Do You Fear Failure?

If you looked at that question and thought “Doh! No kidding!” read on!

Wanting to succeed is natural, so it makes sense that the opposite, not wanting to fail, also is natural. But if the fear of making a mistake paralyzes you into non-action, here are some ideas to get you moving toward your goals again:

1. Take steps so you feel more competent. As a study reported in Psychology Today noted, we may still be afraid to fail, but if we feel competent, we’ll still take action and not procrastinate. Basically, competence helps us overcome the paralysis that the very human fear of failure causes. (read the article here).

2. Consider the very worst thing that can happen if you fail. Embrace it. Put your mind around it. Figure out how to manage that risk and then move ahead. Sometimes it’s as simple as realizing there is no terrible downside to trying and not having things work out as planned. This also helps if you fear of the unknown. By thinking through all the possibilities, the unknown becomes known.

3. Create a Plan B if things don’t go according to Plan A. Knowing you have a backup plan might help you move forward.

4. Reframe how you look at failure. It may seem like a cliché to say that there’s no failure, only lessons, but internalizing that notion will help you take action toward your goals even when you’re afraid of failing. Also consider that if you do “fail,” you will have an opportunity to learn more about yourself, as well as perhaps learning who your friends really are. Those who stand by you when times are tough are the people you want around all the time.

5. Take little actions to build your confidence. For example, if visualizing a job change leaves you cold, imagine smaller steps first. Maybe ask friends how they feel about working for the new company you’re considering, or maybe meet your new prospective boss at a networking event first. Or look at it this way: What would you do if you didn’t have this fear? Make a list of the actions you’d take if you didn’t have the fear, the worry, the concern about failing. Pick one and do it. Then pick another. And another. Tiny action steps give us the confidence we need to take a bigger, more life-changing action.

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6. Realize that it’s ok not to be perfect. If you had critical parents, for example, you might be particularly hard on yourself and find it easier not to try rather than to try and fail. Just recognizing this tendency at crucial moments can help you move forward. Again, looking at the worse thing that can happen might help. Very few things in life require perfection (air traffic control jumps into my mind as one of the ones that does!), so be kind to yourself. Would you hold someone you love to your standards? If not, then be just as loving to yourself as you would be to someone else.

7. Realize the source of the fear of failing. Is it rejection? Disappointing others? Looking foolish? Facing ridicule? No one wants to fail, but what’s behind that fear? Much like anger, fear is a symptom, and figuring out the underlying cause will help you move beyond it.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

When do you fear failing the most and how do you move past it?


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