Inside: Fear Of Failure And 5 Ways To Overcome It.
Everyone on the planet is familiar with the young man in coke bottle glasses named Harry Potter who learns on his 11th birthday that he is, in fact, a wizard. With his friends Hermione, Ron, and Headmaster Dumbledore, young Harry learns to navigate his wizardly powers to defeat Lord Voldemort (spoiler alert).
But before young Harry came to be a character in movies and books he was merely an idea in the head of writer J. K. Rowling who penned the manuscript of the first book and presented it to multiple publishers who rejected her. J.K. didn’t let the fear of failure stop her. She hung that first rejection letter on her wall as motivation. She didn’t let the fear of failure stop her and because she didn’t the Harry Potter franchise is worth billions.
How many times have you heard a similar story or come across a major obstacle in life that kept you from achieving your goals? Fear of failure is the worry and concern you experience when you think of all the possible things that can go wrong if you don’t achieve your goal or fail. These fears and worries can hold you back or prevent you from moving forward in the first place. “Why bother, I’m only going to fail again like I did last time”.
So how do you prevent fear of failure from holding you back?
Figure out if your fear is real or not
When confronting the fear of failure you need to first decipher if your fear is a real or imagined threat. A real threat would be something that can cause you physical harm. An imagined threat is a threat you have thought up in your mind. It is not based in reality and thus is imagined. For example, you may not enjoy presenting to a large group or public speaking and think that doing so is a real threat.
In reality, there is very little chance that you will receive physical harm by public speaking. Unless of course you’re speaking on a controversial topic and you get attacked afterward. Remember the people you’re speaking to are people just like you. Y0u arent delivering your presentation to a room full of wild animals waiting to devour you. That would be a real fear!
You may be fearful of the presentation but the threat of bodily harm is not real. Instead, your mind is presenting thoughts on what you think is going to happen before you even start resulting in fear. “I’m going to stumble over my words and people are going to laugh at me”.
Instead, visualize what obstacles you perceive facing, figure out if they’re real or not, and put together a plan to overcome them.
For example: If you are scared of “stumbling” over your words then spend extra time working on sections of your presentation that might cause you problems and reword them. Practice the presentation and be as comfortable as possible in your delivery. Or if you have to, work in a quick joke if you should stumble.
For my 25th wedding anniversary, my wife thought it would be great if we each prepared a little speech about each other and present it to the room. The party was a room full of roughly 50 friends and family so even though I shouldn’t have been nervous, I still was. I’m in sales but to this day I’m not a big fan of public speaking. I do it if I have to but I’d much rather have a root canal.
I prepared my speech and it included the following passage: “The real reason we’re having this party is because of the woman next to me. My wife decided to forego a 50th birthday party this February for herself and instead have this party. She is the most selfless, positive person I’ve ever known”.
Now, this sounds like a wonderful sentiment and it is true however instead of saying selfless I said SELFISH. I practiced this speech a hundred times and thought to myself, I need to change that word and sure enough, I said it wrong. The entire room laughed, I surely turned bright red but I got through it. This was a situation where changing a word would have been a good idea.
Sometimes to overcome our fear of failure all we need is a better way to think or a plan.
Define what failure means to you and then redefine it
Success can be as hard to define as a failure at times and definitions vary from person to person. Success means different things to different people. For some being rich and having fancy cars is a form of success where others’ success may mean having a family and children. The same can be said for failure.
What does failure mean to you? Is it giving up, not going 100% for your goal, not achieving what you expected, or not achieving what you expected in a certain timeframe? It’s different for everyone which is why you need to define what failure means to you especially if you have fear of failure.
Change your thought process and be clear on your definition of failure that way there are no grey areas. Some will say to switch from thinking about failure and think of it as more of a discrepancy between what you wanted to achieve and what you received. Thinking in “discrepancies” provides you with clear information that you can use to learn from and use moving forward.
For example, you wanted to lose 50 pounds by December but instead, you lost 40. What you can learn from this is the fact that yes you can lose weight but you have to work harder next time and cut additional calories or add more cardio. It wasn’t a failure but a discrepancy in your goal.
As long as there is forward motion and you’re making progress then there is no reason to have a fear of failure.
Fail more to succeed more.
Simply stated the more you fail the more you will succeed. The more chances you take the more chances you have to fail and learn to be better. Professional hockey player Wayne Gretzky said it best, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. The more shots on goal you take the more chances you have to score a goal and win (succeed)
Learn to accept criticism and use it effectively to your advantage. You will never know it all nor can you know it all. The most successful people you can imagine fail too and some fail every single day at something. More importantly, they fail but continue to learn from failure and use it to propel themselves forward.
Don’t overinflate failure
Everybody will fail at some point in life. No one is perfect and though it’s ok to expect good outcomes and success (The NY Yankees live their entire life this way) you will fail at times. The key is to not make the failure bigger than it is or overinflate failure. Losing one sale doesn’t make you the worst salesperson ever it just means that you have to work harder or maybe tweak your presentation a bit next time. One loss doesn’t mean you will continually lose.
One bad relationship doesn’t mean you won’t ever find that special someone. You just need to keep looking. Missing your weight loss goal by 5 pounds doesn’t mean you can never lose the weight you need to it just means you need to make an adjustment.
Life is an ongoing adjustment day in and day out. Don’t beat yourself up too hard for failing, it’s all part of the game of life.
Every single person is scared of something in life. For me, it’s being food for an animal. Sure this may sound irrational but I couldn’t imagine being eaten alive. For others, fear may be bees (ok that one in me also) or monkeys wearing tuxedos (my mom) or asking someone out on a date. The sooner you address your fear head on the quicker you can move ahead. In the end, it isn’t the fear that stops you from moving forward it is the perception of the fear that does.
Learn to embrace your fear and learn from it. The alternative would be to give up and 9 times out of 10 that pain is worse than the fear itself. Instead, charge your fear head-on and the person who is willing to take the game-winning shot.
Overcoming your fear of failure can be as easy or hard as you make it. If you let the fear of failure stand in your way you risk missing out on many opportunities in life. What makes you fear failure ultimately is your definition of failure. If you’re confident in yourself and how you can handle failure there is nothing that should ever stand in your way. Learn from your mistakes and move on to a bigger and better life!
And always remember what Wayne Gretzky said and make sure to take your shot!
Do you have a fear of failure and if so what do you do to overcome it? Comment below.