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Four ways to defeat your fear of failure

The shadow of a person falling with six index fingers pointing at him or her, against the backdrop of the word failure

'I am determined to fail'. She said it! I never thought anyone said it.

Except the other day someone did. A business owner I follow literally said it. 

It made me think. Because she said 'I'm determined to fail at least twice next year'. 

And you know why she said it? Because she is successful. And when you get successful you have a tendency to stay safe. Do only the things that you KNOW work. 

But by doing that you become stale, and boring. By doing that you stop using your creativity, you stop learning and growing.  

Now, when I talk to you you tell me a variation of this. 

That you're afraid to fail. That you'll take the wrong step. 

So better be safe (staying where you are - and miserable) than sorry ('fail', whatever that means for you).

The fear of failure

So what IS the fear of failure? 

There is a proper name for it, you know! Atychophobia. The intense fear of failing, where you do anything in your power to avoid doing the thing at which you may fail. Exams, job interviews, changing your career. 

You're feeling anxious about the potential prospect of failing, so you avoid it at all costs. To avoid you spending time and energy in something that could fail. To build up hope and expectation, only to see it all dashed by the disappointment when things don't work out. 

Attachment to the outcome

Now, before we go any further I'd like to talk a little bit about that last thing. When things don't work out.

Because I've learned a valuable lesson over the last few years. Well, two, really.

1. We don't know what we really want. We don't know that what we SAY we want is what we REALLY want when we get there.

Because we're generally useless at predicting what our future self wants.

All we can do, is go on the basis of what our CURRENT SELF thinks she wants. And work towards that.

2. You've got to enjoy the process.

Happiness is not OUT THERE. At the end of the rainbow. Happiness is doing what you're doing right now. Enjoying what you're doing right now. In the secure knowledge you're doing it for a purpose. ON purpose.

This goes for doing creative work. It goes for your work too.

OK, so what does that mean for you, anxious at the thought of changing careers? 

Four things:

1. Know who you are

Knowing who you are, what you're GREAT at, what you LOVE doing, what's IMPORTANT to you, what your DREAMS were and are, forms the basis of - well - EVERYTHING! Without it, you can't make predictions on what your FUTURE SELF will want. 

2. Create a VISION 

I'm going to say it and it'll sound contradictory:

  • Your VISION is important

  • Your VISION is flawed

And yes, that sounds contradictory, because it IS. 

You see, life does this. You come up with a meticulously spelled out vision, only for it to change along the way. 

But without it you've got nothing to aim for! 

So, when we produce a vision, right now, it's going to act as your North Star. The point you're aiming for. With plenty of distractions and diversions and yes, failures, on the way.

But with this clear goal at the end. That you can adjust and shape as you grow older and learn new things. 

3. Experiment

Fail. But fast. Because failing is learning. And that is - of course - what that business person I was talking about meant. 

You need to experiment, to play, to find out what works and what doesn't. And ideally you need to do it fast. So that you don't take enormous risks, but still get the information you need. 

4. Plan to fail

Have you worked in projects before? Yep, you'll have done a risk assessment. Whilst you're embarking on Project You it's no different. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What can go wrong? 

  • How likely is that to happen? 

  • What can I do to not make that risk happen? 

  • What will I do if it does? 

  • What first little step can I take to move myself forward?

Because success comes when you've DONE things. And yes, that might include failing. So let's fail, maybe even twice. But let's do it controlled, quickly and let's set out to learn from that to get what we want. Whatever that turns out to be. 

What do you say? 


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