How to Overcome Fear of Failure

by Oct 1, 2019

Individuals who make remarkable achievements and attain great feats are always cheered and praised. Often seen as role models, everyone wants to walk down the road of success as they do. It is everyone’s dream to take up a challenge and succeed, nothing less will do.

Students want to attend college and make good grades; they want to be quintessential of success. Employees want to be successful in their workplace. Entrepreneurs want to build the next unicorn. Everyone wants to be successful, and no one wants to fail; this gives rise to a phobia of failure.

When you take up a task or a challenge you expect everything to play out well, you expect a successful outcome, but somewhere in your mind you may harbor little doubt, an iota of fear is comfortably nestling in your mind. We are humans, so it’s alright to have uncertainty. To many people, a good outcome is the yardstick for success. Some people are quite optimistic, so the fear of failure seldom troubles them, while some have a constant phobia of failure.

Students fear failure, so they read more and study harder. Employees don’t want to fail at a task and get fired, so they work harder. Everyone strives for success because failure comes with a stigma, and sadly in some cases punishment.

One of the reasons people fail is because they place lots of emphasis on outcomes instead of learning. We strive to achieve a goal and when we don’t, we feel we’ve failed, and we refuse to acknowledge all that was learned during the struggle to achieve such a goal.

Achieving goals and succeeding are healthy endeavors as long as your sense of self-worth isn’t tied to it. The reality is you are not going to win all the time, or succeed all the time, and if your sense of self-worth is tied to winning, you will be on a perpetual roller coaster ride of ups and downs your entire life.

We lack the appropriate knowledge of what true success entails.

We shouldn’t define success by how overwhelming the outcome is. Instead, we should define success by the knowledge gathered during the journey of trying to attain it irrespective of the result.

“Success is about growth, about what we learned during the strive to become greater than we were.”

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, allegedly made about 1000 trials before he successfully invented the light bulb. It was in this 999th trial that he got it right. When he was interviewed, he said that he didn’t fail 999 times, but learned of 999 ways to wrongly invent the bulb; that’s genius!

I’m quite sure that he didn’t place lots of emphasis on the outcome, which was successfully inventing the light bulb. He knew very well that each failed trial was an opportunity to develop and learn new ways in which the bulb wasn’t going to be invented.

“A student may fail if the expectation on results is higher than the desire to learn. The desire to learn and grow should be the propelling force behind all targeted goals.”

When we pursue outcomes relentlessly, we tend to feel dejected when these outcomes aren’t what we expect. But when you embark on a task with little thought of the outcome, you tend to be glad of what you’ve learned even when the outcome isn’t great.

“To achieve success, we must learn how to focus on learning rather than results.”

Another way to overcome the fear of failure is by having a positive mindset, and by also affirming that you can achieve anything you wish to. Love the journey and the process, because if you do the destination won’t matter. By having this mindset you’ll be limiting the fear of failure in your life.

See every task or goal as another opportunity to learn and gain experience and not solely an opportunity to attain outcomes. Everything is a lesson to be learned and an opportunity to gather experience, which will eventually lead to growth.

Most individuals attach their self-worth to outcomes, and as a result experience ups and down with self-esteem and satisfaction. This is a worldwide epidemic. When outcomes fail to turn out the way we want them to, we feel a massive dip in our self-worth. We can lose morale, which can be detrimental to our well-being.

For instance, a typical example can be seen in a student who failed a course. Of course, such a student wouldn’t consider the fact that along the journey he/she learned certain things regarding the course, they would only consider the fact that they failed, and this might affect their self-worth.

But if this student didn’t place much emphasis on the outcome, he/she won’t be moved by the fact that they failed; instead, they would be glad for the gathered experience and knowledge which would aid their growth and would also be helpful on the next trial.

Fear of failure can be a great cause of stress, but there is a misconception about stress. The majority of us see stress as something obnoxious, truth be told stress isn’t really as bad as we think it is.

Stress actually stretches our abilities and helps us achieve our goals, depending on how we direct it. If we put in all of our stress into the accomplishment of a certain goal, we’ll be surprised at how quickly it’ll yield great results.

The only situation whereby stress becomes detrimental is when the energy lays dormant inside us, that is when we aren’t harnessing it into anything. When we store up stress, it’s like storing up explosives.

“High stress is a red flag indication that you are not spending your energy towards creative and productive endeavors, and that you are too attached to expectations, instead of growth.”

Affirming each day that you are on a learning and growth trajectory towards achieving your goals, can help remove the fear of failure, and drastically reduce stress. Your belief needs to become such that no matter what the outcomes from your goals, you are simply feeding your curiosity to grow.

The relationship we have with failure is tied to our beliefs, and expectations. If we believe our self-worth is tied to achieving our goals successfully, all the time; we will inevitably fail.

By using mantras as a brain hacking technique for 90 days, reaffirming that we are on a journey of discovery and learning, our actions and behavior will start to align to that belief, and our relationship with failure will also change, because we remove the attachment to validate our own self-worth based on outcomes.

This is what happened to Eric Faison, Founder of Hoop News. Eric had a negative outcome from something he was passionate about as a kid and has spent most of his life in a state of fear of failure which has caused him to build things and move on to the next thing, before he could fail or succeed at it. This kind of repetitive pattern has been a great cause of stress for Eric for many years.

Check out the Rant & Grow podcast life coaching session with Eric and see how he finally breaks free of his fear of failure. Maybe you’ll discover some wisdom for your own life. You can listen to the podcast right here.

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