“What if . . . ?” My seven-year-old student asked this difficult question as she sat at the piano, posing several scenarios of (in her mind) potential disaster while a single tear ran down her face. She usually looks forward to playing games, but this time she seemed overwhelmed by a confounding fear of possibly failing. It became clear that my answers of reassurance to her questions were missing the real issue.

In the midst of her questions and my responses, I became aware of a quiet voice within me: this is you. How many times have I hesitated to step into something new? What stopped me?

This is you. That thought reminded me how often I asked the same “what if” from the same place of fear that my student was.

All of those “what if” questions boil down down to two possibilities: success or failure. But when success is only measured by “wins,” we miss out on the value of our failures.

Even though I know this, I still fear failure and can be overwhelmed by its possibility sometimes, especially when the consequences are bigger than losing a game at the piano. This is human.

What surprises me is how often I actually fear success. I’m still working up the courage to examine the root of that fear, so I’ll have to address it in another post.

For now, it’s the beginning of a new year. Twelve new months of possibilities. The last thing I want to do is miss the potential of this new year by giving in to fear. I’ve already tried that and it hasn’t worked. 

The only way we can meet the potential of 2019 is to make choices that will bring us face to face with fear instead of away from it. There are a lot of little goals (but they feel big to me!) that have been piling up over the years. Fear of failure and of success has held me back. I have years of potential waiting for me—years of value that comes from success and from failure—and it’s time to meet it. Maybe you do, too?

Those little goals add up to one big hope for this new year: on December 31 I can look back and say, “I didn’t hold back.” And that I encouraged others to do the same.

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