3 Ways to Fight Your Fear of Failure

Failing is something many of us fear. We think if we have failed at something, it means we should give up on that goal or dream or thing we attempted to be successful at. It was not ours to have.

Or worse, we decide a failing means we are a failure. Not good enough or smart enough.

But really, never failing means we never took a risk, never showed up for something or never tried anything outside our comfort zone.

If you ask any successful business person, entrepreneur, inventor, writer, artist...heck, even mother. What they will tell you isn't that they just kept trying and succeeding. No! They will tell you all the times they failed, and all the things they learned to get them to the point of success they have now.

It's not about never making mistakes. Mistakes are what helps us refine our knowledge and skills and keeps us pointing to the right path. Don't forget the lightbulb wasn't invented before a thousand "mistakes," and no concert pianist just reaches the symphony without thousands of hours of practice.

When I used to work with kids and teens, we would bring them to a ropes course for a day of team building and problem solving challenges in the woods. Inevitably, a challenge or two would trip them up and they would "fail" to solve it. But what we told them was to "fail forward". Take a break, talk to their peers, reflect on what they thought might be going wrong or what detail they might be missing. We'd encourage them to brainstorm other possibilities and try again. Sometimes those would fail too. Sometimes it took many, many tries as we anxiously waited on the sidelines knowing they were so close but just didn't see that last possibility yet. Sometimes we would have to move on to the next challenge and try anew. But the positive message was that the willingness to try, to reflect and talk about what could have been done differently, the ability to support and encourage each other and work together, that was the most important goal of the day. That was where the success lay.

Same goes for us. Be careful how you define success and failure.

I've known many a person who says, "I have had two failed marriages...or, that relationship or friendship failed..." and I challenge those statements. Granted no one wants a string of ended relationships in their history, but does the fact that they ended (even conflictual) really make them a failure? Did you learn anything from them? Did you learn what you never wanted to do again, that certain treatment doesn't bring out the best in you or that certain values matter more than others? I bet you did.

And maybe you didn't learn them the first time, but if you got married again then good for you for taking the risk, to keep trying. Because one or two or twenty lost relationships doesn't equal evidence that you are a horrible friend or partner. You were a horrible friend or partner to that one relationship, maybe. Have you looked at why? Or perhaps they were to you. It happens. We learn. We keep trying.

I know for me, I have had both bad relationships and friendships and some really amazing ones too. Even if they didn't last forever. Not all of them do. They all led me to the great relationships I have today though. Because I failed forward instead of keeping myself from ever risking loving again.

We humans love to frame things in the negative. When we face an opportunity, we assign risk to it and often irrationally. We come up with the worst-case scenarios that become so big in our heads that we decide the risk is too great. Too often though, that risk isn't as bad as we think or it could be repaired rather easily.

Try this exercise from Tim Ferris based on the philosophy of Stoicism.

1. DEFINE the worst case scenario(s)

Get detailed about what, exactly, you fear. Ask “so what?” Get really clear on the fear.


What could you do (for each), or could someone help you do, to prevent this from happening (even if it only decreases the likelihood by 1%)?


For each, if it DID happen, what could you do to either repair the damage or get back on track?

How do you feel after doing this exercise? A coach can help you dig deeper on your fears. Reach out now.

Image of scrabble tiles spelling Fail Your Way to Success
Fail Your Way to Success from Wix Media

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