Have you ever been so afraid of failing at something that you decided not to try it at all?
“I need to do more research before I set up my blog.”
“I need to save more money before I even think of starting my business.”
“I tried to do something similar once and it didn’t work out. It’s just not meant to be.”
“It’s not realistic, so why even bother?”
That’s what you tell yourself to rationalise why you’re not going for your dreams. But deep down, you know it: they’re just excuses.
What’s really stopping you from taking action is the fear of failure.
Why Do You Experience The Fear Of Failure?
Going after your dreams is scary.
Whether you want to start an online business, write a best-selling book, or move to a different country, there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.
You might create a product no one wants. Do a webinar that bombs and make a fool of yourself on the internet. Get rejected by publishers. Lose money. Make promises you can’t deliver. There are so many ways this could go wrong….
Your brain hates uncertainty. When you think of doing something new, your brain looks for past evidence you’ll succeed. If it can’t find it (how can it when you’ve never done it before?), it’ll consider it as a threat to avoid at all costs.
This is an evolutionary mechanism designed to keep you safe from venturing into forests alone where you could be killed by saber-toothed tigers or getting exiled from your community back when that meant certain death.
Most of the “threats” in our modern society aren’t threats at all. Failing may cause discomfort, disappointment and pain – nothing more.
But your brain doesn’t know it. And so, it tells you it’s safer to stay where you are, daydreaming of what could be instead of taking a chance and risking failing in the real world.
The catch? Putting your dream on hold feels safe in the short term. In the long run, you’re setting yourself up for a life of unhappiness and regret…
How Do You Experience Fear Of Failure?
Fear of failure shows up in lots of different ways, including:
- Negative self-talk
- Low self-esteem
- Reluctance to try new things
- Self-deprecation (like not accepting compliments)
- Self-sabotage (like not following through on your plans)
- Talking yourself out of opportunities you don’t feel qualified for
If you’re experiencing any of these, you’re not alone. Fear of failure is universal. We all have it – and we all can overcome it. Here’s how:
How To Overcome The Fear Of Failure
1. Adopt A Toddler’s Mindset
Have you ever seen a toddler learning to walk? They stand up on their tiny little legs, move a couple of tentative first steps, and… fall down on the floor. Again and again and again…
Imagine if their parents said: “Oh no, you just fell down again! This walking thing isn’t for you. You should keep crawling for the rest of your life.”
It’s insane, right? And yet, that’s exactly what happens as we grow up. We try something once, it doesn’t work out as planned, and give up.
Give yourself permission to act like a toddler. Every time you fall, get yourself up again until you master it.
The only real failure is not to try at all.
2. There Is No Failure – Only Feedback
Failure isn’t a sign to give up. It’s feedback on how to succeed.
When I started working as a freelance writer years ago, I had lots of meetings with potential clients – but they all refused to work with me.
Instead of getting discouraged, I got curious. I asked them why they said no and what I could do to improve. I then tweaked my approach accordingly.
Three months later, I signed up my first paying client! Woo hoo!
It was only possible because I saw failure as feedback and was able to refine my proposals and interview skills until I got it right.
Next time something doesn’t go to plan, ask yourself: “What is this ‘failure’ telling me and how can I use it to improve?”
Related: It’s Not Failure. It’s Feedback.
3. Detach Your Failures From Your Identity
How do you talk yourself when you fail at something?
Most people take failure so personally, they tell themselves: “I’m a failure.” They can’t disconnect the outcome of their action from their self-worth.
But, you are NOT your failures. They say nothing about who you are as a person.
You’re just a human being working towards your dreams and getting feedback in the process.
Instead of saying “I’m a failure,” say “I’ve failed.” This helps you see failure for what it is: an action that didn’t result in the desired outcome.
4. Analyse All Potential Outcomes
You fear failure because you fear the unknown. So, take a look at all potential outcomes:
- What is the worst case scenario?: This is scary, but once you go there, you realise how unlikely it is to happen – and that there’s always a way to get back on your feet.
- What is the best case scenario?: This is your ideal outcome. Tap into it. Visualise it. Feel the energy. You can make it happen.
- What other outcomes are possible?: Unrealistic or not, write them all down. Make them familiar to your brain, so they won’t scare you anymore. Even if they happen, you’ll know you can handle them.
5. Make A Contingency Plan
Now you have a list of possible outcomes, make a plan on how you’ll handle them.
How can you tweak your approach? How can you get back on your feet? How can you make back the money, find a new job, or whatever it is you’re fearing?
This exercise switches your brain from panic mode into action mode. Instead of dwelling on what could go wrong, you’ll plan for it so that when it happens, you won’t be scared. You’ll already know what to do.
And, as you take action, you’ll realise that 99% of the things you feared never came true anyway.
Wrapping It Up
Fear of failure is natural – but it doesn’t have to stop you. Acknowledge your fear, reframe failure into feedback and make a plan B in case things don’t go according to plan. Then take action.
Your dreams are waiting for you.