WORK-LIFE BALANCE / AUG. 06, 2015
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How Successful People Deal With the Fear of Failure

The fear of failure otherwise known as atychiphobia, is something that everyone has experienced at least once in their life. Even the most successful entrepreneurs have felt it when they were working on their first start-up.

In fact, many people experience it whenever they feel their career or something they regard as valuable is at stake. Negative thoughts and constant worrying about something not going as planned and eventually leading to a terrible situation is what creates the anxiety that petrifies your ego and leaves you motionless in the process of self-development.    

While fearing the unknown makes a lot of sense, you can’t let it get in your way. You can’t allow the feelings of insecurity to damage your self-worth and confidence as this has the power to cause bigger problems in your life. Fearing failure might stop you from getting promoted which means taking on additional responsibilities. The same applies to enjoying life to the fullest which requires that you take more risks.

See Also: Failure is Crucial to Your Career

So if you want to learn how to cope with the fear of failure, you need to learn from the big fish. These are the people who fear as much as you do but have found a way to work around their own limitations and weaknesses and have given themselves the chance to thrive.

In this article, we take a deep look in order to understand the fear of failure and figure out what other people have done to overcome it…

The Psychology Behind Fear

At the prospect of confronting failure, you think about the time you’ve wasted working on that new project or the new challenge you’ve accepted. Apart from that you also think about your reputation and what others might think of you once they know you’ve quit. This is explained using psychology, where there are many theories that associate motivation with fear. From Bandura’s Self Efficacy Theory to Nicholls’ Goal Achievement Theory, the determination to take action can be measured by task motivation and ego motivation:

  • Task motivation: otherwise known as process motivation, it describes a task that’s carried out for enjoyment purposes. Often it demonstrates the passion you have for a particular activity and your willingness to develop a skill.
  • Ego motivation: as an ego motivated person you carry out a task to get something in return e.g. prizes, money as well as to get the recognition of others.

As previous research has shown, both approaches are highly effective when used in combination. Ensuring that you are working for something you love and at the same time balancing your ego and enthusiasm, can help you stay motivated without allowing even the thought of failing get in your way. That’s because passion and competitiveness can have a similar impact on success. These two elements create the perfect mix for success as they have the power to bring great results eliminating fear and anxiety.

The Story of Success

Psychologists believe that there is a strong link between failure and career development. Many argue that failure is actually essential to success as it prepares you for the win. Essentially it has a lot to do with finding the motivation to practice and do work.

So, how many real-life success stories have you heard about the world’s richest and most successful personalities? How many of these exemplified or referred to failure at least once?

Take the prominent example of Steve Jobs. In his initial steps, he failed numerous times before he succeeded in creating Apple, the world’s largest tech company. Despite not graduating from college and having his first products fail, he still managed to turn the minor setbacks to his advantage.

On that note, there is not a single journey to success that’s not packed with a series of failed attempts. Take a look at the ways, successful people choose to deal with the fear of failure:

  • They make plans

Effective planning goes a long way from just setting goals. It’s all about eliminating negative thoughts and creating a healthy lifestyle that allows constructive and positive outcomes. When the fear of failure kicks in, they choose not to play the game, instead concentrate on what’s important at that moment and take some time to plan for the future. The secret to eliminating worries and despair is hard work and effective planning.

  • They never give up

Entrepreneurs also get tired and feel the need to give up. But having invested in a million-dollar company and being responsible for about the same number of employees, they don’t have the option to give up. They just keep on going, making big decisions for their company by judging each situation methodically even though the pressure and fear of failing is always around the corner.

  • They have routines

Outside work, social responsibilities also add to that feeling of anxiety making the problem even worse. This stresses the importance of setting priorities, making plans and sticking to a specific schedule every day. A routine, although it may sound boring, is beneficial as it helps you stay focused to your short-term goals. The sooner you achieve those, the better you will feel when you are working towards your bigger long-term aspirations.  

  • They work for what they believe in

If you don’t love what you do, you’ll never be able to overcome your fear of failure. Only when your passion for the job is greater than your own limitations, can you make it to the top. Having said that, no-one can force you to do something you don’t genuinely feel strongly about, so make sure you are headed in the right direction.

Failure vs. Success

Failure is essentially trying something and it not working as you hoped. In this way, you’ll find out that failure sets the foundations for success.

This reminds me of the famous quote of an incredibly intelligent man named Thomas Edison, who had an interesting approach toward failure and once stated:  “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work." Edison’s words suggest that even though you are not quite there, trying out something new and failing is not the end of the world, rather a step towards success.

So a handy piece of advice would be to never give up. Instead find ways to work around it, embracing failure to make it work to your advantage.

See Also: 4 Steps to Overcoming Your Fear of Failure

Beating the fear of failure is a difficult task. But the healthiest way to overcome this type of anxiety is to change the way you see failure while focusing on self-motivation. In time, you too will discover how thin the line that separates success and failure is which will eliminate your fears and worries.

To help you beat procrastination, take a look at this motivational video by Endless Motivation that explains what the fear of failure actually does to you and how you can deal with it effectively:

So, how about you? Do you know of any other strategies that can help people cope with the fear of failure? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments box below…

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