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fear of failure

Fear of Failure – Breaking Free

The fear of failure often seems larger than reality. The more you think of the things that make you tremble, the perceived shadow that holds your thoughts can paralyze ambition, stifle creativity, and prevent you from moving beyond life as you know it.

Within your personal life or your career, fear can be potent. It whispers insidious doubts that hold you back from taking risks or advancing toward your full potential.

Here’s the Truth: Fear of Failure does not have to be the end of your story. It is an opportunity to reevaluate and find a detour, a better way for the future.

Two Questions:

  1. When taking on a project, in your mind, how do you see the finished project before you start?
  2. Are you a person who doesn’t consider a successful completion beforehand and just hopes nothing will go wrong?

People that struggle with confidence never envision a successful result and they hope for the best.

Can Fear of Failure be a Learned Behavior?

Yes, but within you are the means to change that. In this first section, below is a simple exercise to rid yourself of false beliefs. There will inevitably be people that find this simple exercise too odd and say, “That will not work.”

When false beliefs hold you in place, doing nothing changes nothing. The resistant aren’t doubting the exercise. They doubt their own ability to create change.

I know people that did the exercise once and called it done. Many more use this approach every day to rid themselves of unnecessary and false beliefs. Whatever the junk of the day is, write it down and get rid of it. It’s a simple, fast, and efficient way to take control over unproductive thoughts.

Reframe Your Narrative

A good place to start is to challenge the internal narrative that equates your capability with failure. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that failure = incompetence. Every successful human invention has experienced a series of failed steps. Each one was an opportunity to discover new efficiencies.

The belief that failure = incompetence is a lie that can hold power over you if you choose to allow it. The self-deprecating beliefs have one purpose: to keep you stuck. If a thought or belief doesn’t add goodness to your life, it’s time to get rid of it, throw it away.

Action Step:

  1. Take a piece of toilet paper and write on it: Failure = Incompetence.
  2. Look at the writing. How does that false belief make you feel to look at it?
  3. Make a choice right now. From now on, that’s a lie that you no longer need.
  4. Now take that piece of toilet paper and roll it up into a ball and squeeze it hard, feel how tight it is in your hand. CRUSH IT and take power over it.
  5. Now walk to the toilet with it, squeezing it all the way. Feel the tightness of your hand.
  6. Take a deep breath and hold it for four-seconds.
  7. Throw that false belief into the bowl, slowly release your breath, and flush it away.
  8. How do you feel now?
  9. Notice the tension in your hand is gone, your chest and stomach feels calmer and the false belief is gone.
  10. Don’t invite it back… if you do, repeat this exercise.

This is important: It's likely that a PERSON is behind the false beliefs you've been hanging onto. For the exercise above, you are NOT flushing the person - You are flushing the feelings or beliefs.

Continue this simple exercise daily if needed and over time, even an annoying person's negativity will fade and lose the power they once had over you.

fear of failure

Next, we’ll reframe the old lie and create a productive belief.

On a small card, write: Failure = an Opportunity to Find a Better Way

Use the card as a motivational reminder. Too many people automatically resort to someone else’s message that failure defines them. It does NOT.

If someone constantly annoyed you with negative talk and demeaned your character or skills, would you want to hang around them?

Of course not. So why listen to their words?

Reframe Your Perspective

When things don’t work out right (and they don’t always work out right), ask yourself:

  • What can I learn from this experience?
  • What DIDN’T work right?
  • What DID work right?
  • What does a successful solution look like?
  • What resources or training do you require for a successful solution?
  • Create a plan to ensure a successful result next time. (You don’t need to write a book; just some steps to follow.)

You might consider whether you needed more preparation, or a different approach. This is one of those times when being a “Monday morning quarterback” is helpful. During my years in two military services, each organization employed the “After-Action Review”.

Basically, the Reader’s Digest version is the five “reframe your perspective” questions above in this section. We can always dig deeper within each question. Viewing failure as opportunity puts you on a successful path for the future.

See the Value in Imperfection

The pursuit of perfectionism is a major contributor to the millions of people that live in fear. In work and life, we aim for perfection, and fear any misstep as a catastrophic downfall. This unrelenting pursuit of the unattainable only leads to frustration and stagnation.

When you allow yourself to recognize that missteps can happen, and they have value, they allow you to explore, build your skills, and adapt. Celebrate your moments of improvement, not just your achievements. Recognize that growth is a messy, imperfect process, and that every stumble is a step closer to your goals.

Build Your Confidence

A healthy dose of self-belief is essential for tackling any challenge, especially those that carry the risk of failure. So, how do we build our confidence reserves?

Focus on your strengths. Make a list of your skills, talents, and accomplishments. Remind yourself of what you’re good at and use those strengths as a foundation to accomplish new challenges.

Celebrate small wins: Don’t wait for the grand finale to acknowledge your progress. Recognize and celebrate even the smallest gains along the way. This reinforces a positive feedback loop and fuels your motivation.

Seek a support system: Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people who believe in you and your potential. Their faith can be a powerful anchor in times of self-doubt.

Consider Risk

Considering risk is essential for growth and advancement. I remember during my Coast Guard years, a senior officer created and employed a risk assessment prior to some operations. When the seas are too dangerous for a large vessel, it would clearly place small boat crews in danger.

While the Coast Guard faces danger nearly every day to save people, when the odds of killing crews are extremely high, it’s a futile effort that puts personnel in unreasonable jeopardy. Some frowned upon his risk assessment approach, but studies showed he was right. They later employed his assessment throughout the service.

But how do we distinguish between reckless gambling and wise risk-taking?

  • Start small: Begin by stepping outside your comfort zone in small, manageable ways. Volunteer for a challenging project, network with someone outside your usual circle, or take a course that interests you.
  • Do your research: Before taking any leap, gather information and assess potential outcomes. This reduces uncertainty and allows you to make informed decisions.
  • Focus on learning: View risks as opportunities to learn and grow, even if they don’t lead to immediate success. The skills and knowledge you gain will be invaluable in your future endeavors.

Redefine Success

Our societal definition of success too often revolves around external markers like wealth, status, and recognition. The problem with that is the narrow definition limits yourself to get only those three things.

Don’t hinder yourself by defining your success on someone else’s terms. When you’re chasing their version of success in your life, anything other than their opinion might pull at your confidence to wonder if you’re failing.

How about if you define your success according to what brings you joy and fulfillment? Perhaps to you, success is achieving your personal values, meeting your career goals, or being a good parent that loves, cares and teaches your children to become kind and responsible contributors to society.

The pathway to personal or professional fulfillment isn’t linear. There may be obstacles that slow you down. Yet, each opportunity helps you to find a better way.

A Source to Help You…

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Anthony M. Davis is a Certified Leadership, Success and Stress Coach. He is a clinically trained Board Certified Hypnotherapist.

He has earned a national reputation for his Transformative Life Centering work with clients from across the nation. His unique approach helps clients remove underlying fears and triggers, and then, through coaching, helps them pursue and accomplish life and career goals.

He provides Coaching and Hypnotherapy sessions remotely through Zoom. If you have challenges and are ready to move past them, Contact him Here to create the life change you desire.

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