Are you afraid to fail? I hope you answered no to that question because the only way you are going to be successful in life is to first fail. I am not talking just in your career, but in all aspects of your life. Your career, relationships, hobbies, whatever, you need to fail. Too many people are afraid of failing. They choose to avoid failure at all costs. While they may appear to be successful on the outside, they will never know what true success is. They will never get to experience it because they were too afraid to fail.
Why We Fear Failing
Why do we fear failure? Is it because we don’t like to admit to ourselves that we are flawed? That even though we think highly of ourselves, we don’t want to admit we are not perfect? Or do we just not like rejection and loss and as a result we choose to not try some things because we know the odds are we will fail?
The reason we fear failing is because it is our human nature. We want to avoid rejection at all costs. That is why we go along with the group so many times even if we don’t agree. It’s why we don’t speak up at the meeting with our idea to jumpstart sales. We are afraid of being rejected.
When we are rejected, we feel pain. And since we don’t like to feel pain, we avoid anything and everything that can potentially cause us pain.
Have you ever been so scared of something you chose not to even try it? Or have you ever been in a situation where you decided not to do something because it would show that your efforts up to this point were not leading to success? If so, you are showing signs of fear of failure.
Here are 4 basic signs to know if you are afraid of failing:
- Self-sabotage: Do you procrastinate on some projects or don’t follow through on your goals?
- Self-doubt: Do you doubt your own abilities all of the time and don’t try new things?
- Self-esteem: Do you talk yourself out of things by saying “I’m not good enough”?
- Self-awareness: Are you a perfectionist who only does things you know you will succeed at doing?
- Self-image: Do you fear looking stupid in front of others?
- Self-pride: Do you fear that others will laugh at you or think your idea is dumb?
The Importance of Failing
If you think about any great accomplishment in the history of mankind, it happened because the person or persons that accomplished it were not afraid to fail. These people are just like us, the only difference is that they don’t associate failing with rejection and pain. They are fueled by the dopamine rush when they succeed.
Think about a time in your life when you ended up doing something you were scared to do. After you did it successfully, how did you feel? You felt great because your dopamine levels skyrocketed and you felt like you could take on the world. This is how people who are not afraid to fail looking at failing. They focus on that great feeling they will experience when they succeed. And even though there is the possibility of failing is present, they focus on the potential good feeling they will get if they succeed rather than focus on the potential hurt from failing.
I love lifting weights. Lifting heavier weights each time I go to the gym motivates me. I know I am getting stronger. There are times when I finish a set and decide to add more weight for my final set. Sometimes I am able to lift that extra weight. Sometimes I am not.
In either case, before I begin the lift, I have accepted that I might fail and may not be able to lift the weight. If I was afraid of failing, I would just continue lifting the same weight I know I can lift, never pushing myself. Sure, I would be staying healthy by working out, but I could be that much healthier and stronger if I just pushed myself. To me, the benefit of the amazing dopamine rush I get outweighs the risk of not feeling it.
We Grow Through Failing
By failing, we grow. We learn from our mistakes, make the necessary changes and keep moving forward. Thomas Edison failed to create the light bulb 1,000 times before getting it to work. Allegedly he said,
I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.
If he decided that he was afraid to fail, he never would have even attempted to create the light bulb. Who knows how much longer it would have been until someone else came along, who wasn’t afraid to fail, and created the light bulb.
History shows us plenty of examples of other people failing too:
- It took the creators of Angry Birds 52 tries before they created a successful game
- Pandora was rejected by close to 300 investors before getting the funding they needed
- Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player ever, struck out over 1,300 times in his career
- James Dyson, creator of the vacuum cleaner created 5,127 prototypes before having a product to sell
- Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player missed over 9,000 shots in his career
- The makers of WD-40 failed 39 times before creating the product
- Barack Obama received just 31% of the vote when he ran for Congress in 2000
I hope as you look over this list, you will realize that even the best of us fail. The difference is that these people kept trying. Had the creators of Pandora given up trying to find funding, you wouldn’t have customized music to listen to wherever you go.
If Barack Obama had not kept pursuing his dream, he would never have become President of the United States.
You never know what lies ahead if you are paralyzed by fear. It could be something so great you can’t even imagine it. Do you want to miss out on it?
How To Overcome Your Fear of Failure
So how do you get over your fear of failure? The first step to getting over a fear of failure is to simply change your perspective. Stop looking at failure as a negative thing, but as a positive thing. See it for what it is. See it as a learning experience. By changing your idea of failure, you can make mistakes, learn from them, and grow as a person. Here are 5 more tips to help you overcome your fear:
- Ask Yourself A Question: Ask yourself “what am I really afraid of”. Is it the unknown? Maybe you fear the embarrassment? If you can answer this question, you will be on your way to overcoming your fear.
- Analyze Outcomes: Many times we fear the unknown. Instead of focusing on that aspect of the issue, look at all the potential outcomes. Doing this will lead you to stop looking at the unknown and fearing it. Simply list out all possible outcomes and see that there are many positive outcomes.
- Look At The Worst Case Scenario: Many times we fear the worst case scenario. Interestingly, the worst case scenario rarely happens. As with the tip above, look at all of the possible outcomes and then see which ones are most likely to occur and which ones are least likely.
- Think More Positively: When you think positively, you naturally look at all of the possible good outcomes rather than the 1 or 2 bad potential outcomes. When you look at the good outcomes, you will less likely be consumed by fear.
- Set Up A Contingency Plan: Make sure you address the possibility of failing. In the event you do fail, what will you do? How will you react? If you can have a plan in place should you fail, you will be able to pick up where you left off and keep moving forward. This will ease your fear of failing by showing you that failing is not the end.
- Look At Past Events: Look back at times you failed in the past and where you are now. You may be surprised that the failure didn’t cause much harm at all. In fact, it probably led to something better. The more you can see that failing isn’t the end of the world, the better off you will be.
- Change Your Perspective: If the above tips don’t help, then you need to change your perspective. What I mean by this is that many times we think if we fail, it is the end of the world. But it’s not. Babies don’t stand up and start walking. They fall many times. The idea is to make the idea of failing not so bad. Look at it like putting a puzzle together. If you can’t put the puzzle pieces together, you don’t feel rejected or embarrassed do you? No, because it is a game. Try to change your perspective to something more lighthearted.
To get over your fear of failing, you are going to have to ask yourself if whether you want to become a better person and have the greatest life you can imagine worth the risk of failing. If that is what you want, then you are going to have to accept failing. Not once or twice, but repeatedly, throughout the rest of your life. It is going to happen, even when you try to avoid it. So you might as well get comfortable with it and see how great your life can be if you just keep trying.
Here is a great quote from Jim Carrey, who gave the commencement speech to Maharishi University in 2014. He makes a great point about failing and taking chances in life.
So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying: I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it.
My father could have been a great comedian but he didn’t believe that was possible for him. So he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.
I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.