How often have you avoided tackling a job because you were afraid of not doing it well, or backed off a new initiative because you feared it might not succeed, or not accepted a speaking engagement because you were afraid of embarrassing yourself? Fear of failure is surprisingly common. But it is a fear that can be conquered, especially when you realise that it isn’t failure that counts in life: it’s what you can learn from the experience that matters. Heed this advice to help overcome your fear of failure…
1. Try not to be hard on yourself.
If your company’s aim was to make an annual profit of $100,000 and you managed a profit of only $78,000 – is that really failure? Failure is a relative term, depending on who is doing the measuring.
2. Set your own standards of success or failure.
Success, or failure, is in many instances only a matter of opinion. If your spouse has always wanted you to become managing director of the company, just remember that you don’t have to be if you don’t want to. In the long run, it’s your choice. Don’t allow your life’s goals to be set by others. It’s better to succeed in doing your best than to fail by doing nothing.
3. Don’t confuse ‘success’ with ‘excellence’.
Why do we always think we have to win or achieve excellence in everything we do to be successful? There’s nothing wrong with a par round of golf, just as there’s nothing wrong with an ordinary game of tennis – provided we have fun doing it and do it as well as we can.
4. Stop seeing everything in black-and-white terms.
Why must everything we do be seen in terms of success or failure? In future, if you set yourself a goal, try judging your performance in terms of degrees of success.
5. Consider the worst case scenario.
Next time you’re fearful about biting the bullet, ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen if I fail?’ If your answer is something you can live with, why not give it a go? Remember, too, that fear of failure is the father of failure.
6. Accept that you’re not alone.
If you analyse the performance of your work colleagues, you will quickly find that they all have strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures – unless you are working with fail-proof robots. This is the human condition. So, by acknowledging that others around you are also capable of failing – and sometimes do, you may be better prepared to fail once or twice yourself.
7. Stop trying to be a perfectionist.
Being a perfectionist is laudable, if not essential, for such people as brain surgeons or aircraft maintenance personnel. But, for the rest of us, the quest for perfection is demanding, frustrating, even futile. What’s important is that we display a willingness to try and not be put off by failure. Remember the adage: ‘Those who are not trying and failing are either stagnant or dead’.
8. See failure for what it is: a learning experience.
Failure is only an opportunity to begin again, more intelligently. If you perceive it as part of the growing process, then failure becomes something positive, a contribution to future success, and not something to be feared. So your recent speech to your trade association was disappointing? Never mind. You can always learn more from your failures than from your successes a good thing to remember. As Josh Billings once said: ‘It ain’t no disgrace for a man to fall, but to lay there and grunt is.’
Or, as Robert Schuller, in ‘Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do’, writes:
- Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure… It does mean you haven’t succeeded yet.
- Failure doesn’t mean you have accomplished nothing… It does mean you have learned something.
- Failure doesn’t mean you have been a fool… It does mean you had a lot of faith.
- Failure doesn’t mean you have been disgraced… It does mean you were willing to try.
- Failure doesn’t mean you don’t have it… It does mean you have to do something in a different way.
- Failure doesn’t mean you are inferior… It does mean you are not perfect.
- Failure doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time… It does mean you’ve a reason to start afresh.
- Failure doesn’t mean you should give up… It does mean you should try harder.
- Failure doesn’t mean you’ll never make it… It does mean it will take a little longer.
9. Talk about your fears with others.
Discuss your campaign of courage with a close friend or colleague. Talking about your fear of fouling-up can be helpful if you have a friend who is understanding and supportive. Meet regularly to analyse the risks you have recently taken, to determine their ‘success’ rate, and to set specific targets for the future.
10. Plunge right in!
The purpose of fear is to warn us of danger, not to make us afraid to face it. So, next time you fear trying some-thing, throw caution to the winds and do it! If you’re concerned about the danger, first set a safety net – but do it! Even if you achieve only partial success, you’ll be doing what you really want to do, and that’s a good feeling. And even if you do stumble, remember that a worm is about the only thing that doesn’t fall down.