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Fear of Failure (How You Can Overcome It)

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Fear of Failure
Credit: Photo by Andrew Coulter Enright

Fear of failure is inevitable. I don’t think there is anyone on planet earth that at some point in their lives did not fear failing. I remember for most of my university life I avoided all classes that required any type of presentation. Avoidance served as my own cloak to a fear of failing.

Later in life, I returned to school to do some upgrading, and the program I enrolled in had presentation requirements in every class. Consequently, avoiding my fear was just not an option anymore; I was forced to face my fear of failure.

I stepped in front of the class, my hands were shaking, my stomach was upset, my heart was beating really fast, I felt like I was under water grasping for my last breath. I opened my mouth to speak and all eyes were glued to me. I averted my eyes and focused on the lone tree outside the window and presented to it. As the time passed, I stopped trembling, my voice sounded more confident, my heart beats slowed down, I made appropriate eye contact, and gained more confidence, and I had ridden through the fear and survived.

Today presentations come more naturally to me as a result of facing my fear and learning from it. J. K. Rowling in her commencement speech to Harvard graduates stated, “I had been set free because my greatest fear had been realized.” Are you realizing your greatest fear?

Fear of Failure Can Cause Paralysis

Fear of failure can cause you to not strive to achieve your goals or passion in life. Negative self-talk takes up your mental space and you consequently tell yourself “I can’t do it because I will fail.” You mind becomes gripped with worse-case-scenario thinking, wherein you can only think about all of the things that can go wrong if you make the plunge. But what are you learning by not taking a risk? How are you growing? How are you realizing your potential? Your constant over-thinking, rationalizing, and perfectionist attitude will render you mediocre at best.

Any type of personal growth requires a push out of your comfort zone and a realization of what you are really capable of doing. J. K. Rowling states, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you lived so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all, in which case you fail by default.”

Fear of Failure Can Make You Risk Adverse

Playing it safe and only sticking to what you excel at is not bad, but who wants a life that is labeled as “not bad.” If you desire to be a “mover and shaker” of your time then taking risk is mandatory, riding through your fear is a prerequisite, and getting to the next level requires passing fear 101.

Let me just tell it to you straight, fear of failure is self-limiting. Why? Because when you fear failure, you don’t take any risk, and you therefore don’t realize your full potential, and you therefore do not grow. How long are you going to be content with just being a seed? You have to endure; being dug into the ground, covered completely by dirt, exposed to the elements of wind, rain and heat. Failure will not be easy, you will endure hardship and storms but the journey of learning and growth will far outweigh the negatives.

If fear of failure is too much for you to handle, one way to combat it is to have a back-up plan. For example, some people may fear starting an online business because it may not pay the bills. Well take the risk and start the business anyway and only quit your job once you are making your desired or needed income online.

Keep in mind, the aforementioned path is smarter, but may also be self-limiting. What do I mean? Take J. K. Rowling for example, she states, “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential...had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area I believed I truly belonged.” Meaning, J. K. Rowling had hit rock bottom, she had no other recourse other than to stick to her passion and hope that it would one day be realized. If she had a successful job but also wrote in her spare time, she may not have put all of her energy into her true passion and excelled.

I know you must be thinking that is all fine and dandy, let’s all rally around, and give a group hug and high fives; but when the dust is settled and I take the plunge and fail, then what? Well, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What did I learn about myself during the process
  2. What did I do that I didn’t think I was capable of before
  3. What can I tweak so that failure is less likely next time around
  4. How do I know that I failed? Can there be any latent affects that might turn the failure into a success later on? Read further to see what I mean…

Also, cut the negative self –talk and congratulate yourself on taking a chance at something, even if you fail, you have actually succeeded in going outside of your comfort zone. There must be something to learn about yourself from the experience.

Failure Today Can Bring You Success Tomorrow

 I remember spending a lot of time on a couple of blog posts for my blog and I received 0 views for the longest time, I went on a hiatus from my blog for a long time because of it. Ironically, those are the same posts that bring the majority of the traffic to my blog today. Hence, failure today can sometimes bring you success tomorrow. Here are some real world examples to mull over:

  1. Thomas Edison tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the light bulb
  2. Michael Jordan tried out for a varsity team during his sophomore year but didn’t make the cut because he was too short
  3. Stephen Spielberg dropped out of junior high school and when he returned he was placed in a learning-disabled class
  4.  John Grisham’s first novel A Time To Kill was rejected by 28 publishers
  5.  J. K. Rowling’s first novel The Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by 12 publishers

Fear of failure is evitable, but you can overcome it by facing your fears head on and being willing to take risks. Be willing to realize the outcome of failure and take the plunge anyway. At the very least, you actually fail but learn and grow from the experience. At the very best, you succeed, and are grateful that you took the risk. Why are you still staring at the screen? Get up and start facing your fears.


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