I think we’d all agree that the fear of failure is perhaps the most pervasive, corrosive force in existence today, especially when it comes to our success as individuals.
Has there been a time in your life when fear held you back from following your dream? Have you felt that tightening in your chest and stomach and decided it probably isn’t worth is after all?
Be honest – we all have at some time. And it hurts. It really hurts.
The fear of failing can freeze us on the spot, no matter how much we want something. It can feel like a great, impassable barrier somewhere within us impossible for us to climb.
One that says ‘this way is closed’. Several studies have already made the link between the fear of failure and a lack of motivation. Well, throughout our research, we have come up with a way to overcome the fear of failure once and for all.
Throughout this guide, we will dissect what the fear of failure really is, what causes it and how we can destroy it. By breaking it down into its smaller constituents like this we can remove its mystical quality and sniff out its weaknesses. By the time this is over we will have a handle on something that, perhaps until now, has been silently running our life.
Read on and we will learn how to overcome fear of failure together.
How to Overcome Fear of Failure by Having a Proper Mindset
What causes the fear of failure?
There’s nothing worse than when someone says the fear of failure “isn’t a real thing”, or “is an illusion”.
The truth is, whether illusory or not, it damn hurts, and it’s damn debilitating.
It is true, however, that the fear of failure is subjective. Much of what we perceive is based on our values and beliefs, all of which were shaped by past experiences. What makes one person cower in fear may only annoy another person, and vice versa.
That’s not to say there are a lot of people who suffer from it and a select few who are fearless. We all suffer from it to some degree. It is only the intensity that differs, and the situation that sets us off. Check out this study on the transgenerational transmission of the fear of failure.
Common causes of the fear of failure include poor emotional support in the form of our parents, a distressing childhood, or experiencing something traumatic when you were not old enough to put it in a realistic context.
The fact is, whenever we experience something negative it is our nature to fear that thing arising again.
Hence why many people who witness their parent’s divorce have intimacy issues, or people who suffered school humiliation having trouble talking in front of crowds.
Fear of failure symptoms
The symptoms are almost as varied as the causes but there are a few common factors that are likely to be present. These include:
- A rigid or stubborn mindset, which represents a reluctance and rejection of change or uncertainty
- Generalised anxiety and acts of self-sabotage, especially when revolving around something valuable to us
- The inability to let things go and obsessive compulsion with getting something perfect (perfectionism)
- Constant struggles with self-confidence and a negative inner-narrative, telling us ‘we are no good’ or are ‘not good enough’ to do this or that
There are others but these are the main issues, from which all others stem from. The fear of failure is inherent and underlies them all.
How to overcome fear of failure
It’s important from the beginning to realise every potential success carries within it the seed of potential failure.
It can be no other way. This is a world of opposites and, thus, we can never be far away from either success or failure in anything that we do.
It’s also important to realize that fear offers us nothing constructive. The nagging, stomach-tightening anxiety we feel daily that stops us from acting on our goals does nothing for us at all.
It is like a leech, sucking away our life energy and leaving a weakened version of ourselves to sit zombie-like in front of the television.
Watch Will Smith talk about how to overcome the fear of failure:
Is there a happy ending to all of this? There can be. There are ways to reduce and eliminate our fear of failure but many of them are not easy, nor comfortable. If you are committed to this, you can:
Flip the switch on your negativity because positivity holds infinite possibilities
- If we take away the mystical aura of fear, we can see that most of it comes from negative self-talk. Once we know this we can start to do something about it.
The fastest and potentially easiest way to reduce its influence is to start to think more positively. Exude optimism and hope into the environment around you and see how quickly your emotional state changes.
Cover all the outcomes
Many times, our fear of failure comes from an exaggerate perception of the situation at hand.
The fear of the unknown is one of the great human fears so once it combines with the fear of failure we are tasked with surmounting a near-unstoppable negative force.
Take the guesswork out of the situation and think through every outcome of your choice or decision. See it all in your mind.
This technique alone can bring mental and emotional peace (as well as more action-taking) very quickly.
Consider your plan B
Sometimes not having a safety net can propel us to greatness, but other times it only ends in a nasty fall.
When you feel the fear of failure breathing down your neck don’t be put off considering a plan B.
If for nothing else, it will put your mind at ease whilst you go full-steam ahead with plan A.
Utilize negative visualisation
An ancient stoic method to curb anxiety and neutralize the fear of failure is to employ the use of negative visualization.
By imagining and seeing in your mind’s eye the very worst that can happen, you master it. You see suddenly that it really isn’t that bad and that you will move forward, regardless of the outcome.
3-step goal setting process to destroy the fear of failure
Setting goals when you are fearing failure might seem like a strange move but, truly, it is only the way through the emotional block we have placed on ourselves.
When we set goals, it is like acquiring a compass for a journey over the ocean. Suddenly, we have a heading. We have a direction in which we can pour our energy and efforts.
Strangely, when we set goals and feel positively about them the fear of failure begins to diminish. It is like something greater has appeared and stolen its self-assumed importance.
One of the best ways to set goals when you are fearing failure is like this:
- Set a big goal that would you be ecstatic to achieve – this should push your limits, make you slightly uncomfortable and push you outside of your comfort zone just enough to make your heart beat a little faster.
- Once you have your big goal break it down into little, more manageable goals. Call these ‘steps’, so it is clear to your mind that you must take action on them. If these steps are small enough you should start to feel excited about following them. It is like dropping breadcrumbs for your mind to follow.
- Take massive action, regardless of what negative emotions come up – once you set a course and stick by it you will inevitably reach your destination at some point in the future. On the journey, you will process much of your fear, making it far less likely it will recur further along the road.
We hope this guide has been helpful for you as you tackle your fear of failing. We can promise two things: it won’t be comfortable but it will be 100% worth it!