. When I get attached to this one video being perfect and being the thing that will ensure my success, I’m thinking about it wrong and coming at it from a one-to-one correlation when there is none. The success or failure of this one video has nothing to do with the success or failure of my overall goal.

Your success or failure with, let’s say, eating your calories today, has nothing to do with your ability to meet your overall weight loss goal. Your success or failure with drinking the right amount of water today has nothing to do with your ability to drink the right amount of water eventually, over time, when you learn how to fit it into your day, and how you have to think about it, and what that’s going to look like, and what that’s going to do for you. Being attached to the outcome of one specific thing as though it is related to the outcome of our goal as a whole is a way in which our brains are operating simply in a way that is not in our best interests. When you can keep a bigger picture, that is the best way to not be attached to the outcome of one teeny, tiny microcosm of your goal.

And this is really related. In fact, I mean, it is related to perfectionism, but it’s also really related to the next concept that we’re going to talk about, which is scarcity. You guys, I love this one. We talked about this one in the episode about getting older, and I love that episode (Ep. 050 Getting Older https://pahlabfitness.com/getting-older ). I found it to be helpful for me personally, because this is something that I am still kind of working through. I find it very interesting for me personally, how often I operate from scarcity thinking. I think this is something that you can relate to really specifically with weight loss or with whatever goal you are working on right now. You will find it everywhere, and it’s so fascinating to me. I do think that this must be related to a way that our brains just think in general because scarcity thinking is so very prevalent. It’s ironic because we live in a world of basically just unbelievable abundance. There will literally always be more.

Here’s what I mean by that on a big level. The number one biological imperative that your brain and your body have is to stay alive. The number two is to reproduce more of yourself. We don’t talk about that one very often. I talk about biological imperatives somewhat frequently, really specifically as they pertain to staying the same and adapting when necessary. But the biological imperative to stay alive and to reproduce – all life on our planet have these biological imperatives. There is so much drive to create more of ourselves and other things to create more of themselves that even the things that we create, like money, fall into this category. We are so driven to create more of ourselves that we’re actually really driven to create more of everything.

We are creators in the big picture and the small picture. We create our own reality, but also we create things. Our lives are driven in so many ways by being productive and creating things. There is so much abundance of everything, of anything that you could possibly imagine, and yet, because of our problem bias, we tend to think that things are scarce, that this will be the last chance that we get to get our goal, that if we don’t get it right this time, we’ll never, ever, ever be able to do the right thing in order to get our goal.

And I want you to recognize how ridiculous that is. This is the thing that I come back to time and again, when I recognize myself having this scarcity. It’s thinking that if this one outcome is the thing that determines all of our results, all of my results, that that would be a problem. Because that means that this is my last chance. That last-chance thinking is just illogical. It’s simply your brain looking for, and then creating, a problem that it would then solve if we would allow ourselves to solve it. But we think the solution is simply that, “Well, I have to get it right right now.” You don’t. You never do. You have an abundance of time, and I say that no matter how old you are or how little time you might truly have left. You still have an abundance of time to do the things that you want to do and to get where you want to go.

When we recognize our brain’s tendency to think in scarcity and open up our mind to the possibility that you’ve got all the time in the world, you’ve got all the resources in the world, you’ve got all the choices in the world, you can do anything. Truly. This is not your last chance. This is not your last hurrah. This is not the only thing that could possibly work. When we recognize that “I’m terrified of failing” is scarcity thinking, it can really kind of crack open your brain to thinking about things in a different way, to recognizing all of the possibilities you have to get it right.

Okay. You guys, the last concept doesn’t have a really tidy little title here. The last thing that I want to talk about is what you’re actually afraid of. Because sometimes when I think to myself, “I’m terrified of failing,” I don’t go any further into what that actually means. What are you terrified of? And it’s not just the failing. It’s not just the terror of gaining weight or the worry that everybody will give you a thumbs down and leave rude comments. We can actually let ourselves go a little bit further into what failure looks like, like defining what failure is, maybe some specific reactions, some specific results, some specific thing happening. But what I want to offer you is that what you are afraid of, what I am afraid of, is not negative comments. It’s not weight gain. It’s not a thing happening, because things that happen are actually incredibly neutral until we make them mean something. The number on the scale going up means nothing until you have assigned a meaning, until your brain has interpreted it, had a thought about it, which creates a feeling.

My friends, the thing that you are afraid of – the failure that you are afraid of – is actually just a feeling. If your weight goes up, you will have a thought that everything has gone wrong and that you are a failure. And that thought will create a feeling of, let’s say, devastation.

There are two things about that that I would like to point out to you. You can think anything you want. Let’s say that the scale goes up and you don’t make it mean that you are a failure. You could make it mean, “Oh my gosh, I am still figuring this out. I am learning what to do and how to do it, and I’ve got all the time in the world to figure that out.” That does not feel like a failure. It doesn’t feel like devastation. It doesn’t feel like failing. You are always in control of what you think about the outcome that you get. You can think anything. You can think that it’s a failure, or you could think that you are on your way to success, or you could think honestly, any number of things. I mean, there is no scarcity of what you could think.

We act as though a certain outcome has to be thought of a certain way. This is your brain creating rules for itself, creating categories for itself. If I gain weight, then I have to think that it is a failure. If my video doesn’t turn out the way I want it to and people react in a way that they don’t seem to like it, or it doesn’t get a lot of views, then I have to think of that as a failure. The corollary of that is that I have to feel bad in some way. My friends, this is what you are afraid of. When you are afraid of failing, you are simply afraid of a bad feeling. And let me point something out to you. You have had bad feelings before, and you have survived every single one of them. You are, A) in charge of whether or not you feel bad, and B) completely, 100% capable, physically capable, of feeling even the worst feeling in the world.

And here’s what I mean by this. You are never failing. You literally can’t fail. Isn’t that amazing? All of these concepts all come to that same conclusion. You are not failing, no matter what you do, no matter what you choose, no matter how it turns out, no matter what you say to yourself. You can always, always create success.

I love that. This was a lot. This was a lot of different concepts for you today, a lot to mull over, a lot to come back to. I always, always hope that at least one of the things that we talked about today – if not all five of the concepts – really resonated with you, really found a home. I hope these concepts can help you move forward towards your ultimate inevitable success. You guys, I love you. Thank you for listening. I’ll talk to you again soon.

So are you totally loving this mindset work, and you really want to do it every day in order to get your goal? Then, my friend, you need to join the Get Your GOAL group. It is my personal and private, very interactive coaching and accountability group, where every day we talk about your mindset and we get your goal. You can learn all about it at pahlabfitness.com/get-your-goal. I’ll see you in the Goal group.

Listen to the full episode here, and be sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.

Originally aired September 12, 2021
In this episode I’m teaching you how you can jump off the “fear of failure” merry-go-round and move forward on a steady path.
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Meet Your Host

Mindset expert and certified life coach Pahla B knows a thing or two about changing your mind to change your weight and your life. She’s the creator of The 5-0 Method, Amazon-best selling author of the book “Mind Over Menopause,” and former yo-yo dieter who has cracked the code on lifelong weight maintenance. Join Pahla B each week for the personal insights, transformative mindset shifts, and science-backed body advice that can help you lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever.