“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done you will keep on getting what you always got”. “If it ain’t broke why fix it”. “We have always done it this way”. These familiar statements all speak to the challenge of change. My current twenty minutes a day of “prescribed reading” has been devoted to examining, The Leadership Challenge, [Kouzes and Posner]. Kouzes and Posner describe the five practices of exemplary leaders; people who make a positive difference whatever their position in life. My readings have brought me to the third practice: Challenge the Process. This practice is best summarized in the following statement: “Nothing new and nothing great is achieved by doing things the way you’ve always done them. You have to test unproven strategies. You have to break out of the norms that box you in. You have to do the things you think you cannot. You have to venture beyond the limitations you normally place on yourself.” [K&P].
Challenging the process to bring about positive change in any area of life or enterprise involves taking risks. Risks involve failure. We usually don’t set out to fail. Failure can be costly. Failure, like death and taxes, is inevitable. “Regardless of the field there is no success without the possibility of failure”. [K&P]. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player to date is quoted as saying: “I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Fear of failure may be the single biggest hurdle for us to overcome when faced with taking on a new challenge or contemplating change. In light of the inevitability of failure, how then shall we live? We could sit in the seat of the Avoider listening to the advice of Homer Simpson: ” You tried and you failed miserably; the lesson is never try”. Never trying might be one way to “ensure” you never fail but it will set you up for a lifetime of regret. We could walk in the path of the Denier and say like Garfield: “I am not always right but I am never wrong”. Deniers look for someone or something to blame for what has occurred. They will never progress until they face up to, and accept responsibility for their failure. We could stand in the place of the Confronter. Those who choose to confront failure accept that they have failed, accept the responsibility for failure and commit to learning the lessons that failure affords. It requires both openness and humility. In Challenging the Process we have to confront our failures and learn from them. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”,[John Maxwell].
In summary, as we face up to the fear of failure and as we seek to Challenge the Process:
-We accept the fact that failure is a real possibility.
– We determine to learn the lessons that failure affords.
– We determine to risk in “bite size” chunks; breaking down the journey of change into small steps.
– We go for small wins.
When fear of failure rears its ugly head remember we can do everything through Him who gives us strength.
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