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Failure is not shameful unlike fear

Fear of failure is the bullet that eliminates happiness.
Fear of failure is the bullet that kills the dream.
Fear of failure is the assassin of success.

“Failure is not an option” is the platitude of people who have attended one-too-many motivational seminars. I believe it is wrong. Failure is always a possibility, whether you admit it or not. Sometimes your very best just isn’t good enough.


Jubilant after overcoming fear

Remember - failure is just a temporary condition. We cannot have humility until we first have confidence. We cannot fail until we first have courage.

Confidence and courage are not shameful. Humility is not shameful. Failure is not shameful. Only, fear is shameful.

A perpetual doubter pops the balloons of high-flying dreams. Armed with the needles of sharply-focused questions, the doubter injects fear into every decision… “But what if…” From such doubters we should ask, “But what if you live your whole life without ever becoming alive?”

If anyone had the right to be afraid, it was deaf and blind Helen Keller.

But it was she who told us, “*Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”

Self-check

Let us do a little self-check. Sit back for a moment. Ask yourself! What was the last time I have been so afraid of failing at something that I decided not to try it at all? Or had the fear of failure meant that, subconsciously, I undermined my own efforts to avoid the possibility of a larger failure? If you are honest to yourself, your answers will be revealing.

Many of us have probably experienced the fear of failing at one time or another. It can be immobilising - it can cause us to do nothing, and therefore resist moving forward. But when we allow fear to stop our forward progress in life, we’re likely to miss some great opportunities along the way.

To find the causes of fear of failure, we first need to understand what “failure” actually means.

We all have different definitions of failure, simply because we all have different benchmarks, values, and belief systems. A failure to one person might simply be a great learning experience for someone else. The fear of failure (also called atychiphobia) is when we allow that fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals. Fear of failure can be linked to many causes. For instance, having critical or unsupportive parents is a cause for some people. Because they were routinely undermined or humiliated in childhood, they carry those negative feelings into adulthood.


Failure is just a temporary condition

Experiencing a traumatic event at some point in your life can also be a cause. For example, say that several years ago you gave an important presentation in front of a large group, and you did very poorly.

The experience might have been so terrible that you developed a fear of failure about other things. And you carry that fear even now, years later.

Signs

You might experience some symptoms if you have a fear of failure: A reluctance to try new things or get involved in challenging projects. Self-sabotage - for example, procrastination, excessive anxiety, or a failure to follow through with goals. Low self-esteem or self-confidence - Commonly using negative statements such as “I’ll never be good enough to get that promotion,” or “I’m not smart enough to get on that team.”

Perfectionism - A willingness to try only those things that you know you’ll finish perfectly and successfully.

Here are seven ways to overcome the fear of failure. (Extracted from the book by Sid Savara titled 7 reasons why good people still fail)

Failure is a reality

Let’s be real here. No matter how much you learn and move forward from a failure in life, the fact of the matter is that failure does happen - even to the best of us. But you know what? Who cares! I’ve personally found that as soon as you accept failure as a reality, it won’t be this big, frightening thing that you once thought it was. You’d be surprised at how much freedom that gives you to move forward, try new things, and experience successes you might not have otherwise.

Remember past failures

No really - think about the last failure you had in life. Did your world come crashing down around you? Even if it did (it has for me), chances are you’ve moved on, arrived past it, and have become stronger and wiser because of it. So the next time you find yourself not taking a certain chance or being crippled by the fear of failure, remember that you’ve overcome failure before...and you will again.

Listen to others

Something that has always encouraged me when it comes to taking risks despite the threat of failure is learning the stories of people who have achieved great things, or at least have gone through similar situations.

Some of the biggest innovators and most successful people will admit to having gone through multiple failures before arriving to where they are now. The reason why brings me to my last point...

Learn and reflect

You can study and memorise facts all day long, but there’s nothing that compares to the learning that comes from personal experience. Like I said before, failure is just a part of life - the key is how you deal with it.

Not only is overcoming failure a huge step in building character, but reflecting on how and why the failure took place is what will set you up for success moving forward.

Make a contingency plan

Another way to overcome the fear of failure is to reduce the downside. Hedge your risk by creating a contingency plan.

Even if your first option fails, you can maintain the status quo with a solid backup plan. Daring to fail doesn’t mean you have to risk losing it all. If you manage risk intelligently, you can capture the benefits of high risk opportunities while leaving yourself a safety net.

Take action

The best way to reduce fear and build confidence is taking action. As soon as you do, you’ll begin accumulating experience and knowledge. Everything is hardest the first time. It’s like jumping off a cliff into a lake - after you do it once, you see that the water is safe and each time afterwards is easy. Start off with small steps and build up your confidence until the fear of failure is manageable.

Burn the boats

When ancient Greek armies travelled across the sea to do battle, the first thing they would do after landing was to burn the boats, leaving them stranded. With no way to make it home besides victory, the resolve of the soldiers was strengthened. When success and failure are the only options, you have no choice but to follow through.

If you have a goal, but are afraid to commit, force yourself into action by burning the boats. Register for an exam in advance if you want to go back to school. Set a deadline to move to a new city without signing a lease.

Fear of failure disappears when you realise it can’t save you.

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