Fear Of Failure
By Leo Gura - January 24, 2014 | 3 Comments
The origin of your fear of failure, how it’s holding you back, and how to free yourself of its crippling grip.
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org and in this quick self-help segment, we are going to talk about fear of failure and how to overcome it. I’m going to give you some quick and practical techniques and insights for how to deal with the fear of failure.
What is the fear of failure? It is something that every one of us has. This is what holds every one of us back from living a charged life, or living to our full potential.
The fact is that the world is dangerous. There are things out there that we need to look out for and that, in our biology and psychology, through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, we have been programmed with ways of thinking and dealing with situations in fearful ways.
Fear is a quick hit of stimulation that gets you to change your behavior. That is like the “carrot and stick” model of motivation. That’s how our reptilian brain works.
When you’re faced with a real danger when you’re walking through the jungle and all of a sudden, you see a tiger, you have a physical response happening in your brain – especially in you reptilian brain – that is just taking over all of you. It is sending you into action. That’s the “fight or flight” response.
All of a sudden, you’re geared and motivated. Within a split second, you’re filled with adrenaline and you’re off and running away or grabbing a stick to fend off the tiger or whatever you’re doing.
That’s totally natural and in the environment we grew up in because we’ve evolved through millions of years of “survival of the fittest.” It is a dog-eat-dog world.
However, now that we’re living in a more humane society where we don’t have to be at each other’s throats all the time, that fear is still present. We still have all of these fears that grip us.
The dangers are not nearly as great as they were and what happens is that this fear paralyzes us and holds us back. It makes us conservative and safety-minded rather than growth- minded.
We become afraid of trying new things and fear of failure is an aspect of what I was talking about, but it also ties in with perfectionism. It’s thinking that when you do something, it’s going to have to go well. It’s going to have to be perfect and if it’s not, then somehow you’ve failed and that’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to you.
I feel qualified to talk about this topic because I have a lot of fear of failure. Even though I’ve done years of personal development work and I’ve studied so many numerous techniques and strategies and ideas related to this stuff, the fact is that it’s hard to get rid of the fear of failure entirely. It’s something that you have to chip away at slowly.
The best way to deal with fear of failure is to put yourself in a position where you’re relatively safe and secure. If you’re in a dangerous and hostile environment, then you have to handle that. I’m not talking about a hostile environment in your mind.
Some poor country in Africa where you face a danger of getting your arms chopped off with a machete is a hostile environment and a suburb in the United States is not a hostile environment.
If you’re in a comfortable and secure environment that most of us live in in a first-world country, the fear of failure is largely your mind playing tricks on you. It’s looking at your past childhood and those experiences and your subconscious mind is bringing forward the things that you’re afraid of the most.
For everybody, that’s going to be slightly different. Maybe you were raised in a family where you were always told that you have to be a certain way. Otherwise, you’re not going to be loved. Now you have a real fear of disappointing people and there’s a real fear that if you don’t live up to people’s expectations, then you’re going to have failed and that you are unlovable.
Maybe you grew up in a family situation where you didn’t have a lot of money and so the thing that was instilled in you was the fear that you’re going to be poor and broke. Now you’re an adult and even if you have a relatively good amount of money in your bank account, you might still be walking around and holding this limiting belief or holding this powerful image in your subconscious mind that, one day, if you don’t handle all of your affairs correctly, you’re going to wind up like that bum on the street.
Your mind comes up with all sorts of stories and excuses for why that’s true. In fact, if you have that fear right now, then you’re probably sitting there and saying, “Well, Leo, it is true. If I don’t go to work or handle my affairs, I am going to be a bum on the street.”
Yes, technically, it’s true in that sense, but the problem with this whole fear of failure is that it’s a mechanism that has become dysfunctional. Fear can be functional in appropriate situations. With the tiger in the jungle example, that was an appropriate reaction to fear.
Where it’s not appropriate is most likely how it’s functioning in your life. It’s keeping you from pursuing your full potential. It’s keeping you in your comfort zone.
Maybe you feel like you feel like you should step it up at work and go ask for that promotion or ask for a raise, but you have a fear of failure. “What if I go and I ask for that raise and they tell me “’Nno?’” That’s going to feel horrible. I’m going to get rejected and what if not only do they not give me the raise, but what if they tell me that they’re firing me because I was too bold in going up and asking for a raise?”
Do you see what’s happening there? You’re creating this worst-case scenario and what’s happening is that your lower self – that conservative side of you – is taking the scenario of you being a bum on the street and it’s magnifying it and it’s having you it spill into every aspect of your life and in all of the thinking that you do in your life. What that’s doing is it’s holding you back.
The fact is that, yes, there might be some risk in going and asking for a promotion, but on the other hand, how do you want to live your life? Do you want to live your life in constant failure fear or do you want to live your life by going out there and pushing your comfort zone and trying new things?
Here’s the trick about failure. Failure is actually good. Failure is not as bad as your mind makes it out to be. Failure is how successful people get successful.
It’s not that they’re born successful. It’s that they go through a process of trial and error and make lots of mistakes and fail many times to learn those hard lessons and to get those lessons wired into their brains.
Then they can have the success that they have because they’ve tried it all and they’ve failed so many times that they don’t care anymore. That’s what you need to do.
You need to numb yourself down to this idea that failure is bad. It’s not bad. In fact, I can bet you that if I was with you right now, one-on-one, and I asked you to tell me about a time in your life where you struggled a lot and you failed a lot and you still kept with it. You failed so many times and you tried so many times.
You kept failing and failing, but you just kept with it. What we’ll probably find is that that actually led to something positive in your life.
What happened through that process is that you learned something. Through that failure process, eventually you came out with some new insight. You came out with a new skillset. You came out with a new asset that you created or a relationship that sprung out of that.
It was something positive and that came out of the direct result that you got by doing this trial-and-error process. That is how learning happens. It happens through failure.
When a little child starts to learn how to walk, what does he do? He doesn’t say to himself, “What if I fail? What if I take that first step and it doesn’t work?” He’s not conscious of that at all.
If we had that mindset, none of us would ever walk. Fortunately enough, when you’re at that age, your instincts just kick in and you start walking and experimenting. You see them struggling and trying and falling down and going again and again, but they’re getting enjoyment out of it.
It’s like a game. It’s a fun challenge. It’s fun to try it out, even though maybe sometimes they land on their ass or get hurt or bruised. They might slip or chip a tooth or knock their head on a bench. They’re learning through that process and that’s necessary.
This idea that you fear failing in your career, your business, and your relationship – so what? So what if you fail? Nothing that bad is going to happen.
Think about it – if a friend came to you right now and he was anxious and neurotic about failing on some project that he’s working on or screwing up a conversation with somebody or giving a speech and making a fool of himself, what would you tell him? You would tell him exactly what I’m telling you.
You would ask him, “How important is it in the grand scheme of things if you bomb that test or bomb that relationship or you bomb that speech or even your marriage?” It’s not that important.
I want to make sure that I’m being clear here. I’m not just talking about little things. I’m talking about all things.
I specifically said something like a marriage because a marriage is a big thing and most people would say, “Well, you don’t want to bomb your marriage,” and I’m not saying that you should deliberately, but in the end, you’re going to do your best and, sometimes, your best isn’t good enough.
Sometimes, you need to learn through the school of hard knocks. Sometimes, bombing that marriage is exactly what needs to happen to you and there’s nothing that bad about it.
In the end, you’re making it out to be too big of a deal and you know this because if I came to you with the same problem, you would say, “Do you know what? There’s a bright side to it. You’ll learn something. You’ll know how to create a better marriage. Maybe you’ll find out that you’re better off alone or whatever.”
It’s not that big of a deal if you fail. You can’t hold yourself to this perfectionistic standard. That’s basically the bottom line.
I think that if you want that exciting life and if you want to go and undertake this process of self-actualization, as I call it, then you have to be willing to fail and you have to be willing to accept some risk and go out there and do stuff.
Otherwise, what’s going to happen is you’re going to be like a bird in a cage. You’re going nowhere. You can’t get out of the cage. You don’t want to get out of the cage even if the door is open.
You still feel comfortable in the cage and how can you grow? How can you live and experience life? You can’t.
That’s why your life is average, boring, and mediocre. You don’t have good results in finances or relationships or anywhere else. You’re in a cage. We don’t want that.
The best way to get out of that cage is to make the choice for growth versus comfort. Abraham Maslow talks about this. He’s the father of self-actualization. He says that every day, you get little choices and the choice is always between growth and comfort.
For example, when you wake up in the morning, do you push the “snooze” button? That’s comfort. Do you force yourself to get up and do what you have to do? That’s growth.
Do you grab the donut or the healthy piece of fruit or salad at lunch? Again, that’s a choice between comfort and growth.
Do you go and raise your hand at the group meeting and voice your concerns? That’s growth. Do you tell yourself to sit down and shut up and be meek? That’s comfort.
You get these little decision points every single day. We all get dozens of them. The more you can go with the choice of growth versus comfort, it’s a little step towards breaking out of your shell, comfort zone, and cage.
That is ultimately how you become self-actualized. That is how you defeat and overcome the fear of failure.
This is Leo. I’m going to be signing off. Please post some comments for me. I’d love to hear what you think about this topic. Please like this and share it so that this message spreads.
Go check out Actualized.org where you get more advanced personal development tips just like this. We cover fear in all aspects and to a much deeper degree.
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