Getting Past Your Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is probably the greatest obstacle faced by people when trying to achieve their business goals and ambitions. Fear has the ability to distract you from the path you have chosen and is something that will undoubtedly lead to regret later in life if not challenged and overcome.

Fear doesn’t just get in the way of big things, it also prevents us from making positive changes to our life circumstances, no matter how small. Our mind perceives change as a risk and unknown consequences cause the subconscious to signal danger and increased alertness. As a result, we may shy away from circumstances that have unknown outcomes. It’s easier and more comfortable to stay within the boundaries that are familiar and risk free.

Fear in Business

Fear and social embarrassment can lead to situations of avoiding social and business events. These are critical for business as they expand both our knowledge and networking connections.

These functions, can be intimidating because they require considerable skills in socializing and small talk. The interplay between the two sends out a constant stream of information. Social skills, which are sadly on the decline in the modern-day workplace, are only improved through immersion into situations and practice.

The subconscious mind uses fear to protect us from possible emotional or physical distress. It does this by making us wary of the potential negatives consequences a situation may hold. Fear itself isn’t real. It’s a perception.

Put most of our fears under the spotlight and it becomes apparent that most are without foundation.

Fears Can Be Helpful

Fears are not predictions. In fact fear, once rationalized, can become an important tool in analyzing a future task or event.

Fear is a form of vigilance. It can be seen as a logical and sensible way of discovering things which will increase your chance of success in the future.

No successful businessman blunders their way into ventures in the hope they will pay off. They may use terms like analysis, or market research, or logic, but these are all driven by a single factor and that is the need for success.

For success to occur we need to have an understanding of the alternative, which is failure. In this respect we all fear failure. It is the fear of failure that can be used to our advantage.

Knowing how to address your fears is the first step towards realizing success. So how do we go about this?

Understand Success

Be clear about what success means to you. One definition of success might be:

a meaningful life, lasting relationships, and work that provides personal fulfilment, financial prosperity, and makes a difference.

But what’s your definition? How would you end this statement?:

I would know I was successful if …

Once you develop a clear idea of what success looks like for you, then you can start focusing on what matters most. With each action you take, ask yourself if it will get you closer to your goal, or further from it. 

Is it All Positive?

Success doesn’t necessarily equate to balance, harmony or happiness. We can be personally successful in a number of ways and deeply troubled or unhappy because of the costs.

Identify and analyze the possible downsides of being successful. Consider the following question: if I am truly successful (according to what my definition of success is), what is the worst thing that could happen? What would I have to do, or to be, that is different, and what would be the overall impact on my life? What would change? Can I accept and live with those changes?

  • Don’t gauge yourself by other people’s achievements. No two individuals or situations are ever the same, and we all came into this life with our own unique gifts and talents.
  • Stop dwelling on your shortcomings and concentrate on your assets. And regardless of how small, celebrate your own milestones and accomplishments. When you feel good about yourself and what you are doing, it is harder for others to shake your confidence.
  • Stop focusing on competing. While it is wonderful to be inspired and appreciate be inspired by others and to learn from them, becoming embroiled in a fierce competition with someone else is not only wastes your time, but it sets you up for disappointment and failure.

The only one you need to compete with is yourself. Work hard to achieve the best you can and strive to break your own records. Seek help when you need it. No one has the answers to everything, and it is no disgrace to ask for help when we find ourselves in over our heads. It is not necessary to have all the answers ourselves. It’s about knowing where to find them when we need them.

Henry Ford, of Ford Motor Company fame, is a good example of this. He saw no reason to know everything himself and gathered people around him he could rely on to provide the right answers.

If you’re trying to be perfect, don’t. It is better to try first, and then you can correct the mistakes later. Do not wait for everything to be perfect for you to act. Perfection is a lofty goal that is rarely met. We can make ourselves crazy trying to achieve this, or we can accept our imperfections as part of who we are.

Avoid focusing on whatever you did not do, or what you should have done differently. It is only human to make mistakes, so forgive yourself and everyone else will too. You might even try poking a little fun at yourself. A little humor can take the sting out of many situations.

Learn from your mistakes. You are bound to make mistakes and when you do, learn what you can from them. Just be sure your future mistakes are new ones, and you are not repeating any old ones. Mistakes lead to progress when you act on them. Something you may consider, one of your greatest mistakes might actually turn out to your greatest achievement.

There are many different ways to how to overcome the fear of failure but keep in mind that these would not work to your advantage if you refuse to cooperate. Sometimes, you have no options but to accept it. While you think you have everything well planned out, you lose your track and get lost in a dilemma.

These worst-case scenarios are what you should be prepared for. Failures must always be translated into a learning experience. That way, you have more opportunities to learn and do better. After all, if you have not experienced any failure, then you would not have the means towards changing for the better.

See also:

How to think big and succeed
Using mindfulness to promote health and wellness
Confidence 101

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