The fear of failure is one of the most crippling feelings. It not only stops us from achieving and learning, but it stops us from even trying. But where does this fear originate from? What are the consequences of this fear? How can you get rid of it? The goal of this article is the present a method to overcome fear of failure by giving an introduction to its nature and the way we see it.
About fear and fear of failure
Some speculate that the feeling fear goes back to our primal state when fighting for survival was an everyday activity. Luckily that is not the case anymore, but fear still exists in our system. Studies have shown us that when the part of the brain that is responsible for fear is active, the part that is responsible for risk taking and exploration is shut down. This is the neuroscientific way of saying fear stops you from trying new thing and stepping our of your comfort zone.
What triggers fear nowadays, when we don’t have run from wild predators anymore? The fear we may often feel is probably based on some previous experiences. Something happened at one point in our lives, that was such a negative experience, our mind doesn’t want to deal with it once again. It wants to avoid the same situation no matter what, so we start feeling fear.
What about fear of failure? Is it based on previous experiences as well? It is very likely, for example, upbringing. Strict and pushy parents, demanding teachers, short tempered coaches, mean classmates and more can cause negative experiences where you’ll never want to challenge yourself, never want to take risks and never want to fail ever. Big life traumas can be a root cause as well.
When it comes to fear of failure we often don’t fear failure itself, but the consequences of the failure. Disappointing someone (even ourselves), getting ridiculed or just looking plain dumb in front of others are all very common social situations we might fear. Losing money and the thought that we will have to downgrade our lifestyle or even go broke are financial changes that can induce fear.
Now you have a better understanding of fear and fear of failure, let’s see a method to overcome these feelings.
How to overcome fear of failure
The key to overcoming fear of failure is to change our perception of failure. The way you experience failure is completely subjective. Somewhere, at some point in your life, your brain made the decision (may it be a conscious or an unconscious decision) to be afraid of failure. Just like that, you created a mental obstacle that stops you from achieving.
Failure is a Matter of Perspective
— Goals Infinite (@GoalsInfinite) 29 July 2016
How successful people see failure? When people with an active (or growth) mindset fail, they treat it as a learning opportunity, as a lesson that helps them to improve. They ask questions like: “What caused this failure?” or “What I need to do differently to succeed next time?” or “What can I learn from this experience?”. They know that failure is only a stop on the journey to success, not the end of it. Asking yourself questions like these requires no talent or special skill. You can do every time and there is no reason why not to do this.
A pretty simple analogy is a baby learning to walk. They fall hundreds of times, yet the don’t give up and sooner or later they start walking. Imagine a baby falling for the first few time and then giving up as they are afraid of embarrassing themselves in front of others. A pretty ridiculous idea, but is this story any different from our lives?
Here are some questions to help you put failure into a different perspective. Ask yourself these before trying:
- What consequences do you fear the most?
- Are those consequences realistic?
- Are those consequences really that important, or you just blowing them out of proportion?
- What is the worst possible outcome and how likely it will happen?
- Are there any additional steps that you can take to increase you chances to succeed?
Ask yourself these when you fail:
- What caused the failure?
- What can you learn from failure?
- What can you learn from previous failures?
- What should you do differently next time, so you’ll succeed?
- Is there any reason you can’t try again?
Disclaimer: I’d like to mention a serious mental condition called Atyhiphobia. It is a clinical version of fear of failure, and the symptoms are similar to a panic attack. Turn to a medical expert for more information as it is no goal of this article or this blog to discuss medical topics.
Fear of failure is both crippling and treatable. We all have our own beliefs and ideas of failure, and that is what separates crippling fear from a learning experience. Change your perception and change your life, so the journey to achieve your goals can start.
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About the authorGabor Hosszu is the founder and head article writer of Goals Infinite. Being passionate about personal development and helping others were the main reasons he launched this site. By trade Gabor is a mechanical engineer. His hobbies include being a chilli farmer, a video game nerd and a wannabe beer expert.