I remember when my worst dream came true. It was the night before my economics final over the summer. Tired, brain dead, and downright scared, I had a very long night, drenched in trepidation, to reconsider what it meant to be a failure.

No, I did not fail the class. Very far from it, in fact. But thanks to retrospect, I can look back on that situation and realize a terrible weakness that is so easy to fall into. Fear of failure. What form does this struggle take in our lives, and how does it impact our day to day?

I am beginning to realize that failure stems from two very important factors: anticipation and expectation. Anticipating a lack of achievement towards a certain standard will equal failed expectation, and the result can be crippling, given the right stressful circumstance. It’s usually less about the short deadline, scary boss, or difficult requirements. How we perceive desires, expectations, and hopes in a situation plays the determining factor on how we respond to something.

In the TED talk entitled, “How to build your creative confidence,” David Kelley describes what it means to overcome fear in a very applicable setting.

Unsurprisingly, setting clear expectations plays a pivotal role in all types of work, mostly to measure progress efficiently. But some people feel hesitant to be confident in the creative realm where there are less obvious monetary or statistical measurements of success. It requires breaking barriers down in the mind, to question habits and assumptions that have been taken for granted and overlooked. Kelley advises that people gradually work on creating a new path of creativity to gradually progress in unusual – but valuable – thinking.

This type of thinking is very valuable in stressful situations. If I had an adverse enough reaction to every class I took, eventually I’d burn out and never try a class again in fear of failing before I even started. This comes back to needing a better picture of the anticipations and expectations in our mentalities. Instead of thinking about results as fate, instead think, “how do I break this situation down into manageable chunks?” And if we really do fail to reach an expectation, whether from ourselves or from an outside source, the most painful but beneficial question can be, “how can I do better next time?”

Obviously, none of us perfect a growth-oriented mentality overnight. But I’ve been consistently reminded of the importance of anticipation and expectation set on the right path, no matter what demand arises.

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