I sat there, paralyzed with fear.
I was far away from home, had just thrown away a promising career, and was starting over by starting my own business.
And there I was, unable to think about anything but how badly this could go.
Have you been there? Have you felt that pit in the bottom of your stomach? Have you felt the overwhelming force trying to convince you to give up and get back into comfort?
It was telling me to go back home, where everybody knows your name. Get a comfortable job to have that guaranteed paycheck. Go some place and just fit in; you won’t fail that way.
Comfort is…well…comfortable, of course.
But that’s not how you get ahead. That’s not how you grow. And that’s not how you attain your goals and live the life of your dreams.
And yet, fear drives every one of us in some way, doesn’t it?
I can tell you from experience, even when I know what’s happening, even when I know it’s all in my head — playing that game of worst-case scenario — it affects my decisions and, at times, my path.
And that’s just it — fear is largely in your imagination, and yet it’s insidious.
So how do you deal with fear? How do you stop it from filling you with self-doubt? How do you stop it from driving your decisions?
We’ll get into that below.
WHAT IS FEAR OF FAILURE?
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”
Think back to when you were a kid.
You had no concept of failure, and you didn’t care if you failed at something. You’d just try again. And again. And again. You involved no negative thoughts or emotions with the failure; it was nothing more than something in your way, something that you had to figure out how to get around.
No matter the results, you just kept going and kept doing.
But it didn’t take long before you learned to fear the opinions of others, and you begin to play the worst-case scenario game.
It’s ingrained within us to fear failure. It’s parental. It’s societal. It’s educational.
And it affects everybody.
It’s only in your imagination, yet it has killed more dreams than all other fears combined. Even worse, it can prevent you from even trying in the first place.
You wonder what others will think; you tell yourself that you’re not ready (hint: you’ll never be ready), which guarantees failure. You tell yourself that you’ll lose all your money, your significant other will walk out on you, and your friends will laugh at you.
Playing that game of worst-case scenario.
Do something for me, look back on your failures — was it ever that bad?
Probably not. In fact, the outrageous thoughts fear of failure puts in our heads are so over the top — so cinematic — that’s it hard to understand how we even believe it.
Oh, but we do. And we play that cinematic horror scene over and over in our heads until not only do we believe it — and pay attention, because this is important — we live it.
You read that right — our minds can’t tell the difference between reality and imagined reality, so when we play that scene over and over, we begin to play it out in reality. Then, we walk around stressed and depressed, as if we’ve already failed.
And that makes it so much more likely that we do fail.
It’s a vicious cycle.
You can’t get rid of the fear of failure, so what do you do?
Read on, my friends.
HOW TO SUCCEED IN THE FACE OF YOUR FEAR
They say that knowledge is power, and with that power comes the first step in defeating (or reframing) your fear of failure.
Read on for seven things to help you overcome your fear of failure and drive you to take action and be more successful in life.
1. Failure is Temporary (Unless You do This)
All the most successful people have experienced a lot of failure on their path to success.
They acknowledge that it’s a necessary step to achieve the success you want.
As Thomas Edison put it,
“I failed my way to success.”
If you’re going for something, you’re going to fail along the way. Hell, you may fall 99 times out of 100.
But failure is temporary, and it’s not fatal — unless you give up.
2. Everybody Fails
Talk to an entrepreneur, talk to anyone who successfully launched a business, talk to a friend who chased a dream. You’ll find that they all failed many times on their way to success.
Think back on your life, about all the times you’ve failed to walk the walk or talk the talk.
But here you are, still here, still surviving.
People fail all the time. It’s part of being human. The difference between the most successful and those who aren’t is the mindset and approach they have.
Successful people take that failure for what it is (not a big deal), realize why that approach didn’t work, adjust, and try again with more wisdom and knowledge than before.
3. Make it Educational
“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Every single failure you’ve experienced can teach you something.
Whether it happened ten years ago and is a regret you carry with you, or if it happened yesterday, or it happens tomorrow — failure makes you knowledgeable and more capable.
Think of it this way: The more you fail, the stronger you become.
4. Others Don’t Care About You
We always think everyone that surrounds us cares about us so much that they’ve zeroed in on us at all times. But that’s rarely the case.
People have their own problems, worries, and (yes) fears to be distracted with, rarely focusing on you.
And the few who do notice you quickly turn their attention back on their own worries, forgetting all about you.
So don’t think so highly of yourself :).
Once you realize the simple fact that there’s nothing to worry about, everything changes. Once you stop caring so much about failure that you can do it again because people don’t really care, you’ll begin seeing success more often, just because you’re trying more.
So feel free to fail as much as necessary.
5. Focus on the Opposite of Failure
Instead of spending your time worrying about possible failure, spend that time thinking about the success you could achieve.
Imagine how that will feel. Allow yourself to get excited and think positive about taking your next action towards success.
And now, rather than being shrouded in self-doubt and fear, you’ll walk around with a smile on your face, exuding confidence.
And just that simple change in mindset will increase the likelihood of your success.
So the next time you find yourself playing a game of worst-case scenario, shift the vision to what will happen when you succeed. And dwell on that.
6. Stop Time-Traveling
We’re always time-traveling. We go from the past to the future. We think about past regrets and failure, and we think about what our future will be like if we fail.
But we rarely just stay in the present and enjoy the moment.
- Focus on forgetting about the outcome, and just focus on the now and enjoy the journey.
- Stop thinking about your past — learn from your mistakes and then move on.
Thinking about failing will freeze you in your tracks and fill you with self-doubt. So anytime you catch your mind wandering there, bring it back to the present.
Focus on now and enjoy the journey.
7. Consider the Cost of Doing Nothing
Taking action may be scary, but what will happen if you do nothing? Think back to your past regrets for not taking an action that still haunts you to this day. I’m sure you have them; I have plenty.
- What will you feel about failing to take action?
- What if you’re stuck in your current life for the next decade because you never take action?
- Maybe taking a risk is far more attractive than remaining stagnant.
Often the cost of doing nothing causes us to have regrets later in life.
I am lucky enough that I learned this along the way, are you?
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION
“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”
~Thomas J. Watson
Can I ask you a question?
Not just any question, but one to sit back and ponder for a few moments.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid of failing?
I bet it would be a lot more than you’re doing right now.
I bet there are things in your head you’ve wanted to do, just haven’t gone for it.
Because you’re not ready, you’re scared of what people will think, or you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
But these are all ways that fear causes us to miss golden opportunities and take the chances that would make us happy in life.
So then, how much has the fear of failure limited your life?
You, like me, have allowed the fear of failure to influence your decisions. You’ve allowed it to stop you from trying new things and taking risks: You missed out on that skydiving adventure with your friends, asking out that guy or girl that you had a crush on for so long, and that business adventure your friends ended up going on without you.
We all have smaller lives than we could because we’re so concerned with what others think or will think.
So let’s make a pact: Let’s stop allowing failure to make our decisions for us.
You can’t get rid of it, so accept what your fear is telling you, and then visualize how great it will be when you succeed, and go forward.
Remember, failure is only temporary unless you quit. Use it as a stepping stone of knowledge to boost you forward.
Getting beyond the fear of failure is one of the most incredible things you can do for yourself and your future.
In fact, you should start today — baby steps, as they say.
What can you do today that you’ve been afraid to try?