Often when we embark on a new journey of discovery, a new business venture, the learning of a new skill, or maybe a new recipe, we can find ourselves plagued with fear. More specifically, this is the fear of failure.
The fear of failure is not usually just a passing fear. The fear of failure is often a paralyzing and debilitating fear.
Why do we as people fear failure so much? We tell ourselves that failure means that we are not competent or capable. We can tell ourselves that we are socially inferior to others that have succeeded or we may be perceived as such. We fear this so much that we choose to not even try something new so that we don't have to face the shame of failure.
We can say to ourselves, "if I don't try, I won't fail". This is certainly true, but the flipside is that we will not find success either.
Most of us know the relationship between risk and reward. This is the idea that with great risk comes great reward. The opposite is also true. With small risk comes small reward. If we decide we are too averse to failure to ever step out and try something new, we may live in regret.
Regret is often the byproduct if we give into the fear of failure. We may even become angry with ourselves if we became so fearful as to not act on something, thus loosing the opportunity for something we want or desire. Regret can be devastating in itself. This shows us that fear of failure can be a downward spiral.
How Can We Overcome the Fear of Failure?
- Define your fears - I think it best to first take some time and discover what it is that you are afraid of. Is it failure or something else? Defining a fear can often minimize its intensity in our minds. If we know what we are facing, then it might be easier to know how to handle it. This is something akin to the old saying, "know thy enemy".
- Define the best and worst case scenarios - If we know ahead of time what the best possible outcome and the worst possible outcome are if we face the fear of failure, then we can define both the risk and reward. This is a big step in achieving the motivation needed to step out and possibly fail. If we decide that the reward is great, then this might prompt us to more easily overcome our fear of failure. The reward becomes worth the risk of failing.
- Remember, failure is not the end - Often we can put ourselves in the box of believing that failure in one aspect or one attempt is the end of our chances. Persistence can help us see and understand that failing is not game over. This can be a chance to regroup and try again with a better understanding. Failure in one aspect can often result in the enlightenment or growth of another. Find out where you can grow and become better as a result of the failed attempt.
It is important to note that the fear of failure can lead us to a self-fulfilling prophecy. What this means is that we can believe we are going to fail so much that we in fact sabotage ourselves, either consciously or subconsciously, into failing. This is why we must also have a proper understanding of ourselves and our abilities so that we do not fall prey to this trap and perpetuate the fear of failure.
I would encourage you to step out of your comfort zones. I encourage you to fail. It is in the failures that we can find successes. Keep focus on risk vs. reward. Trust that the rewards often far outweigh the risk of failure.