The Client-centred Blog

What happens when you’re afraid of making mistakes?

One of the reasons that we don’t step up and go for what we want in life is that we are afraid of making a mistake, looking bad and what that will mean about us.

I once had someone say to me that they didn’t want to really go for what they wanted in life because they couldn’t stand the pain of failure.

As if the pain of regret were the better option!

If you regularly read my musings, you’ll know that one of the things I do is work with advisers to build deeper engagement with their clients.

Yet having spoken at many events up and down the UK it is apparent that many advisers won’t have deeper more emotive conversations with clients because they feel uncomfortable about it.

Or they try it, stumble around a bit and then conclude “Well, I tried it and it didn’t work!”

I get that. We can all experience fearful thoughts about making a mistake but do you want your fearful thoughts to dictate what you do or don’t do in your life?

So, if we take a step back, what is the meaning of mistakes?

Around six years ago I was learning from psychologist George Pransky about how thought creates our life experience.

George asked the group (about a dozen of us) to think of a circumstance in life where understanding the role of thought would not help you.

Someone in the group said:

What if I was a surgeon and through my clear mistake my patient dies?

George reflected for a few moments and said, “Actually, I have a true story about this.”

Many years before George had been asked to give a talk to a bunch of trainee surgeons at a teaching hospital and that exact question was asked to him by one of the students.

George said he was momentarily stumped for a response.

Then, as if by magic, a guy who was at the back of the room (doing something else) said he had overheard the question and would George mind if he shared something with the group?

Seeing that he was stuck George said, “By all means, be my guest!”

The guy said, “I am surgeon with many years’ experience of operating on thousands of patients.

If the thought of making a mistake in your career and having someone die as a result is unacceptable to you or you don’t think you could live with it, this is absolutely not the career for you. You need to get out of it now and do something else instead!”

How I heard that was that mistakes are inevitable, especially when you are new to something.

Most of us will never be in that kind of a life or death situation and yet even if we were, mistakes are never completely avoidable.

A truth is this:

You cannot get good at something without the possibility of making a mistake. In fact, mistakes are how we learn.

You cannot become a superb communicator, build a brilliant business or create wealth without stepping into the unknown, and being open to making a mistake.

This is why understanding the nature of thought is so important.

Fearful thinking is just thinking. You cannot stop yourself getting it, but you don’t have to believe it. It does not need to stop you going for what you want in life.

John Dashfield

John Dashfield spent 14 years as a self-employed adviser. Since 2006 he has been a coach, mentor and author helping advisers create transformations in their business and personal lives.


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