The failure-free mindset

24 May 2017

The Failure-Free Mindset

We’ve all been held back, at some point in our lives, by a fear of failure. And this is why – when I’m speaking at events & conferences – the topic that often resonates most strongly with my audience is The Failure-Free Mindset.

So I’d like to unpack this topic for you, and give you the 4 key steps to enjoying this wonderfully resilient and optimistic outlook, in both your career and in your personal life.

#1: Mental Rehearsal

You may well know that my background is as a stage hypnotist. This is an area in which fears of failure are absolutely rife, because there are so many critical moments where things could go wrong. Sticking somebody’s hand to the table, putting them into a ‘trance’, or attempting any kind of hypnotic phenomenon, always involves some kind of test, with potential embarrassment if I don’t get the outcome I’m going for.

I’m sure there are similar situations in your career and personal life: events that you used to view as ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ scenarios. Things like a job interview, a sales conversation, or even asking someone out on a date, where there’s a potential outcome (largely beyond your own control) that you don’t particularly want to happen.

So what did I do, in my work as a hypnotist, to deal with this fear? I engaged in mental rehearsal of my less favourable outcome. I scripted my response to that eventuality, and played out the scenario in my head, so that I knew exactly how I would respond. And, all of a sudden, that less favourable outcome doesn’t seem half as scary, because now I feel ready for it.

So you can do the same thing in preparation for your ‘critical moments’. Imagine the outcome you don’t particularly want to happen, but then imagine yourself dealing with it brilliantly! And then enjoy the resilience that comes from knowing you’re ready for anything!

#2: Recognise the Positives in all Possible Outcomes

There are, of course, situations in which ‘pass’ and ‘fail’ are useful concepts. If I’m going into hospital to have an operation, I’d like the surgeon to have passed their exams! However, in the situations listed above – and the vast majority of similar situations we find ourselves in – they aren’t at all helpful. Success and failure are largely products of our perception: it’s all in the mind. I want to help you to perceive them differently.

You see, I realised – quite early on in my journey as a hypnotist – that it’s actually really helpful to me, really useful to me, to talk to people for whom hypnosis hasn’t worked. To find out what their experience was like, and to use that information to improve my practice.

But do you see what’s happened here? In order to do that research, I’ve now got to go out and do a load of hypnosis stuff that doesn’t work. So the whole concept of ‘failure’ has been eliminated, as both of my potential outcomes have positive aspects.

And I’m sure that there’ll be positives in your less favourable outcomes too. An example I use in a lot of my speeches is cold calling. In a direct parallel with the hypnosis example, it’s often really useful and helpful to talk to people who don’t want to buy what you’re offering, and to use that information to improve your products and services. Once again, in order to do that research, you’ve got to get on the ‘phone and speak to those people who’ll say ‘no’, and once again, the concept of failure has now been eliminated.

#3: Get Out of ‘Black & White’ Thinking

Another way that having a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ mindset can trick us into bad thinking is that it leads us to believe these situations are black and white, with only two possible outcomes. However, there’s actually a continuum of possible experiences that could result from these interactions. If I’m going to do some hypnosis with someone, at one end of my continuum nothing hypnotic happens at all, while at the other end everything I go for works easily and completely. And there are an infinite number of places we could end up along that line.

But even at the bottom end of the continuum, even when nothing’s worked at all, I’ve still had some practice, and I’ve still had an experience I can reflect on. So even that outcome has positives that help me to remove the concept of failure.

It’s the same for our cold calling example. You could get nowhere at all, or you could end up with an amazing customer who stays with you for years and years. Or you could fail to make a sale, but get a really great piece of feedback that helps you in the future. Or they might not be interested but recommend you to one of their colleagues instead. There’s a whole range of potential outcomes, so these situations are never black and white.

Recognising that there’s a continuum – a vast number of outcomes that could result from the interaction – allows you to be curious about where each of these opportunities might end up. And curiosity is a really powerful frame of mind to be in: it keeps you present, keeps you interested, and keeps you open to growth and learning.

#4: Realise that Failure is Actually an Essential Component of Success

There have been a couple of periods, in my life as a hypnotist, where I wasn’t really experiencing things going wrong. I was pretty consistently getting everything I was going for. And that’s not good at all! In fact, it told me that I wasn’t taking nearly enough risks.

It’s only through experiencing a certain amount of failure that we know we’re pushing at the limits of our abilities, and giving ourselves opportunities to learn and grow.

I’d love to know how these ideas and techniques are working out for you. Especially if you have a specific situation where you’re struggling to find the positives in the less favourable outcomes, or if you have any other questions or comments, use to get in touch. And please visit to access a video on the same topic, and to be kept up to date on future articles, tips and advice.