Fear of failing is one of the biggest reasons people fail to achieve their goals because it’s the main reason people fail to even start them.
The fear of failure doesn’t always appear for what it is. When it comes to keeping us from pursuing our goals or dreams it wears many masks, among them:
- Fear of embarrassment
- Fear rejection
- Fear making the wrong choice
- Fear of being wrong
- Fear of being crazy, or thought of as crazy
- Fear of not having what it will take
- Fear that the naysayers are right
- Fear that it’s not the right time
Whatever mask fear of failure wears the result is too often the same: We accept it as a reason to give up before we even begin, and lose a race we never dared to run.
So how do we overcome fear of failure in its many guises? Here’s some tools that work . . .
The first thing we must do is recognize that when it comes to our goals there are very few instances where fear is justified. Our fear is stuck in a primitive past when life was, as John Hobbes had it, “Nasty, brutish, and short.” It speaks only the language of survival.
But guess what–Even if you take that job offer, uproot your life, and move halfway across the country only to find that the job falls through, and that your apartment fell through, and that your car broke down, and you lost your wallet somewhere between Nevada and Nebraska, and you just dropped your phone in the toilet of a McDonalds where you spent you last $1 on the worst Big Mack you’ve ever eaten . . . even if all of these things happen . . . you will survive.
So, unless your goal is to be a Lion Tamer, your failure probably doesn’t have the teeth your fear is giving it.
Challenge Fear With Reason
When fear is holding you back from following a goal, ask yourself searching questions like:
Is that frightening outcome I’m imagining really all that likely?
Am I using fear as an excuse?
Would failure really be all that bad as I’m making it in my head?
Haven’t I faced and overcome bigger challenges/fears in the past?
Have other’s of equal or less intelligence/capability/etc. succeeded at this same thing? Then couldn’t I?
How long have I been wanting this but failing to go after it? Am I really willing to let fear make my decision for me?
Taking a critical approach to fear allows you to emotionally disentangle from it, step back, and see it for what it is. Which in most cases is irrational, and in many cases downright silly. Sometimes this technique alone is enough to embolden you to take action on your goal.
Imagine The Alternative
Use visualization as an antidote to fear. Walk yourself through a vision of your ideal outcome to counter-balance the doomsday scenarios conjured by fear.
What does success look like to you? How does it feel?
Hold to this feeling, and ask yourself if this success would make the risks worthwhile. More often than not the answer will be a resounding Yes! This is because your hopes and dreams represent the biggest, best, most expansive, and authentic part of who you are, or are meant to be.
Your goals beckon, inviting you to be more. Pay attention to that, and ignore the anxious warnings of that shivering, constricting, claustrophobic part of yourself that dwells Gollum-like in fear.
Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway
“Come to the edge,” he said.– Guillaume Apollinaire
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.
Rationally confronting your fear and visualizing a positive outcome may not eliminate your fear entirely, but it should tame it enough for you to take action.
And that’s just what you need to do.
Feel the fear knowing that the fear itself can’t hurt you. Remind yourself that the worst outcomes fear presents to you are unlikely fables, and even if they do end up being true you have what it takes to survive them.
Your goal is waiting for you, and fear can’t be allowed to stand in the way of that. It can’t be allowed to be a justification for failing to even try.
Remind yourself of what you really want. Then take a breath, acknowledging your fear but notifying it that you are determined and will not be stopped . . .
What’s your recent or favorite story of facing down fear to follow a dream? How did you do it? What was the outcome? Share your story and insights below!