overcoming fear

Are You Still Afraid of Failure?

Fear is like a toxic poison – it seems you can’t get rid of it by any means and it prevents you from living the life you always wanted to live. I was being “poisoned” with fear for myself and continuously worried about the events that might take place in the future, which included – besides many other things – messing up with my grades or not being able to master the defiances of my life. Even though I wasn’t a scared chicken at all, fear remained a part of my thoughts and often prevented me from falling asleep. Generally speaking I would say that all my worries had one thing in common: the fear of failure.

Overcome the fear of failure

#1 Having the right mindset about failure

When I was about 20 years old, I’ve made an interesting conclusion that would help me to view failure from a completely different perspective. I started to acknowledge failure as exactly what it is: an unavoidable part of everyone’s life – nothing more and nothing less. I knew that I had failed in the past and that I was going to fail every once in a while in the future, even if I did my very best to avoid this. There was simply no way around it, so I started to change my attitude towards failure in general. I realized that, even though I experienced every failure as a dolorous event that slammed me on the ground, every one of them helped me in the long term to become the man that I am today. My failures had not only helped me to improve myself and avoid similar mistakes in the future, but also opened up many other opportunities and chances for me; I just had to spot and identify them.

#2 What’s better: failing vs. not having tried at all?

I nearly forgot to tell you what the “interesting conclusion” was I’ve talked about in the above. Back when I was 20 years old I had realized that there was only one way for me to avoid every failure straight away from the beginning: by not trying at all, which is – at least for me – identical to not having lived anyways. I reasoned that the sole attempt of trying to avoid any kind of failure by any means would lead to the irrevocable mistake of not trying at all, which isn’t a promising option.

#3 Imagining the “grandparents-scenario”

When I’m an old man, I would like to tell my grandchildren about all the challenges I endured during my life, laugh with them about the clumsy mistakes I made and show them all kinds of opportunities that have come into my life after I had failed. Nevertheless, one thing that I never ever want to have to tell my grandchildren are the words, “it could have been“! I really don’t want to look back on my life only to discover all the great chances and exciting events I’ve missed, because of my fear of the possibility to fail every once in a while. The – what I call – “grandparents-scenario” tremendously helps me to clarify that it is not failure I should be worried about, but what results out of this fear: being too scared to do what I had planned to do!

#4 Taking one step at a time

When we’re facing really big challenges in our lives, we tend to get overwhelmed quite fast, simply by looking at the full extent of what lies in front of us. The most likely response towards this unknown situation is fear, which finally might paralyze and prevent us from approaching the challenge. The best advice that can be given in these situations is to approach the challenge one step at a time, even if you might experience some fear. Doing so will help you to get used to the new situation and will reduce your fears of the possibility that you could fail, especially when you experience your first sense of achievement.

And always keep in mind… There is no reason to be afraid of failure, if you never want to ask yourself the question, “what would have happened, if I had tried?

Steve is a student and blogger and writes on his blog about personal development, methods to think outside the box, tips for students and motivation techniques, amongst many other interesting topics.

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  • http://hanofharmony.com The Vizier

    Hi Steve,

    One of the most important lessons in my life was learning to deal with failure. Like everyone else, I used to have a very negative perception of failure. To fail in anything was unacceptable. But fail I did. The turning point came when I started to view failure as a vital part of success. Failure after all is unavoidable as you say. But what is the purpose behind failure? Failure and mistakes contain lessons that we need to learn before we can advance to the next stage. If we do not learn these vital lessons, there is no way we can go forward because we lack the necessary foundation.

    Since we need to fail to succeed, we should embrace failure. Of course if you have viewed failure negatively for years, it is not easy to change your view of it overnight. That is ok. Start slow and small. The next time you fail, be aware of your thoughts and try to view it as a lesson. It is merely a reminder that you need to adjust your actions to get the results you want. Over time as you keep practicing this mindset, one day you will no longer fear failure.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  • http://www.anthonybasich.com/ Anthony Basich

    Great post Steve!

    I think that failure is just a negative perception that we have about certain events that take place in our life that don’t go as we anticipated. Think of everything as an outcome or a result and this changes everything.

    Thinking in terms of failure only serves to crush your self confidence and self esteem.

    On the other hand, thinking in terms of a result leaves the door open to try something different to improve or change the situation. Everything that happens is just feedback that you can use to improve your results.

    This is how the most successful people that I have come into contact with in my life have viewed these types of situations. They don’t believe in failure. They can lose everything in an instant and simply laugh and start over again doing something different and be back at the top of their game in no time at all.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Anthony

  • http://www.planetnaveen.com Winning Ideas

    Awesome article Steve. Kudos from my side.
    I just want to add few things – In fact just want to extend what you have already told – Failing is different from failure. One can fail many times but will succeed eventually. However, failure is when someone never tries.

    Trying will get success for sure. One has to be determined and consistent in his efforts.

    For having belief in his efforts, eliminating his internal fear is very important. Take a look at an article that I wrote on liberating oneself from fear

    http://www.planetnaveen.com/2010/12/liberate-yourself-from-fear/

    Naveen from Winning Ideas Blog

  • http://livingthebalancedlife.com Living the Balanced Life

    Love this attitude! It is very helpful as I am trying to push forward with an e-book, as well as other opportunities on my blog. Im like the idea of just looking at it as just one way that didn’t work, so try something different.
    Bernice
    A break from our regularly scheduled programming…

  • http://peaceandloveism.com/blog/ Soulthriller

    It never ceases to amaze me how powerful the feeling of fear really is. Fear limits the growth of an individual’s personality and inevitably leads to a nature of inhibition and repression. It takes energy to transcend this level of consciousness, which is why we see so often that such individuals gravitate towards those who seem to have conquered fear and who offer to lead them out of the slavery that it holds. It’s unfortunate, but the subjective consciousness state of fear is a limiting, prevailing, and habitual state of expectancy that can be projected onto essentially any and all aspects of one’s life. Failure will always be around the corner if we feel fear but with a little hope, will, and determination, we can take off the shackles of fear and instill a strong sense of courage within us to make the transition from failure to success.

  • http://Mazzastick.com Mazzastick

    I agree, the only real failure in life is not trying. Freeing yourself from the fear of failure is the first step to taking risks. All financially successful people that I know were more motivated by success than failure.It’s a whole new world to experience when fear is no longer holding you back.

  • http://www.nextnik.com Nextnik

    A history of famous, successful people who failed.

    http://nextnik.com/videos/watch/49/Failure

  • Rico

    “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” This Winston Churchill quote is on my PC monitor. I read it and live by it every day. Thanks Steve.

  • Cherry Nguyen

    Thank you for posting this great article. So many times due to being in fear of failure, I’ve myself lost a lot of opportunities in life, opportunities to say how I truly feel, opportunities to explore a totally different door, opportunities to get closer and understand other people…It turned out to me that dealing with failure is indeed not so bad like I thought. It will somehow provide me with a newer angle, an un-thought-of perspective of the problem I have to face up with. Isn’t it a way out? Yes, I think so!

  • http://selfhelp4us.com maurice hector

    Great post ,to me failure is not a option ,that is the mentality that i go into any and every task that i come across

  • http://letgoandflow.com David

    I am still afraid of failure. I know that failure can always be turned around into a positive, but it is just a natural feeling of fear I get when I anticipate failure. I think “taking one step at a time” helps because it keeps me focused on the small things that I know I can succeed at.

    Sometimes the best thing for me to over fear is to just say “F*** it” and take a chance! (pardon my french, but thats what I do!)

  • Steve Mueller

    @The Vizier: Great comment, I absolutely agree with you Irving! Thanks for your valuable additions!

    @Anthony Basich: you’re welcome. I find it very interesting that the most successful people you have coma across in your life didn’t believe in failure; maybe their attitude to “simply laugh and start over again” helped them tremendously in their life!

    @Winning Ideas: Thank you very much for your additions!

    @Mazzastick: Absolutely, when fear is no longer holding you back, your mindsets start to change and the way you see life in general!

    @Rico: you’re welcome! Thanks for posting this nice quote!

    @Cherry Nguyen: you’re welcome Cherry! I like your idea that a failure provides you with an un-thought-of perspective of a problem; and you’re absolutely right about it!

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  • Jarod Billingslea

    Well, what is the difference between being afraid to fail, and being smart before/by preparing to do something? And, which is better?

    Because right now, in my fresh freelance career, I don’t know which one I’m in. I don’t know whether I should prepare to actually begin my career or not, or whether I should just dive into my career or not. It’s becoming frustrating, considering I’m in a hazy phase of man vs self right now.

  • Jarod Billingslea

    LMFAO, guess what? I ate a Russian cookie last night, and on the paper it read “It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes a difference.”

    I just remember it when I looked at a balled,small piece of paper around my desktop. Really weird how I just asked a question I already had the answer to LOL. Those things work!

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  • Steve Mueller

    @Jarod ;-) I’m glad you found an answer that fast… ;-) As a sideline, being prepared for something is always very good and for many situations (e.g. starting a new carreer) highly recommendable. So, when the fear of failure spurs you to prepare yourself even better for a given situation, than it is quite different as when it paralyzes you and stops you from doing something you had planned to do.

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  • Mark

    I’m 51 years old and back in school. A community college to be exact. I’m majoring in Food&Beverage management and am so afraid of failing. Next week I have four finals to take and I’m really worried about one in particular. I think I’m so afraid of failure that it actually causes me to fail at times. I usually do better than I think I will. Thanks for your post. I enjoyed what you had to say

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  • Malak

    Wonderful and inspirational article… this is exactly what I needed. Thank you.

  • Bim

    Love this. Thanks a lot, helped me massively.

  • Alisana478

    what if its your last chance? And this time if you fail there is no trying again. What would you do then? Wouldnt that fear that you would fail and wouldn’t have chance again cripple you like it cripples me…

  • Titaniaapple888

    What about sabotaging yourself? I have this tendency to know my own strengths yet the fear of failure/success overwhelms?

  • Sandra s prakash

    changed my life

  • Mark C

    Thank you

  • Luisa

    What if you have tried your best, worked so hard and then … you fail. Would you have the strength to try again? Would you have the strength to move on?

  • Adeel

    Absolutely excellent and a power booster post !!!
    Fear in itself is a failure. I changed my life when I read about the bravery of Thomas A Edison who faced the 10,000 failed attempts for his fluorescent bulb experiment. In addition to this “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without losing your enthusiasm” by Sir Winston Churchill is an ideal quote for those who give up too soon.