Overcoming fear of failure

many startups fail, not because of improper execution. But because of the fear of failure in the first place.

The fear of failure is often the primary reason why people procrastinate. In this article, you will understand the intensity of the fear of failure, how to identify its presence in you, and strategies to eliminate them. With the primary source of your ineffectiveness gone, there is no one to stop you from success.

The impact of fear of failure in your life and business.

In 1979, the Nobel prize-winning economists Kahneman and Tversky discovered how people react to risks and rewards. They found that people give more importance to losses than gains. The psychological weight that the fear of failure puts on your brains is at least twice as the gains of success. Let’s put it into practice.

Suppose you are told to toss a coin, and every time you get heads, you win $1000, and when you get tails, you get nothing. You’d happily participate in the game, wouldn’t you? But what if there is a penalty of $1000 for every tail? Would you still participate? Probably not, at least most people don’t. For the majority, the reward has to be at least twice the penalty to consider this game. In other words, either reward has to be $2000 for every win, or the penalty should be $500 for every loss.

Further, fear in general releases more cortisol into your bloodstream and causes most of your non-essential functions to halt temporarily. Your digestive functions, reproductive functions, and natural immune functions are included. We’ve discussed more this in our earlier article, “The Science Behind Meditation.

However, success begins by taking the next imperfect step. You’d only be able to do so when you overcome your fear of failure. If you are spending a lot of time writing a business plan for the business you wish to start, you are afraid. How can you, as an entrepreneur, eliminate the fear of failure and take your next step?

How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure?

Susan Peppercorn, in her HBR article, suggests these four tips to overcome the fear of failure. 

Redefine failure

Often we define failure as looking foolish in other’s eyes or worry about doing something wrong. However, you can re-frame what is a loss differently before you attempt it.

For example, if you’re attempting an interview for a senior position for the first time, not being hired is probably too high for a definition of failure. After all, you haven’t worked on similar roles before, and it’s you can’t control the interviewer’s perspective on this. However, a definition of failure could be not answering most of the questions in the interview. The latter is more realistic to be considered as failure.

Set approach goals (not avoidance goals)

Positively reframing avoidance goals is beneficial for well-being. Remember, avoidance has more psychological power. Suppose you are running a restaurant; instead of avoiding customer complaints, give yourself a target to achieve (or maintain) a high level of customer rating. Your new definition of failure now becomes not meeting these high ratings

Create a “fear list.”

Tim Ferris, a self-help guru and a reputed author, recommends writing down a list of your fears. Knowing your enemy is very important in dealing with them. In his TED Talk, he shares some of his own life experiences of how effecting doing this helped him overcome the fear of failure.

Click here to see Tim Ferris Books on Amazon

Focus on learning

Life has no purpose other than experiencing it — Buddha. Everything in life is an experiment. When you understand this, you can dramatically reduce the psychological effect of the fear of failure

Using these four steps above, you can rethink your fears. According to Susan, we fear more when we are comfortable. Because even small risks would seem unnecessary when we are in a relaxed state. Dan Ariely, in his book, explains that the human brain always works in relative terms. 

With all that said, how do you even know that you’re actually fear a lot? You either need a reference to understand your level of fear, which is practically not possible. Hence we suggest this checklist by Guy Winch, Ph.D.

10 Signs That Help You Identify Your Fear of Failure

  • Failing makes you worry about what other people think about you.
  • Failing makes you worry about your ability to pursue the future you desire.
  • Failing makes you worry that people will lose interest in you.
  • Failing makes you worry about how smart or capable you are.
  • Failing makes you worry about disappointing people whose opinions you value.
  • You try to lower your expectation by telling others that you don’t expect to succeed.
  • You get imaginations of alternatives you could have tried to win once you have failed at something.
  • Pay attention to your physical symptoms. Last-minute headaches and stomach aches are some of the common ones.
  • You can’t help but be distracted even by the smallest things that are not urgent at all. (See how to do effective tasks management)
  • You tend to procrastinate and “run out of time” to complete you prepare adequately.

In Summary

In this article, we discussed the intensity of the fear of failure. Naturally, we all are highly concerned about the fear of failure instead of the joy of success. However, you can identify and try to minimize its effects on your everyday decision making. We suggest the checklist to identify and discuss four strategies to eliminate them.

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