The fear of failure makes us want to turn back. Or, if we haven’t started yet, it tells us that we should stay in our comfort zone.
Being afraid to fail—is an obstacle that we have to overcome if we want to grow.
In this post, I’ll share the best ideas I know for overcoming this hurdle.
Why Failure is Not All Bad
If I just get this thing right, my life will be great. That’s what I hear all the time—in my mind. But what happens if I get it? I look for the next thing—forever searching for completion.
But who is this I? Eckhart Tolle among other spiritual leaders would call it my ego.
The ego gets depleted when we fail. Our previous mental picture of who we are no longer fits the situation. How we respond to this situation will determine what happens next.
We can allow our ego to become bigger by making us a victim—or we can approach it as a blessing in disguise. The following is an example of what I believe can happen when a failure occurs, and the ego gets depleted:
When Steve Jobs got fired from Apple—he lost all that he had focused on for years. His failure was public, and his ego must have taken a big hit. I think that this is what allowed him to enter one of the most creative phases of his life.
He started a company named NeXT that Apple eventually bought. He also started Pixar and found the love of his life. In his own words: The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.
There are many similar stories to that of Steve Jobs. 50 cent took over the hip-hop world shortly after being shot nine times and getting fired from his record label.
The singer Adele had been producing less creative work for a while—when all of sudden—her boyfriend cheated on her. After that event, she created the most compelling music of her career.
Success can make us rigid and comfortable. Failure on the other hand—can free our mind and allow us to experience personal growth and a wave of creative energy.
I’m not stating that success is not good—all I’m saying is that we shouldn’t see failure as something bad. More importantly; we shall not fear it.
Almost Nobody Will Really Care
Perhaps your fear of failure is tied to other people’s opinion. Maybe you paint pictures in your mind of the embarrassment you could experience if you fail. What will my friends and family think of me?
If you think this way; you’re in a self-imposed prison. In other words; you are stuck in your ego.
Go meet some people that are older than 80 years and ask—do you wish you would have been more sensitive to other people’s opinion of you? Ask them if they regret something, and you’ll discover that it most likely has something to do with something they didn’t do.
We failed with our first business venture. We lost thousands of dollars. Did anyone care?
You might think that people will respect you less if you fail. But I believe the opposite happens. They respect you more now because you have exercised courage.
Focus on Winning
The purpose of these words is not to glorify failure. If you can avoid it—do it. Learn from other people’s mistakes to avoid failing yourself.
The purpose of my writing so far has only been to expose the fact that failure is not all bad.
Your focus needs to be on success. That’s the only thing that you have room for in your visualization. But you should not feel a need of controlling every single event and outcome. If setbacks that are outside of your control were to occur—you would face it with a stoic mindset. You accept the event and look for opportunities instead of self-pity.
Failure Does Not Define You
Nobody thinks less of Thomas Edison because he failed 10 000 times before he invented the light bulb. We admire him for his persistent. Edison didn’t even phrase his less successful attempts as a failure. He said; I haven’t failed. I just found 10 000 ways that won’t work.
But not only is a failure not permanent—our lives are not eternal. Most people live like they are immortal. I will do that tomorrow, next week—or come to think of it—next year. The success coach Brian Tracy calls this the Someday Isle. Of course—that someday never comes.
Finding and Removing the Fear of Failure
I believe that the fear of failure is subtle. It’s in the back of the mind which makes it hard to discover.
A person might say; I’m not afraid to fail. But if it’s something that you want—why are you not moving towards your dream?
It’s not possible now—I need to be responsible. I will do it when my kids are grown up, and my debts are paid off—I will do it when the time is right. Because what will happen if…
STOP! There you have it; the fear of failure.
The time will never be right when one thinks like this. Even if circumstances were perfect—the mind will find another reason (excuse) to put it off. If you catch yourself thinking this way; find other people that have started worse off than you, yet succeeded.
Four Final Tips
Here are some final tips and questions to ask that can help you to overcome the fear of failure:
- Face your fear fast. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to overcome it.
- Write down the worst case scenario that you think can happen if you go for it. Is it really that bad? What can you do to repair the damage [if any]?
- What are you missing out on because of this fear? Use back from the future thinking. What will you regret most at the end of your life; going for it or hesitating because of false evidence appearing real (fear)?
- Our mind will often make things more severe than they are. Let’s end this with some wisdom from Mark Twain: ‘I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.’