How to overcome the fear of failure

Fear and failure are a toxic combination. Both fear and failure have positive elements to play in our lives. Fear can be a useful self preservation mechanism and failure can help us learn valuable lessons. When the two come together they pose a crippling and destructive cocktail which will ruin your life.

As I write this post, I am embarking on a new journey which will see me leave regular fixed income and taking a financial risk. I am excited, terrified but I am not going to let me fear prevent me from stepping into my future.  Writing this post comes from my own experience and so it is a little bit of therapy for me and hopefully will help you too.

The fear of failure left unchallenged will keep you from reaching your potential. No if’s, no buts, it is one of the most important things you have to take control over.

Where does the fear of failure come from?

I am no psychologist but I certainly have experienced throughout my life the fear of failure. If you struggle with the fear of failure you will run endless scenarios in your head of worst case scenarios. These fears usually come from our own personal hierarchy of needs (of the Maslow variety).

If we have unfulfilled or uncertainty in one of the levels within Maslow’s diagram, it will usually mirror itself in the fear of failure.

New Career  – What if I am not good enough?  – Self-Esteem

New Business – Do you fear not being able to pay the bills? – Safety

New Clothes – Do you worry about what people will think? – Love and belonging.

So how do we overcome the fear of failure?

Extreme’s rarely happen.

In life it is rare that extreme’s happen. Fear usually paints an extreme outcome. Just like the optimist writing a financial plan or a pessimist writing plan for world peace. The best and the worst case never usually happen. Outcomes are often somewhere in the middle of the best and the worst.

Define your fear.

It’s really easy for a concern to become a worry and worry to become fear. The first thing you have to do is regain control. Fear causes panic, you are never at your best when you are in panic. Panic causes all sorts of things to happen in our body, importantly it makes it difficult for us to control our emotions and think objectively.

In times of fear and panic you need to take back control of your emotional and mental state. Stop crying, stop thinking it over and over. It sounds easier than it is, but it starts with you talking yourself down from the panic and fear.

When you feel a bit more in control, write down the specific fears you are feeling. Be specific and write them all down. What exactly are you afraid of?

I won’t be good enough because….

I won’t pay my bills because….

I can’t wear those clothes because…

Now write down the reasons. Your afraid you won’t meet a deadline because your diary is full, you won’t pay your bills because sales are slow. You’ll find that the reasons once on paper are not as big a deal as you think. Fear makes mole hills into mountains.
Create an action plan to address your fear.

Every fear and every reason creates a series actions. Take your fear mountain and break it down in to workable chunks.  Often we think being fearful about something means we should not do it, but fear generally is telling us to act to prevent the fear becoming reality. If you listen to your fear, accept its concerns and then create a plan of action to prevent fear being proven correct.

If you are worried about paying the bills, find ways to bridge the gap, redouble your efforts to earn more money. Every time your fear surfaces, redouble your efforts.

Remember actions driven from panic will not solve the problem. Stay calm and in control. Panic based action just creates more problems.

You are not the only one

We all grapple with fear so you are not alone. Just a quick google search and you will learn quite quickly that many are searching about how to fight fear. Don’t be crippled by it, use it, channel it and make it work for you. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, how together your life it, you’ll always have some degree of fear, the difference that you can choose is how much control it has over your life.

That’s the real answer, we can’t get rid of fear, it will always be there, but if we get control of our fears, use them to help us, the power fear can hold over us diminishes. As fear’s power diminishes in your life, you’ll find it easier to manage.