Many of us struggle with fear of failure. We are so afraid of failing that we don’t even try something out we want to do, but already give up beforehand. This fear is what keeps many from reaching their goals. They simply don’t believe they can succeed, so they don’t try.
Maybe you know that from yourself? Do you have a goal or a dream that you haven’t followed because it simply seemed impossible and you thought you were bound to fail? Then you probably also have a fear of failure.
Why does such a fear arise? As children, we are undaunted by failure. We do, we try, and we fail over and over again in order to learn. If we were possessed by a fear of failure as babies, we would never speak a word, never learn to walk, and never explore the world. Failure is completely natural, but in our performance-oriented culture, we learn to demonize it. We get graded, we get judged, and we get punished. Before long, we learn that failure is bad and something to avoid. But as a result, we stop exploring, we stop learning, we stop reaching our full potential.
So let’s bust that fear of failure and start to #doepicshit again, just like when we were young and free. In the following, you’ll learn how!
Letting Go of Your Fear of Failure
The key to moving past the fear of failure is to understand the concept of failure. What does it mean to fail? Not to succeed at something? Not to be the best? Not to do something well?
Well, the funny thing is, that failure cannot really be defined objectively. We understand failure individually. It depends on our own expectations and our own goals. So if we learn to set proper goals and have meaningful expectations towards ourselves, we can avoid failing.
Let’s look at an example: A football team loses a game. If the only goal of the team was to win the game, then obviously they failed. But if the team’s main goal was to improve their skills and gain playing experience, then they didn’t fail at all – they just lost a match.
Moving past the fear of failure is about gaining the right mindset and seeing the bigger picture. Of course, it makes sense to have goals of doing well, but if you’re only focused on being the best and winning each time, you’re a lot more likely to develop a fear of failure. It’s a lot healthier to focus mainly on learning, growing, and gaining experience. Doing well can be secondary goals – and actually, because your focus is on something that’s within your control (whether you learn or not is up to you and your mindset), you’re more likely to do well because you’re less stressed out about winning or losing.
So let’s look at some concrete steps you can take in order to change your mindset about failure:
- Identify what exactly you are afraid of: the more specific your fear is, the easier it will be to deal with it. And you might even discover that what you’re essentially afraid of isn’t that big of a deal anyway.
- Answer “what if”-questions: What if my fear comes to pass, what happens then? We can handle a lot more than we think, and asking this “what if”-question may help us realize that.
- Visualize your success and your obstacles: Imagine your success but also how you will meet and overcome obstacles. You might then feel like you have a strategy for handling those obstacles and worry less.
- Focus on the process, not the product: Remember that everything in life is a learning experience. Focusing on that may help you keep going and not worry to much about the end-result.
- Fail, but don’t be a failure: Failing lasts about a few seconds, then you can move on and try again. The act of failing doesn’t turn you into a failure. The act of not trying again makes you a failure. So keep going! And be kind to yourself!
5 Steps to Face Fears
- Create a List of Fears: Write down everything you’re afraid of – big and small, old and new, for example: I’m afraid of dogs.
- Underlying Fear: In most cases, whatever we are afraid of isn’t what we’re really afraid of. An underlying fear is probably triggering us from within. So perhaps instead of being afraid of dogs, you’re afraid of being hurt (= being bitten by the dog). Once you have pinpointed that, it might give you some perspective on the matter.
- Start Small: Select a fear and find ways to slowly inch yourself towards it. In the case of the fear of dogs, you could try petting a chihuahua.
- Grow It Slowly: To truly ban away the fear, you’ll have to practice and confront it time and again in ever more demanding manners – but you can always take small steps. You don’t have to go from a chihuahua straight to a doberman.
- Take Someone Along: Sticking to the intention of overcoming your fear can be hard as strong emotions may be involved. So to stay committed, it might be an idea to find someone else who is afraid of the same thing (or afraid of something else) and practice together.
There is no shortcut to overcoming your fears. You have to face them in one way or another. The key is to begin small, build up your confidence and courage, and then go for the big leap. If you want to learn more about being fearless, read on here to find out about the “Silicon Valley Mindset”.
Building resistance against the fear of failure is a process, but if you follow the steps above, you’re well on your way, Pirate!