Fear of failure is a significant obstacle that stands between you and your goals. But it doesn’t have to be.
Fear of failure is the intense worry you experience when you imagine all the horrible things that could happen if you failed to achieve a goal. The intense worry increases the odds of holding back or giving up. Being successful relies to a large extent on your ability to leverage fear.
here are 10 simple ways to remove the fear of failure from your path to success.
1. Reframe Your Goals
First, reframe failure by shifting your goals. Expand your goal to include learning something new and you will never technically “fail” because there is always something to be learned.
2. Visualize Obstacles
A 2011 case study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, asked two groups of college students to write about what lay in store for the coming week. One group was asked to imagine that the week would be great. The other group was just asked to write down any thoughts about the week that came to mind.
The students who were asked to imagine the week would be great reported feeling less energized and went on to accomplish less during the week than the control group.
Positive thinking alone is not enough. Research has shown that the best outcomes are created when we balance positive thinking with visualizing the future obstacles and struggles we will encounter.
3. Expect a good outcome but do not become attached to it
The more attached you are to the outcome you envisioned when you set the goal, the more likely it is that you will interpret discrepancies from that desired outcome as a failure. As circumstances change and as your experience changes, what you initially saw as the ideal outcome may no longer be attainable, appropriate, or meaningful. However, if you choose not to re-evaluate or adjust the outcomes you expected, you will be stuck in discrepancy and convinced that you are failing. The research shows that people who reappraise their goals and are able to adjust either their approach or their expectations enjoy better physical and mental health.
Some goals require focus and persistence. Others, however, require openness and flexibility. Being able to reevaluate and redefine the outcome you hope to achieve is a good buffer against the fear of failure. We should evaluate our success by the amount of thought and effort we put forth, rather than by the outcome we achieved.
4. Have a contingency plan
If you’re afraid of failing at something, having a “Plan B” in place can help you feel more confident about moving forward.
5. Analyze all potential outcomes
Many people experience fear of failure because they fear the unknown. Remove that fear by considering all of the potential outcomes of your decision.
6. Learn to think more positively
Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful way to build self-confidence and neutralize self-sabotage.
7. Look at the worse-case scenario
In some cases, the worst-case scenario may be genuinely disastrous, and it may be perfectly rational to fear failure. In other cases, however, this worst-case may actually not be that bad, and recognizing this can help.
8. Distinguish between real and imagined threats
Fear is our response to two kinds of threats: real and imagined. You already know the difference. Real threats pose a risk to our survival. Imagined threats are hypothetical scenarios. Delivering a speech in front of a group of people is an imagined threat because there is little risk to your survival. Delivering a speech in front of a pride of lions in the savanna is a real threat because they are not interested in hearing you, they are interested in eating you.
9. Redefine failure as discrepancy
Success is often hard to define. Failure is even harder.
What is your definition of failure? Giving up? Never going after your goals? Not achieving the desired outcome? Not achieving the desired outcome within an expected timeline? You may think that the answer to this question is obvious. But it is important to be clear about what you consider failure since failure is the object of your fear and the obstacle to your success.
To make your goal pursuit fail-proof, switch from thinking about failures to thinking about discrepancies between what you hope to achieve and what you might achieve. Discrepancies provide you with information that you can study, explain, and learn from so you can recalibrate your future efforts.
As long as you continue making effort, there is no room for failure. When you give up altogether, for no better reason than fear of failing, that’s a different story!
10. Surrender and Feel The Fear
Many of us allow fear to paralyze us because we don’t like feeling fear. But if you simply allow yourself to feel the fear when it shows up, you will notice that it quickly dissipates and suddenly the situation feels more manageable.
The next time you notice yourself getting stressed out or feeling afraid of something not working out, sit quietly by yourself, set your timer for two minutes, and start taking deep breaths. Notice where you feel tightness or tension in your body, and simply breathe into that area for two minutes. When the timer goes off after two minutes, chances are the feelings will have shifted. The more you do this, the more you will trigger your body’s natural calm response and you will move through fear with greater ease.