Fear of Failure - Your Greatest Barrier to Success

fear of failure

A fear of failure can paralyze you and is a major cause of procrastination.

Facing your fears can mean the difference between procrastination robbing you of your potential and person living and achieving what they strive for.

Since nobody likes to fail, people tend to procrastinate on those tasks that they fear.

But overcoming your fear is the hallmark of a successful person. As Sven Goran Eriksson said:

"The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure."

Even the most confident of people fear failure and put things off. Unfortunately, by continuing to procrastinate, your fear increases and you are more likely to fail.

Here are 5 tips to overcome your fear of failure.

1. Confront your fear

Confront your fear and work out what you need to do to manage it. Are others' expectations too high? Do you wonder whether you have the skills to do the job?

If so, then your fear may make it difficult to get started.  A fear of rejection and criticism is closely related to a fear of failing. This has to do with achieving expectations - yours and others!

What type of procrastinator are you?

Whether your fears come from the expectations that others place on your or you place on yourself, it is important to understand that these fears may be one of the major reasons why you put stuff off. What type of procrastinator are you?

2. Divide and Conquer with the 3D approach

Fear of failure can often result from feeling overwhelmed with what you have to do. In this case it is best to use the 3D approach.

  1. Develop mini-steps to achieve your goals and overcome your fear. 
  2. Dig in and reward each task copletition
  3. Dally around a bit - so that you can refresh and re-energise for the next push

By taking action in a positive direction you break the inertia that is holding you back. According to procrastination statistics, the act of writing down clear concrete steps that are small and achievable makes you 8 times more likely to reduce procrastination.

procrastination template

3. Persist and don't take it personally

By taking small steps to achieve your goals you build your confidence and reduce your fear. Persist even in the face of failure.

According to Martin Seligman (the father of positive psychology) resilient people don't take failure personally. Failure is about outcomes - not personality. Try to see your difficulties as opportunities to learn.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How could it have been prevented?
  • How can I do better next time?

"Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes."

John Dewey

4. Be objective about your worst case scenario

Often when failure or rejection occurs, we may be negative and see the glass as half-empty rather than half-full.

In these times it is easy to catch the 'what if's.......'What if this goes wrong? ..........What if that happens?

Tim Ferris in the The 4-Hour Workweek  suggests that if you fall flat on your face chasing your dreams, ask yourself, "How long would it take to recover from your worst-case scenario? How hard would it be to find another job or recover completely?"

The answer may be a lot less than you think.

To be objective about this, I often go a step further and get people to draw up a pro’s and con’s list of the task. If you have a fear of failure you are emotionally caught up in it and want to avoid the task.

By drawing up a pro’s and con’s list you look at the fearful task in a more objective manner and reduce the emotional influence on your stress.

For those who are analytically inclined draw up a probability chart and work out the chances that this will occur.

5. Visualize success to overcome a fear of failure

Some of the best athletes in the world visualise success in their sport. Similarly, some of the best performers in their respective fields visualise success and expert performances.

You can harness the power of imagery by constructing a mental image of what success looks like for you.

Make your image as clear as you can and develop systematic steps to achieve it.

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