How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

No one likes to fail. There’s really no other way to describe failing than to say it feels really crappy. You’ve invested time, thought, energy and excitement in a project and it didn’t work out.

Not only are you bummed that you didn’t achieve your goal, you are also mourning and feeling a sense of let- down. You have to readjust your thoughts and expectations and it feels really, really crappy.

If you are an adult, then there is a good chance you have experienced a failure of some type in your life.

Once we experience that and know how it feels, we want to avoid it at all costs. We develop a fear of failure.

For some, this means turning into a control freak perfectionist who tries to manipulate every aspect of our projects to “guarantee” it won’t fail.

For others, fear of failure leads to procrastination. We put off trying or doing anything new because we don’t want to fail. If we never start, we can’t mess it up.

Some people mistakenly think that they are destined to fail. They get depressed and down on themselves, concluding that the reason they failed is because THEY are a failure.

In actuality, there is no failure.

“Oh really?” you may be saying. “What are you? Some kind of Zen guru, spouting on about the meaning of life?”

Before you hurt your throat scoffing at me, let me explain.

There is no failure.

For any project or event or goal that you set there is an outcome. Maybe the outcome is not what you were aiming for but it is still an outcome.

The only thing that makes it a “failure” is our interpretation of it. We analyze the situation and assign either a “good” or “bad” result and classify it in our minds as a failure. When in reality it is just a different outcome than we wanted.

Let me give you an example:

I recently wanted to try a joint- venture project. I thought about the entrepreneurs I know and who’s work would complement mine. I contacted an acquaintance who sells Beautycounter skincare products. They offer safety conscious makeup and skincare which fits perfectly with my all natural, real, whole foods 12 Day Detox program.

We decided to team up and host a “Get Ready for Spring Break” night. We wanted to have the event at a neutral location (not either of our homes) and did not want to pay a lot of money for a space. This was our first time working together and we had no idea what kind of turnout we would have.

I thought of a really cute boutique store in my town where I had been to an after store hours event several years ago. I went in and talked to the owner and she agreed to let us host our event there.

So, we were all set. We created an invitation, planned out what prizes and give- aways we would have and coordinated with the store owner on how much space we would need and what supplies we would need to bring with us.

We invited a whole bunch of people with an RSVP request.

And the no’s kept coming in.

There were scheduling conflicts, lack of child care issues, people having to work etc etc. Interest in the event seemed to be pretty good but the timing was off.

We ended up having to cancel because of low turnout.

At first I was really bummed. My first big, joint- adventure event and we had failed. We couldn’t even get it off the ground.

The things that ran through my mind:

  1. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for these kinds of events. I am an introvert and speaking in front of groups is very intimidating.
  2. Maybe I secretly sabotaged it out of nerves and fears of what I would say, how I would present, how terrible I was going to be.
  3. No one wants to come to my parties
  4. I’m not good at creating anticipation and excitement in others
  5. Who am I to be a leader? I like to attend these types of things, not run them

But, in reality, if I step back off the ledge for a moment and look at the situation with some perspective, I see that there was just a different outcome than I had hoped.

If my goal had been to set up a joint-venture, then I succeeded with gang busters.

If my goal was to obtain an awesome location to hold the party for free, then again – success!

If my goal had been to meet new people and create new relationships- cha-ching! Did it!

So I can look at having to cancel as being a big fat failure or I can view it as an outcome I wish were different. I succeeded in many ways even though we ultimately did not hold the event.

I’d love to be able to offer some pithy advice and an easy solution to overcoming failure but really there isn’t any. The key to removing fear is to realize that ultimately there is no failure.

If you are struggling with being able to see the situation from a different perspective, call a friend, write in a journal, talk it out with your dog. Speaking thoughts aloud helps to dispel their power. Realize that failure is in your head.

You can only succeed and grow, learn and expand. As my new favorite quote from an unknown source says,

“Life is an Adventure – not a test.”

You can’t get it wrong. You can’t fail. You can, however, have a grand adventure in all that you do.

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