It seems like we’ve seen it a million times.  That photograph of a soccer goalie diving in the opposite direction of the ball during a penalty kick.  Given the current strategy of kickers, research suggests that the best thing a goal can do is stay center, but that’s not what they do, is it?  So why do they dive left or right instead of following the strategy that is more likely to lead to success?

The answer comes down to guilt.  It turns out that then when things go badly as they often do during penalty kicks, the goalies feel more guilt if they did nothing, stayed center, then if they went for it and dove.  It didn’t matter they they dove in the wrong direction, they felt better because they had done something.

This is the problem with guilt.  It clouds our thinking and it causes us to make bad decisions. While it’s important to learn from failures in the past, the best strategy is to keep looking to the present and the future.  How can we learn from the past to improve our success in the future?

I heard somewhere that if a cat jumps up on a hot stove, not only will it avoid hot stoves in the future, it will avoid the stove altogether.  And some people are like this, they get burned once and they will never try again.  They are paralyzed by fear. It is okay to make mistakes.

In fact, being afraid of making mistakes is perhaps the biggest mistake of all, because the logical conclusion is that the only way not to make a mistake is to not do anything.  To not get in the game at all.  But there is no victory in that.  Victory only tastes so sweet because of the risk of the bitterness of defeat.  Have the courage to take action and stay the course, even it means staying in the center of the goal, if that’s what it takes to be successful.

John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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