Crippled with fear….a phrase most of us have heard at least a few times throughout our lives. This is usually used in the context of someone facing an external threat, a bear, perhaps. We are taught from an early age how to deal with external threats. For example, “don’t talk to strangers”, our parents warned us ever so diligently. But, what happens when the threat is internal and is hindering your growth as an individual? Fear of failure is more difficult to defeat. You can’t see it, so it’s like fighting an invisible monster. And, it’s one you can’t run away from. Do that and you risk never finding fulfillment.
When equipped with the right tools, the fear of failure can be conquered, no matter how daunting a battle it seems. And, soon, the fear of regret will victoriously take its place. Failure is simply a reminder that you are learning new skills and trying new things….moving outside the ol’ comfort zone (it’s comfortable for a reason–mine is the couch). Here are 5 tips to help you move past the hurdle:
1. Create lists. Sometimes seeing our thoughts and fears written out allows us to make better sense of the chaos it is breeding inside our heads. Sort out possible failures and strategize the steps you can take to move past them. Having a backup plan is still a crucial key to success.
In addition, note the fulfillment and any benefits you might gain by taking a leap. We can often grow bored and stagnant when we don’t make changes. What fears arise when you consider no change? List these as well. Are you willing to settle?
2. Visualize. Imagine yourself succeeding. Better yet, envision approaching failure and moving forward. Remind yourself of past successes. How did you achieve these? View the opportunity as a challenge rather than as a chance to fail. When you feel more positive, the quality of your performance will improve, thus further increasing your chance of a favorable outcome. When experiencing failure, I often picture myself in the near future seeing everything in hindsight and scoffing at the fear I had felt.
3. Don’t beat yourself up. We typically find it easy to say this to a friend feeling down, but when it comes to taking our own advice, we find it difficult. The more we beat ourselves up, the more likely we are to reinforce failure. Self-loathing ensues and self-fulfilling prophecy follows closely behind. Instead, speak to yourself in the same supportive and respectful manner that you would speak to a loved one. We all deserve that.
4. Redefine your version of failure. Expand your goals and abandon the “all or nothing” mentality. With each opportunity comes the chance to learn new skills and ideas. Focus on your growth as an individual instead of trying to meet an expectation to be “the best”. Setting your goals too high can set you up for the very thing you’re so afraid of.
5. Don’t allow fear to “cripple” you. Face your fear rather than trying to push it away. Fear is a great motivator and can lead us in positive directions if we utilize it correctly. As Eleanor Roosevelt once stated, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Could anyone have said it better?
Fear of failure is obviously an entirely different situation than being approached by a bear….running away or playing dead are not options. Do either of those and you may end up living a life of regret.