Personal Development

How to Drop Your Fear of Failure Once and For All

Written by Maria Stenvinkel

Imagine.

You risk everything on that crazy dream of yours.

Money, time, energy, stability, pride. And you’re not even guaranteed to succeed.

You know that if you do reach success, the doorway to  everything you’ve ever wanted  will open up. But . . . what if you fail?

What if you don’t have what it takes and all your best-laid plans go awry? What if you lose your steady income, your house and ultimately your friends and family?

You could end up living in a cardboard box, sitting alone on the side of the street, begging people for pocket change.

“Nah,” says your mind. “The risk is too great. I’d better settle for what I have. Compared to the cardboard box alternative, it’s not so bad.”

You might tell yourself that the timing isn’t right, or that you’re no risk-taker. But whatever the excuse, deep inside you know the real truth:  you’re afraid of failing.

Fear of failure makes you play small in life. It stops you from chasing your dreams -and it needs to be dropped once and for all.

Ready to do just that? Good.

7 Mindsets to Overcome Your Fear of Failure

Your fear only goes as deep as your mind allows  it. That means you’re  in control. Here are 7 mindsets to help you look at fear of failure from a perspective that will serve you.

  1. Fear Is Your Guidance System

What you fear failing most in life is often what you care most deeply about. It’s a clear message of a  true  desire. The stakes are higher when it comes to your dreams, so your fears are also naturally amped up. Use your fear as a source of guidance about what to go after.

  1. Life’s Already Dangerous  

Life is inherently risky. Loved ones can leave us, bosses can fire us and the car we drive can hit another and abruptly end it all. But you’ve made it this far. Instead of protecting yourself from the possibility of future pain, wouldn’t you rather enjoy full aliveness and exhilaration now? Stop holding yourself back. Life is full of experiences, opportunities and chances that are  yours  to claim.

  1. Playing It Safe Is the Real Danger

Playing it safe is settling for mediocrity. It means making decisions based on fear and thereby not living up to your full potential. By not following your dreams, you are robbing yourself and the rest of the world of your unique greatness.

  1. Failure Is One Step Closer to Success

Failing at something gets you one step closer to what you want. By taking action, you differentiate yourself from the majority of people. You also gain insight and clarity that can bring you closer to your dream.

Each mistake teaches us something. Before finally succeeding with the light bulb, Thomas A. Edison said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

  1. Failure Never Makes YOU a Failure

Failing at something doesn’t mean that  you are  a failure. It means that what you tried didn’t work. Who you  are  and what you  do  are two different things. Never confuse the two. Failing is a practical matter; don’t let it become an emotional one.

  1. Fears Are a Figment of Your Imagination

The job of the mind is to protect you. Anything unknown (including success) is scary to it. To keep you “safe,” it will do just about anything to make you listen to it, including projecting a parade of fears in front of you.

But reality is rarely as bad as you imagine it will be. The majority of all fears exist only in one place: your imagination.

  1. Regret is the Biggest Failure of All

Regret is an ugly emotion. It doesn’t show up like other emotions, as a direct response to something that has happened. Instead regret creeps up slowly, in response to what hasn’t happened. Years can go by before it reveals itself to us, but when it does, we know it’s there as a reminder of something we  didn’t  do.

Fear Often Disguises Itself

These mindsets will help you keep the fear of failure at bay. They’ll help protect you, but you’re not scot-free just yet.

Even if you use them to prepare yourself mentally, the fear of failing can  still  arise. Like an unwanted guest, it can come knocking on your door unexpectedly – and in disguise.

This disguise might look a lot like reason. It could also resemble blame or excuses.

At a first glance, it might look smart and even sensible. Reason is so logical, it’s hard to argue with. Blame says it’s not your fault. And our excuses can seem valid as to why we aren’t taken action toward our dream. Other people will even validate them for us.

It’s easy to point the finger. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe you don’t have enough time, money, experience, support or skills. Maybe it’s  too late or too risky. It’s easy to come up with excuses or reasons and say, “See? This is why I can’t pursue my dream.”

But when you look deeper, behind the thoughts telling you  not  to pursue something, ask yourself what the dominant emotion is.

Could it be fear in disguise?

3 Ways to Not Let Fear Guide Your Choices

Making fear-based decisions never takes you in a desired direction. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to distinguish when fear is guiding you. Here are 3 ways to avoid that:

  1. Tell Your Story in Advance

Imagine telling your children or grandchildren your life story. You start with the sentence: “I had a dream, and then I . . .”

What is the story you would like to tell? Did you go for it, or were you too afraid? Will it be a story worth telling? Make it so, and tell it to yourself now. Frequently.

  1. Stop Analyzing What Can  Happen

Failure is something we project  that might  happen in the future. But the future is out of our control, so placing our focus there often leaves us feeling stressed, worried and powerless.

Instead of directing your attention toward what you can’t change or control, focus on what you can. The present moment is where your power lies; this is where your attention should be.

  1. Ask Your 90-Year-Old Self

Imagine being 90 years old and guiding the younger version of yourself.

What advice would you give, knowing what you know now? How would you want your life to be and what do you want to look back on?

Now, listen to this older and wiser version of yourself.

Rising Above Your Fear

Let’s face it. Stepping into the unknown and risking the chance of failing is scary. But remember, it’s this way for everyone.

Taking action toward your dream doesn’t mean you  won’t  experience the fear of failure; it means you  rise  above  it.  You overcome the fear of failure once and for all when you realize that you are bigger than your fear.

Imagine waking up every morning full of empowerment, determination and clarity. Nothing and no one can stop you.  You know that you’re moving in the direction of how you want your life to be. Now that’s a pretty nice feeling to wake up to, isn’t it?

Make a slight shift in your mindset, and your perception of failure can change dramatically. And if you ever feel your fears get the better of you again, just get your 90-year-old self to set you straight or use any of the other techniques you just learned.

Don’t play small in life. Don’t end up somewhere you didn’t want to be just because you didn’t want to take risks. Don’t be afraid of failing; be afraid of not giving your dream a chance to be born.

It will be worth it. Promise.

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About the author

Maria Stenvinkel

Maria Stenvinkel is a corporate drop-out with a mission to help people get a career they truly love. Download her free worksheet Get a Clue to Your Calling With These 10 Powerful Questions.