Do you avoid situations where you will have to try something new in front of people?
Do you ever put off doing something you know will improve your life, because you are unsure what people will think if you fail?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above questions, you’re not alone. Most people are in this self-sabotage boat with you. But there is a way to get out.
In this blog, we’ll examine fear of failure: what it means, what causes it, and most importantly how to overcome this immobilizing fear so that you can enjoy life to the full, embrace all the challenges and opportunities that come your way.
What is Fear of failure?
“If something is important enough, you should try it even if the probable outcome is failure.”
― Elon Musk
Fear of failure (also called “atychiphobia”) is when we allow that fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals.
In reality, we all have our own definition of failure, simply because of our different belief systems, values, goals and benchmarks. What looks like a failure to you could be a win for someone else.
Failure is defined as “a lack of success.” We can also think of it as “coming up short.” If we say “he failed,” all we’re really saying is “he didn’t succeed.”
Maybe we should be asking; how much did I fall short by? What am I lacking to succeed? What standards am I reaching? By which metrics am I failing?
This will give us a more concrete view of what you did achieve, and what has yet to happen for you to succeed.
Why do we have fear of failure?
The only real failure in life is not to be true to what one knows best. – Buddha
Disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness, regret and confusion, are some of the first feelings that you could experience when failing. These basic emotions are easy to handle but the underlying cause of our fear of failure is essentially our fear of shame. So failing makes us feel a deep sense of shame, and this is why we have to avoid failure at all costs… even if it means missing out on a lifetime opportunity.
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 life can also be a cause. For example, giving a presentation in front of your school friends and totally freezing… or doing very poorly and being a laughing stock… 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.
What many of us really fear is failing to do something right the first time. This is totally unreasonable as most of us need several attempts to master something that they are trying for the first time. If you recall your school years, giving the “ right” answer the first time is the only action that was rewarded, whereas coming up with the wrong answer was only seen as a failure, given a low grade, a reprimand and even worse contempt from teachers and peers. No wonder most of us still carry this illogical fear of failure into our adulthood.
However, when it comes to starting a business, any successful entrepreneur will tell you that the fastest way to succeed is to jump in, make things happen, and be at ease with failing repeatedly.
So how do we train to embrace failure as a key step in learning.
How to overcome our Fear of Failure?
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford
1- Failure stops us only if we let it! Instead of seeing failure as the end of the world, we can choose to see it as an incredible learning experience! 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 are how we grow, and how we keep from making that same mistake again.
2- Analyze all potential outcomes – Many people experience fear of failure because they fear the unknown. Remove that fear by considering all of the potential outcomes of your decision.
3- Learn to think more positively – Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful way to build self-confidence and neutralize self-sabotage.
4- Think of the best, prepare for the worst! – In some cases, the worst-case scenario may be a genuine possibility. So although you never set up to fail, you must prepare for the worst-case scenario and how it actually may not be that bad.
5- Have a contingency plan – If you’re afraid of failing at something, having a “Plan B” in place can help you feel more confident about moving forward.
6- Set up a few small goals for yourself! If you chunk down the big task, into small realistic, achievable and less challenging goals, you actually increase your chance of getting them all done and are designed to help boost your confidence.
7- Don’t focus on the end picture! Taking one small step at a time will help build your confidence, keep you moving forward, and prevent you from getting overwhelmed with visions of your final goal.
8- Use self distancing! This is my most favorite technique
“Self-distancing gives us a little bit of extra space to think rationally about the situation,” says Rachel White, assistant professor of psychology at Hamilton College in New York State. It allows us to rein in undesirable feelings like anxiety, increases our perseverance on challenging tasks, and boosts our self-control.
In a nutshell, the idea is to create space between you and the situation that made you feel bad. Imagine that you can float out and above your body, look back at yourself and see the back of your head. You become the observer and immediately have a different perspective on the situation at hand. With a new perspective, you feel dissociated from the situation and no longer connect with those negative feelings.
9- Adopt a learning mindset! Ditch your failing thoughts and replace them with a learning mindset.
Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure. – Napoleon Hill
Everyone hates to fail, but failing is part of life. The sooner we learn to see failure as a lesson as opposed to a threat, the sooner we can stop avoiding failure and put our motivation, time and efforts to succeed.
I hope this helps you in your future adventures.
Take care my friends, until next week.
Smart Living To 100.