By the time Thomas Edison had invented the lightbulb, he had racked up over 10,000 failed attempts to reliably produce light from electricity. When journalists enquired as to his process and how it had affected him, he gave his now well-known reply:
“I didn’t fail. I now know over 10,000 ways that an electric lightbulb won’t work.”
Exaggeration to the point of silliness, but the point stands.
Hesitance when approaching a risk of failure is (unsurprisingly) an incredibly common emotion. It’s normal. You could be hesitant crossing a busy road, or when your significant other asks for your opinion on their new outfit – the incorrect course of action in these circumstances will vary from severe injury to an unpleasant tongue lashing. A less extreme example of this is found when deciding to attend a course of learning with an exam lying in wait at the end. Merciless and bloodthirsty, exams put some off from attending courses altogether. But remember – if something is easy to complete then there was likely not much value to be found in it. The same concept applies to exams. With this in mind, we’re going to look into some reasoning behind failure. Becoming more like the famous lightbulb inventor can only be a good thing!
It’s suitable to start with the most common fear associated with setting personal goals. The impact of “screwing up” is often judged internally on a scale. You know that aiming small and failing to meet your aims will often do minimal damage to your reputation or overall wellbeing, as you have less far to fall. The converse applies to aiming much more highly. Successful people set their expectations astronomically high and gladly tackle the fear of failure attached to tackling these goals. Furthermore, their perception of their own skills isn’t distorted by failure. Everyone can attest to being demoralised like this at one point or another in their lives.
It’s easy to know where this fear of aiming high stems from. A single experience of failure can create an unconscious phobic reaction to that feeling in the future. There is a big problem with this. The unconscious nature of this fear means that assessing its rationality or likelihood to realistically impact you. It means that you’re not trying to work on yourself to improve your chances of success – you’re simply trying by any means necessary to avoid that feeling previously associated with failure. It stops you from aiming high. Our subconscious minds can be, quite frankly, terrible. Stay focused on the variable that you can control – start listening to your rational, conscious brain!
The hormone released when you experience stress is called cortisol – and is likely your body’s primary response to checking your phone screen for cracks after dropping it. Just writing that puts us on edge. Back to the point, that pesky stress hormone cortisol inhibits brain function when released in large quantities. Experiencing this kind of stress in the context of exams (not only during exams, but also in preparation) can be another reason for failure. Labouring under the influence of an extreme cortisol rush is a potential barrier to peak performance. Picture this: you’ve gained all the necessary industry experience to be prepared for a role at a higher level in your field. Yet, you do not have the exams required from a compliance point of view. The pressure to succeed on the exam could be a real limiting factor in your ability to avoid failure. Unfortunately, performance anxiety is painfully common. Experts suggest that “choking” occurs when the pressure to succeed is just too great. However, choking can be gotten around in a number of ways. Simply talking to yourself internally or tapping lightly with your fingers is enough of a distraction to your brain that you can cease the overthinking. In many cases it’s as simple as that. Our brains may be deeply powerful, but boy is it easy to trick them.
Invariably healthy responses
We wouldn’t blame you for scanning the blog up to this point and only picking out the negatives, how failure can make you feel: anxious, stressed, demoralised and generally a little bit Eeyore-ish. Be that as it may, the variables in your control are your most deadly weapons when conquering failure. Placing a focus on what you can personally do to swing the odds of success in your favour is by no means the easiest thing in the world, but your training can begin today. Your guerrilla force lies within planning and preparation, your skill set and capacity to onboard new knowledge. Feeling in control gives you the motivation and healthy headspace to perform to the best of your ability. With each victory you have under your belt things will quickly start to snowball, minimising your risk of failure. If you need more support in reaching new milestones and achievements, that’s what training is for! Don’t let any fears hold you back.
Hopefully now you see the damage in being a Gandalf that constantly yells “You shall not pass (this exam)!” You’re armed with the tools and knowledge of your brain that you need to succeed. It’s time to capitalise on this momentum, tackle one of our range of courses! Get in touch with us, or browse our website for learning that best suits your needs and future aspirations.
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