I was on a call earlier in the afternoon and during this conversation, the word Failure came up. Sure, Fear of failure affects lots of people, but what about you? Do you ever put off doing something because you are not sure how it will turn out? Do you avoid a situation where you will have to try new things or new experiences? Have you ever put off something you know it’s the dream of your life, even though you have no good reason for not doing it?
If you answered “YES” to one or multiple questions above, then you are not alone. Most people are on this boat with you. Many of us have probably experienced this at one time or another.
The fear of failing can be immobilizing. It can cause us to do nothing and therefore resist moving forward. But when we allow fear to stop our forward progress in life, we’re likely to miss some great opportunities along the way.
Each one of us all has different definitions of failure, simply because we all have different goals, values, and belief systems. A failure to one person might simply be a great learning experience for someone else.
Fear of failure can be linked to many causes. For instance, having critical or unsupportive parents is a cause for some people. Because they were routinely undermined or humiliated in childhood, they carry those negative feelings into adulthood. Experiencing a traumatic event at some point in your life can also be a cause. For example, say that several years ago you had been in a relationship that didn’t turn out quite the way you wanted it. The experience might have been so terrible that you became afraid of failing in other things. And you carry that fear even now, years later.
It’s almost impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of failure. People who do so probably live so cautiously that they go nowhere. Meaning, they are not really living at all.
We can choose to see failure as “the end of the world,” or as proof of just how inadequate we are. Or, perhaps we can look at failure as the incredible learning experience that it often is.
Every time we fail at something, we can choose to look for the lesson we’re meant to learn. These lessons are very important; they’re how we grow, and how we keep from making that same mistake again. Failures stop us only if we let them. Failure can also teach us things about ourselves that we would never have learned otherwise. For instance, failure can help you discover how strong a person you are. Failing at something can help you discover your truest friends, or help you find the unexpected motivation to succeed. Failing is a pointer to self-discovery.
Accepting and learning from those insights is key to succeeding in life.
It’s important to realize that in everything we do, there’s always a chance that we’ll fail. Facing that chance and embracing it, is not only courageous, it also gives us a fuller and more rewarding life. Courage is the first step to bridge between where you were to where you want to be.
Here are a few ways to reduce the fear of failing:
1. Ask yourself what’s worst can happen?
People experience fear of failure because they fear the unknown. Remove that fear by considering all of the potential outcomes of your decision. Ask yourself this “What’s the worst that can happen? Analyze all the possibility and emotionally prepare yourself in the worst-case scenario.
2. Redefine your failure.
Behind many fears is worry about doing something wrong, looking foolish, or not meeting expectations. In other words, fear of failure. By framing a situation you’re dreading differently before you attempt it, you may be able to avoid some stress and anxiety. What looks like a failure to you is not the failure to somebody else.
3. Focus on learning.
Often, valuable insights come only after a failure. Accepting and learning from those insights is key to succeeding in life. Think of the opportunities you’ll miss if you let your failures stop you.
Life-changing experiences can come with painful memories. Sometimes, there aren’t any good choices. Inevitably, you might be left wondering about what would/could have happened if you made different choices.
This is, ultimately, a waste of mental energy. If you regret changing your life, it can only keep your mind stuck in the past. Instead, open your mind to new opportunities. Focus on the future and the changes that could improve your life.
Change doesn’t need to be feared. What you should really fear is maintaining the same, boring routine and level of consciousness forever. That is only stagnation, not growth. Instead, by embracing change you open yourself up to new possibilities.
What are you afraid of right now? How long have you been stuck where you are? What would it do for you if you can overcome that fear and open the door to possibilities? How would that change the way you feel about yourself right now?
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist