One of the key factors that stop most people from living their full potential is the fear of failure. Everyone has great potential. They can become the best in what they do, and they can live the life of their dreams and achieve outstanding success if they want to.
However, there’s one big roadblock that stops most people from moving forward and living their dreams. And it is this – the fear of failure.
They fear that people may reject them. They fear that if things don’t turn out the way they want, others may ridicule them.
What if you could do anything in your life without feeling fear, or any negative feeling at all? Do you think you will take more action and follow your dreams?
What if you couldn’t fail and whatever you do will be a guaranteed success? Do you think you will still be living the same life right now? Or will you be living a totally different lifestyle?
Fear of failure is a common emotion that we all have.
We feel the fear because when we lived in the Stone Age, we worry about the saber tooth tiger that is lurking in the jungle. In the primitive age, humans hunt for food and they face threats from dangerous animals.
But in today’s world, we don’t really need to fear being hunt down by those savage animals anymore, instead, we fear other things.
- We fear that we may not be able to pay the bills by the end of the month.
- We fear to speak to the public because if we do it wrong, people may laugh and ridicule us.
- We don’t dare to take chances because we fear that things may go wrong and we will fail miserably.
Whatever fears you are experiencing in your life right now, they are stopping you from living life at your full potential.
Fears have become the feelings that stop us from achieving our greatness and living the best life we could, and not so much about keeping us from being harmed by dangers anymore.
Therefore, if the fear of failure is what is stopping you in life, don’t worry, below are the 10 great suggestions and methods you can use to overcome the negative feeling.
1. Understand that it is alright to fail
Yes, it is absolutely alright to fail. We have been conditioned that making mistakes and failures is not good, which in fact, is a totally wrong perception.
We learn the most when we fail. If you look at all the great successes and achievements out there, people are able to accomplish them because they learn from their past mistakes and failures.
Without going through those mistakes and failures, it is impossible for them to have found the right answer and the right way to produce the right results.
It is said that Thomas Edison attempted over a thousand unsuccessful experiments when inventing the light bulb.
When a reporter asked him how he felt to fail over 1,000 times, he replied…
“I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Not just Thomas Edison, it happens to every successful individual:
- Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life. And this to the sister of one of his friends for 400 francs (approximately $50). This didn’t stop him from completing over 800 paintings.
- 12 publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s book about a boy wizard before a small London house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
- Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him “hopeless as a composer.” And, of course, you know that he wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf.
- In high school, actor and comic Robin Williams was voted “Least Likely to Succeed.”
- Charlie Chaplin was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because his pantomime was considered “nonsense.”
- Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy were each cut from their high school basketball teams. Jordan once observed, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”
The list can go on and on, and you can read more about it here.
The key is not about avoiding failure, but understanding that failure is a part of the success you want.
So, whenever the fear of failure surfaces in your head, tell yourself that it is alright to fail. It is not the end of the world.
And always remember this, when you fail, it means that the process failed and you can always improve it. It doesn’t mean that you are a failure.
“Success in life is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is usually the result of experience. Experience is usually the result of bad judgment.”
2. Learn from your mistakes and treat failure as feedback
Once you understood that it is alright to fail, you must then treat your failure as a stepping stone to your success.
You must learn from your mistakes and treat your failures as feedback.
If you don’t learn, you won’t improve and there is a high chance that you may make the same mistakes and face the same failure again.
The key to success is not just about taking action, but learning from your failure as a result of your wrong actions.
When a baby learns to walk, she will fall many times before she manages to learn the right way and to stand up steadily, and walks like an adult.
The question is that when your baby is learning how to walk and she falls down during the process, are you going to stop her from trying again?
No, of course not. You will encourage her to walk, hold her hands and teach her the right way and then do it again.
Things are different when we become adults. When you are trying to build a business, people will tell you that it is impossible or it is too difficult. And when you fail, people will say, “See? I told you it won’t work.”
No wonder people fear failures and they do everything they can to avoid the fear.
Thus, learn from the babies. Learn the way they treat failures. They treat failures as feedback. This is what you need to do in your life.
When you fail, it is alright because everyone fails from time to time. Failures are inevitable. And that’s why you want to turn them into lessons and use them as experiences to do better in the future.
This is how success can be created.
“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”
3. Find out the real causes of your fear
Why do you have the fear? When you identify the real causes of your fear, you will understand that it is often a personal negative feeling created by yourself.
Sit down, take a few deep breaths, and then ask yourself where did your fear of failure come from and why do you feel the fear.
Usually, we feel fear because we are trying to associate the failure with a bigger story about ourselves. We look at failure and tell ourselves, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m awful”, or “I don’t have what it takes”, etc.
The thing is that this is just a belief that we created in our head.
Most people fear to stand on stage and deliver a speech because they worry that people may laugh at them. Now, notice that this is just a belief or an imagination that happens to you in your head.
And when you look at the root causes from a bigger perspective, you will understand that your belief or the story you tell yourself has nothing to do with the fact at all.
For example, you start an e-commerce business and aim to make $100,000 by year-end, but you failed. You only generated $30,000 from your business. At this point, people will tell themselves stories such as, “My mother was right, e-commerce is too competitive and I can never make it”, or “My business didn’t work out, my friends may laugh at me”.
The point is that when you see the root causes of your fear, you will also uncover your mind’s interpretation of the situation, which is far from accurate.
If your parents trying to stop you from starting the business, it is because they are being overly protective and they don’t want you to get hurt.
If you worry your friends may laugh at you, think again.
First, you are just creating those images in your head.
And second, do you really need friends who will laugh at your mistakes and failures?
Hence, identify the root causes of your fear of failure. Find out why you feel the fear and you will often see that the story you created in your head may not be true at all.
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”
4. Read stories about people who bounced back
One of the best methods to overcome the fear of failure is to read success stories about people who have failed and managed to bounce back. This is what I do most of the time.
I read a lot of books, articles, and consume other materials like videos from successful people in my industry. I feel inspired by reading what others have to say.
Read: 10 Best Success Books Everyone Should Read
For instance, I want to be a successful blogger, but I know that the journey may be difficult and there will be challenges waiting for me.
And so I choose to follow and read what other successful bloggers shared. I read a lot from James Clear and Jeff Goins. Both of them are my success models in the blogging world.
Every time I read articles from their blogs, I feel inspired because they serve as my role models showing me that if they can do it, so can I.
They are the real-life examples who have gone through failures, rejections, and tough times; yet, they continue to strive forward and manage to build a successful blog today.
What you need to do is to find your role models. Read stories about people who have gone through failures but continue to strive forward despite all the odds and managed to create extraordinary results in your industry.
And when you read the stories about these people, you will find the courage and become inspired to take action.
The fear can never stop you because you understand that there are others who have gone through similar or even worse situations than you.
Here are a few of my favorite biographies you can read:
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”
5. Role-model an expert
What I mean is you learn the blueprint to achieve success from people who have done it before.
I’m living in Malaysia, and if I want to enjoy my holidays in Hawaii, one of the fastest ways is to ask those who have been there. I just need to get their itinerary and ask them the places that I definitely must visit and should not miss out on.
There are 2 main benefits you can get from role-modeling or copying an expert:
- You learn the right and proven method to achieve the results you want. Just like baking a cake, copying an expert simply means you are copying the proven recipe.
- You diminish your fear of failure because you have a proven plan. When you have an expert holding your hands guiding you throughout the process, the fear of failure will be greatly reduced and at the same time, the chances of your success will be greatly increased.
If you have $100,000 and you want to invest in the stock market but you are a total newbie and have no idea which stock to buy, get an expert.
What if Warren Buffett guides you and shows you how he does it and which stock to invest?
Do you think that your fear of investing will be gone? Well, the answer is obvious.
When you are guided by someone who has done it before, you feel relieved and there is literally no fear at all because you put your trust in the expert.
So, identify the experts in your industry. Role-model what they do. Learn from them. Read their books and attend the seminars or get the courses that they provide.
This is the fastest way to shortcut your learning curve and at the same time, get rid of your fear of failure.
As for me, I learn a lot about personal development from John Assaraf. As you may already know, he is one of the most famous success coaches that talks about growth and unleashing the potential of your mind. You can learn from him too.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
6. Preparation and improvement
Your fear and confidence cannot exist at the same time. When you are feeling fearful, the confidence will never be there. When you are feeling confident, the fear is not there.
So, raise your level of confidence through preparations and improvement. The more you prepared yourself for what is coming, the more confident you will be. And when you are confident, you will never feel the fear.
Take exams as an example. You feel the fear that you may fail in your exams because you are not fully prepared.
Things will be different when you are fully prepared. You are confident and you know very well that you have covered all possible topics.
And even if you fail the exams, you know that you have done your best. Of course, if you are fully prepared, your chances of failure will be greatly minimized.
Hence, the next time when you feel the fear, it means that you are not fully prepared. Someone who is fully prepared, who knows the topic in and out, will never be afraid or feel the fear.
Do you still remember the first time you drive your car? You are full of emotions. You either feel fearful and are extremely careful, or you feel the thrill and enjoy the drive.
However, as the days passed by, you become accustomed to driving and it has become part of your subconscious habit that you can do without much conscious thinking. The emotions of your first driving are not there anymore.
In other words, you won’t feel fear once you are prepared and ready.
When you do it the first time without preparation, yes, it can be fearful. But the more you do it, the less fearful you will be.
Read: How Successful People Overcome Failures and Bounce Back
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
7. Envision the success you want
I believe that you have heard a lot about visualization, which can be a great tool for overcoming your fear of failure.
Unless you suffer from extreme fear or phobia, visualization is a powerful tool that can get rid of your fears.
“I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”
Visualization works because our minds cannot differentiate between what is real and what is being imagined.
If you don’t believe me, just imagine yourself walking into your kitchen, see yourself open the door of the fridge, and take out a big yellow lemon. Visualize in vivid detail as you hold the big lemon, feel the texture of its skin.
Now, take a knife and cut the lemon in half. Take one part and squeeze the juices into your mouth. See yourself doing it and feel it in detail.
If you do as I described above, you will have more saliva in your mouth right now. And why is that?
The reason is that your mind has made what you imagined becomes real.
That means if you envision yourself as successful and a victorious in everything that you do, your mind will then create the great feelings in you and get rid of the fears.
Visualization is a very powerful tool that is used by many successful people to achieve great things in life.
If you constantly imagine yourself as a failure, making stupid mistakes, and are worthless, guess what, it will affect your mood, and hence, your life.
On the other hand, if you always see yourself as someone worthy of great success, someone confident, and whatever business you touch turns into gold, you will feel great about it, and fear will never exist.
Therefore, envision the success you desire. See yourself as someone worthy. Look at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.
Here’s a short video you should watch…
8. Simplify your fears
Another reason people feel the fear of failure is because they have no idea where to start or how to do it. Simply put, they feel overwhelmed and lacked clarity.
When this happens, try to simplify your fears.
When I first started my online journey, I have no idea what to do, how to do it, and I don’t have a crystal clear plan to follow. I felt overwhelmed and felt that failure was inevitable.
I tried to simplify everything. I wrote down all the details and started to think about the kind of online business I wanted to build. I then began to clearly see what I wanted, and hence, what I needed to do to get there.
When I don’t know how to do something or where to start, I ask around to get answers. I search on Google for more solutions. And then I put them all into my plan.
Guess what, I felt lifted as clarity emerged. I have no problem taking action because I have put down everything into simple detail that I can act on.
Sometimes, when something seems to be out of reach or way beyond your capability, the fear of failure will be certain.
Read: How to Turn Your Goals into Actionable Plans
And when this happens, try to break down everything into simple detail. Simplify and get clear and fear will be gone.
The majority feels the fear because they have no clarity. What if I told you that your success is guaranteed, do you think you will be afraid to take action or you will need to think twice before you act? Not at all.
People worry because they feel uncertain. They worry if they fail. They worry if things don’t work out as they hoped and planned for.
Therefore, get rid of the uncertainty by simplifying your fears. Break down your goals into small details that you can act on right away.
Read: Why Clarity of Purpose is Important to Success and How to Get It
“Don’t fear failure. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”
9. Feel the fear and do it anyway
Imagine you are at the swimming pool. You see the diving board that is about one-storey high. You want to try it out, but you are afraid.
And all your friends encourage you to jump from the board, which they all did, you finally muster up the courage and walk up the ladder.
At first, your steps are slow because you are worried. You fear the heights. After all, you may fall and hit the hard ground instead of into the pool. As you stand at the edge of the diving board, all sorts of fearful thoughts emerge in your head.
But you don’t care, you just jump. Once you hit the water and into the pool, you quickly swim to the side and get back up.
You still feel a little fearful, but… it was fun.
So you decided to do it again, and again, and again. After a couple of jumps, you even do some trick jumps and try to perform the backflip.
Guess what, the fear has totally gone. You feel thrilled and there is no more fear to jump from the diving board anymore.
This is what will happen when you feel the fear and do it anyway. The fear will be gone when you face it heads on.
I remembered the time when I first recorded a video of myself because I wanted my content to be on YouTube. It was scary. But these days, I just do it without thinking much.
Once you face the fear and do it anyway, you will overcome the fear.
The same goes for everything in life. Regardless of whether it is public speaking or starting a new business, moving to a new location, change jobs, or begin a new career, the fear will be there at first.
As you go through the process, you will discover that there is nothing much to be fearful about.
You feel the fear because of the unknown and the uncertainty.
However, as you take action and do it, you discover that the fear only appears in your head. It is your own imagination that creates the fearful feeling.
So, the next time when you are afraid to take action or feel the fear of failure, take action anyway.
There is a great book written by Susan Jeffers with the same title, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.
If you think that your fears are stopping you from living your best life ever, I suggest you read the book. If the book is able to get rid of your fear and allows you unleash your greatness within, it will be well worth it.
“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
10. Take it as a challenge
It is good to feel the fear from time to time. This is because fears can grow you and make you venture out of your comfort zone.
Imagine someone who always stays within his comfort zone. There is no chance for him to learn and to grow. As long as he stays in his comfort zone and never learns to take risks, he will be the same, all the time.
The only way we can grow to become someone better in life is to go beyond our comfort zone.
People often say that success is a journey and not a destination. And they are right. It is not so much about what you get in the end that truly matters. It is about whom you become in your journey that truly counts.
Successful people are successful because they have gone through the process; they fail, they learn, and then they bounce back higher.
Without going through the process, you can never experience growth. And without growth, there is no way you can do better and achieve extraordinary results in life.
Hence, take fear as a challenge.
Whenever you feel you are afraid that things may not work out or you may fail, tell yourself that it is alright and you are willing to challenge yourself to do it.
Ever wonder why Elon Musk is crazy enough and dares to take the shot to start Tesla that changes the automobile industry and launch SpaceX to build rockets?
Because for Elon, he believed that these are important dreams and he should do it even if he fails.
You have to operate with the same mindset. Your dreams and goals are important to you. You should take action to achieve them even if you may fail.
So, never let the fear of failure stops you from achieving what you want in life or holds your potential back. Take it as a challenge and do it even if you may fail at the end.
Read: 15 Ways How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Live Great
“If something is important enough, you should try, even if the probable outcome is a failure.”
Let us recap the 10 ways how to overcome your fear of failure again:
- Understand that it is alright to fail
- Learn from your mistakes and treat failure as feedback
- Find out the real causes of your fear
- Read stories about people who bounced back
- Copy an expert
- Preparation and improvement
- Envision the success you want
- Simplify your fears
- Feel the fear and do it anyway
- Take it as a challenge
The fear of failure is just an emotion exists inside your mind.
Think about it, it is your mind that tells you that you are tired and you should stop when you are exercising in the gym.
It is your mind that tells you that you are sleepy and you should take a day off.
It is your mind that tells you public speaking is crazy and you should not do it.
It is your mind that tells you that you are no good and makes you feel inferior.
So, learn to conquer your own little voices and start taking control of your thoughts.
Do not fear failure, instead, fear that you may still be in the exact same place next year as you are today.
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