As human beings, we each have some level of desire to move forward in our lives. Some people seek and adopt change more easily than others.
From the moment we are born we find ourselves growing and being challenged to change in some way or the other. Fear of failure is a type of fear that many people experience when attempting to make a change.
It is said to be a motivational disposition that overrides a person’s rational thinking because the likelihood of failure is too much to bear or is overwhelming. The person would rather choose to avoid the possibility of success and hence the opportunity for growth and development.
Humans respond to fear in one of the following ways – they could approach the threat aggressively (fight), avoid facing the threat (flight), or be paralyzed in the face of the threat (freeze).
In case of fear of failure, the reaction is primarily one of avoidance. In some distorted way, the fear is acting as a self-protection mechanism.
When does it present itself?
Similar to the fear of success, fear of failure presents itself when we choose to make changes that will stretch our existing limits (take us away from our comfort zone).
Anytime we attempt to do something that would require us to grow we might find this fear presenting itself. The fear is likely to talk us out of attempting or even trying. The fear will bring up all the many reasons why staying the same is better than the humiliation and shame that we might be faced if things don’t work outright.
If a person tends to look at failure as a catastrophic event, then this fear can sabotage the attempts to make a change. This fear can interfere with a person’s life in such a way that they become very uncomfortable setting goals or making any worthwhile changes.
Manage/Overcome the Fear of Failure
- Recognize when it arises and its extent. The first step is to recognize the fear when it arises. One must become cognizant of how they react to the likelihood of failing in an attempt to make a change. If a person becomes filled with shame and humiliation when they believe they have made a mistake, then it is likely that the fear of failure could affect them significantly. If we are able to recognize the extent to which this fear plays out within us then we can learn ways to manage it.
- Failure is not a Character Flaw. We should humbly and compassionately accept the fact that failure is a part of life and when it occurs it is not a character flaw. It is just that our attempt(s) at some task needs more work.
- Don’t take fear of personally. When we take it personally we land up beating ourselves up for the failure. Instead we must take the stance of objectivity. With this stance, we can examine the reasons why our attempts did not succeed and then make adjustments to eliminate the same reasons from repeating.
- The likelihood of getting things right at the first try is slight. For the majority of humans, we do not get things right the first time. Even successful people have experienced many failures before they finally succeeded. Keeping this perspective about failure and success is important so we do not place unrealistic expectations on ourselves.
- Analyze possible outcomes. The fear of failure can be reduced by taking the time and effort to consider potential outcomes and obstacles that we might have to face. By identifying, examining and planning for the obstacles that might be encountered a person is much better equipped to handle the fear when it arises.
- Break down the task. Another way to manage the fear is to break down the task to be accomplished into smaller bite-size, manageable tasks. This way, every time a task is completed there is a sense of accomplishment and confidence grows rather than overwhelm.
- What is the worst-case scenario – It might help to identify the worst-case scenario or asking the question “What is the worst that can happen?”. Sometimes, this question will provide the practicality and rationale to deal with any fear that presents.
- Take the time to understand the fear of failure and examine where the fear is present in your life.
- When you are faced with new situations how do you typically respond?
- Do you experience fear or excitement?
- If you experience fear what is the fear saying?
- How did you manage the voice of fear?
- Do you disregard it, ignore it, deny it or have you found a way to deal with it effectively?
- If fear of failure, keeps you from attempting and setting goals, think about what you can do to lower this fear.