So if failure is normal, and the fear of failure is a huge roadblock to success, why are we still afraid of failing?
Fear of failure is one of the most common fears in humans. Unfortunately though, if you have this fear, you’re unlikely to experience a lot of success. It might be challenging to conquer this fear, but necessary if you want to reach the highest levels of success.
Let’s look closer at this fear.
Fear of failure has several components:
1. Fear of looking incompetent. If you fail, you must not know what you’re doing, right? That might be true in some cases. However, just because you don’t know what you’re doing right now doesn’t mean you’ll never figure it out. It takes practice to be good at anything.
- Think of how long it took you to learn to walk, talk, ride a bike, swing a golf club, or play an instrument. Those processes are little more than failure after failure.
2. Fear of looking like a failure. Suffering a failure doesn’t make you a failure. You may have failed to do something, but that’s not a permanent character flaw. A person can’t be a failure. A person can only experience failure.
3. Belief that failure is final. There aren’t many things in life that only give you one chance. You can always try again. Abraham Lincoln had more failures than most and still became a great US president. Look up his story and see how yours compares. He had failed careers, businesses, and lost multiple elections.
4. Fear of your own limitations. Failure doesn’t reveal your long-term limitations. It might reveal your current limitations, but those can be altered. Finding out your limitations is good news, because you can do something about them and become stronger and more capable than you have ever been.
5. Fear of success. Maybe you’re not afraid of failing at all. Maybe you’re actually afraid of succeeding. This might sound counterintuitive, but it can happen. Once you’re successful, people will expect more from you. There are a variety of reasons why you might fear success. Give it some thought.
Ask yourself why you fear failure. Is it one of these reasons or do you have another? Understanding the reasons for your fear is the first step to working past it. The mental resistance caused by the fear of failure can be enough to bring your efforts to a standstill.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
- Winston Churchill
Identifying Your Fear of Failure
How do you know if you have a fear of failure? Some people like to think they just lack motivation or a clear direction. Others fool themselves into thinking that success doesn’t matter to them. But everyone has things they want to accomplish. A fear of failure might be getting in your way.
Can you identify with these actions and thoughts?
- You’re not aggressively and enthusiastically pursuing your goals. If you’re not getting up each day and attacking your goals, you might be afraid of failing. Ask yourself what you’re waiting for.
- You can’t make up your mind regarding what you want. The inability to choose a goal or a future for yourself is often a symptom of fearing failure. You almost certainly know what you really want, you just don’t quite have the nerve to claim it.
- You can’t seem to move past the planning stage. You know someone that’s great at making elaborate and impressive plans to achieve their goals, but they never seem to arrive at the starting line. There’s always one more thing they need to understand or find.
- You suffer resistance whenever you plan to work on your goals. This could be experienced in a variety of ways. A few examples include procrastination, fatigue, headaches or other physical symptoms, a sudden urge to clean the house, or a sudden surge of self-doubt or anxiety.
- Something always seems to come up. If it seems like the world is conspiring against you, it’s all in your head. You’re using random events to rationalize not taking action.
If you tend to think in these ways, a fear of failure is likely holding you back from the fine life you deserve. But take heart! You can overcome this fear with upcoming strategies.
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.“
- Colin Powell