Don’t Let Fear of Failure Ruin Your Drive to Success

by Percival J. Meris on September 6, 2009

Photo by Mono Bustos
Don't Let Fear of Failure Ruin Your Drive to Success

MOST OF US EXPERIENCE FEAR OF FAILURE IN VARIOUS ASPECTS OF OUR DAILY LIVES. We are more contented with staying inside our comfort zones than venturing to experiment with the unexplored areas of our lives. We prefer to set aside opportunities than risk failure. As a result, although we may feel safe, we remain stagnated.

If you suffer from this, realize that this fear undermines your efforts and eventually prevents you from doing an activity you want to try. It is greatly responsible for paralyzing you, keeping you from trying out new things, deadening your ingenuity, and putting an eventual end to your dreams. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, bringing about the very failure feared.

Causes of the Fear of Failure

Your childhood experiences are significant factors from which we can trace back most of your adult behaviors, including fear of failure. As a child, did you often suffer demeaning remarks from your parents or siblings whenever you failed? Were there experiences of major embarrassments for some minor mistakes that you committed then?

In your adulthood, you continue to hold on the old image of yourself as a child, and bring along the effects of your experiences as fear of criticism, rejection, or ridicule resulting from failure. And so, in your endeavors you put to the forefront the image that other people hold of you.

Even before you start doing a project, you remind yourself of a possible negative outcome of your efforts. You are not willing to venture into the unknown for fear of losing your investment. For you, all errors are wrong and harmful. Underlying these behaviors is lack of belief in your capabilities, ruined by your childhood experiences.

High achievers who have experienced early success may have never tasted enough failures to condition themselves for more. They remain so secure with the methods that have worked out in the past as to recoil from innovative experimentations.

Why You Should Never Fear Failure

All great accomplishments in the world have been the results of trial and error. Failure is a necessary component of the success process. If you want success, be willing to undergo failures, like the successful people.

Here are what these successful people say about failure:

  • The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure. (Sven Goran Eriksson)
  • Success is ninety-nine percent failure. (Soichiro Honda)
  • All my successes have been built on my failures. (Benjamin Disraeli)
  • I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. (Thomas Alva Edison)
  • I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. (Michael Jordan)
  • Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely. (Henry Ford)
  • Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success. (Napoleon Hill)

Overcoming Fear Of Failure

The first step in overcoming fear of failure is to understand and accept that failure is beneficial and necessary for the attainment of success. The experience presents many opportunities for learning and other advantageous possibilities.

Plunge into the thing you fear by immediately taking action. Then “burn the bridges”, and pursue your goals relentlessly. You will realize that when you find yourself in the middle of action, your fear of failure just bursts like bubbles in the air.

If you want early success, fail early and fail often, and learn as much as you can from the experience early in the game. It will be difficult at first, but if you take small baby steps at a time, you begin to build up your confidence.

Don’t take failure to heart. Consider it as a normal happening, and not as a deficiency in your abilities. Successful people, whose abilities we hold in high regard, failed so many times. They failed even more times than people who did not succeed.

Replace the fear of failure with the experiences of success in your mind. Visualize yourself successfully performing the activity. Also, model your outlook on those of successful people. If others can do it, why can’t you?

Consider the cost of missed opportunities. What do you stand to lose if you do not try? What will you gain if you do? The higher the risk of the opportunity, the greater is its reward.

Implement a contingency plan. Adopt an alternative strategy. If Plan A does not work, you have Plan B to fall back on. Planning for contingency should form part of your original planning.

Success vs. Failure

Realize that there is no real failure. What we call failure is only a feedback, a mere outcome or result, a temporary setback. “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure… it just means you haven’t succeeded yet,” said Robert Schuller, American televangelist, pastor, and author.

Real failure occurs only when you give up before you achieve success. This is what makes the difference between a successful man and a real failure. The famous inventor Thomas Edison said: “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”


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