Are You Failing Enough to Succeed? 

by Doris Helge, Ph.D. © 2013


What happens when you enthusiastically pursue a goal even though you’ve never proven you can succeed in that arena . . . and you refuse to label yourself a failure when you don’t immediately achieve your goal?

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You have a rich history of doing this. In fact, this pattern was responsible for one of your greatest successes. When you were a small child, you ignored Physics 101 so you could defy the force of gravity.

As a tiny tot struggling to walk, you fell over and over again. Even though you were often frustrated, you didn’t label yourself “a failure.” You didn’t feel worthless. Each new attempt to amble around was a hopeful, determined fresh start.

Children learning to walk don’t waste energy judging their performance as inadequate. They focus on what they want. They master many new skills quickly because they see, smell, hear, and taste the benefits of success.

Instead of feeling inadequate, babies concentrate, using all of their senses. “I want to be held. I want to grab that cookie that smells like it will taste yummy. I want to see people smile at me and hear them coo. There’s something I want in the next room. I’ll do what it takes to get there.”

How about you? Do you really understand that one of the greatest secrets of success is utterly simple?  We just have to stand up more often than we fall down.


Below is an exercise my clients love when they’re discouraged or afraid to take a healthy risk. My team and I also field-tested this exercise during the National Happiness at Work Studies that led to writing the book, “Joy on the Job.”

I coach with your brain in mind. I’ve carefully designed exercises like this multisensory activity to enrich stimulation to several areas of your brain that will help you change in positive ways. This helps you enjoy creatively confronting your challenges. Your inner critic will take a long nap when you substitute this exercise for self-criticism.

Since I’m also helping you link your thinking brain with your emotional brain, exercises like this help you embrace, rather than fear, new experiences. We can talk later about why a multisensory approach is so important to your achievement. For now, just remember the previous example of how the most rapid human achievers (babies) progress.


  1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for at least 10 minutes. Sit quietly and breathe deeply.
  2. Focus on a healthy risk you’ve wanted to take but haven’t because your inner critic encouraged you to fear the possibility of failure. Note: Intelligent risks are not impulsive. Although the potential outcome is uncertain, you have previously considered the foreseeable consequences of your actions.
  3. Close your eyes and imagine what life would be like if you did fail. Write a one-sentence description of how you would feel. If you weren’t successful, would you gain feedback that would allow you to improve your technique or change your direction?

Complete the following sentence stem:

“If I weren’t afraid of failure, I would _____________________.”

  1. Close your eyes again. Imagine possible benefits of meeting your goal. Talk out loud, using rich multisensory language that describes what it would be like to achieve your desire. Speak in the present tense. Example: “I feel relieved because I’m now comfortable sharing my opinions in a tactful way. I see a new sparkle in my eyes when I look in the mirror. I hear myself breathing deep, calm breaths. When I hold my favorite pen or smell freshly perked coffee, I remember how satisfied I feel when I accomplish an objective. Each time I take a bite out of a delicious piece of food, I savor the sweet memory of the taste of success.”
  2. Pause a few moments to cherish the vivid sensations of achieving your goal.
  3. Now imagine how it will feel if you do nothing. What will your life be like if you just continue to experience what dissatisfies you and self-judgment grows?
  4. Decide if you have more to gain by clinging to your “familiar zone” and not attempting to achieve your dreams than by taking a healthy risk.


Avoiding risks is so risky that it’s a reliable recipe for failure and unhappiness. Since only a hen lays down on the job and gets positive results, take your next step now.

  • Write down the next healthy risk you’re going to take.
  • When will you take your next step forward?
  • How is this willingness to bet on yourself evidence that you trust the process of your life?
  • What message will your action step send to your inner critic?

Post your note where you’ll see it often. After two days, post a comment about your progress on the blog at


Asking for help when you feel stuck is a sign of high self-esteem. You’re saying to yourself, “I’m ready to create a life that includes everything I want, including excellent compensation for work I love to do, rewarding relationships and vibrant health.” Would you like assistance from a compassionate coach recently named “One of America’s Top Ten Coaches” so you can overcome self-doubt and walk forward with confidence?

If your inner critic nags you with negative comments when you want to step into your greatness, visit Claim FREE ebooks, audios and videos so you can conquer your inner critic, discover happiness at work and turn painful experiences into personal empowerment. Doris Helge, Ph.D., “The Joy Coach,” is author of #1 Bestselling Books, including “Conquer Your Inner Critic,” “Transforming Pain Into Power,” and “Joy on the Job.”

© 2013. Permission to reprint this article is granted if the article is in tact, with proper credit given. All reprints must state, “Reprinted with permission by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Originally published in “Joy on the Job.”

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