Fear of Failure Keeping You Down?

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Fear of Failure Keeping You Down?

I am terrified. I won’t kid you. In the past 10 years, I have been out of work three times, twice through being laid off. This last time, I decided that regardless of when I get my next job (and I am actively looking for the right organization), I needed to create something that will live on regardless of my work circumstance. Hence, I started Spirit Infused Leadership and am working like crazy to build some valuable and empowering courses as well as offering some professional development tools and resources to help others in their quest for personal success.
While my goal seems simple enough, I find myself fighting this thing called, “fear of failure.” I read an article recently that listed out how we can tell if we have this issue. It’s not meant to be an official diagnostic tool, but it can help us to determine if “fear of failure” is keeping us down.

See if any of these statements resonate with you.

  • I tend to procrastinate so I can’t complete my preparation adequately and run out of time.
  • I often get distracted by tasks that prevent me from completing my preparation which in hindsight weren’t as urgent as they seemed at the time.
  • I get last minute pains (i.e. stomach aches, headaches, etc.) that prevent me from completing my preparations.
  • I have trouble imagining what I could have done differently to avoid failing.
  • I tell people before I start something important that I don’t expect to succeed so their expectations are lowered.
  • I am afraid that if I fail it’ll prove I’m not very smart or capable.
  • I’m afraid if I fail my spouse, friends, or extended family will be disappointed in me.
  • I’m afraid if I fail it’ll prove that I don’t have the skills or abilities to truly create the life I want.

The issue with truly overcoming this fear is that it hides itself in seemingly important tasks. Let’s say you know you need to prepare your presentation for a meeting tomorrow, but you also promised to get a cake for your peer’s birthday tomorrow. Rather than asking someone else to get the cake, you take off early instead of going over your notes and slide deck for the presentation.

So how can we push past these hidden ways that fear of failure can keep us from pursuing the important tasks needed to reach our goals?

Acknowledge the fear. I found that by telling my spouse and my closest friends that I am afraid and feeling ashamed that I have been laid off again, I am able to recognize that the circumstance doesn’t define my value or self-worth. This happened, but it doesn’t mean I won’t be able to find meaningful work or that this new venture will fail. It’s important that you recognize your own fear and then trust someone else with those feelings so you can learn to let them go. It’s not that they will disappear, rather, they won’t have a hold on your subconscious. Then many of those unconscious thoughts about disappointing others or having them think you aren’t capable will diminish.

Remember your Success. Recall a time when you accomplished a goal you thought was out of reach. Experience the feelings of joy, achievement, and pride.  You have been successful before and you can do so again.

Find stories about successful people. I guarantee that as you read about successful people whether in business or celebrities, you’ll see that these people failed more than they succeeded. Even the best baseball players strike out way more than they succeed in getting to the base. It’s about perseverance and getting up after you’ve failed. I can bet that those folks have to face their own feelings of failure before they can attempt the next big thing. Take heart. You aren’t alone, but you can face these feelings and win.

Take action. Paralysis and procrastination are the fuel of fear. We may think that if we freeze and don’t move, much like animals do when sensing a predator, the fear (i.e. threat) will go away. But unlike animals, we have the intellect to remember that our own future is in our hands. We must take action, analyze if the action is taking us closer or further away from our goal and re-adjust. As we do, we’ll find that the fear starts to dissipate. The feeling may never completely go away, but by showing our own subconscious that we won’t let fear stop us, we begin to take back control of our life.

Celebrate failure. Every time something doesn’t work, you are one step closer to creating the thing that does. Think about Thomas Edison. He failed 1,000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb. Or Walt Disney who went bankrupt several times before he successfully created Disneyland. Or Robin Williams who was, in high school, voted least likely to succeed. Failure is only you becoming a diamond. You have to go through extreme heat and pressure before your full potential can be realized.
I am not saying that this process won’t be challenging, painful, or short. It will be hard. We will experience many moments of fear (or terror) as well as doubt, sadness, worry, and… well, a lot of tough emotions. I will tell you, that I believe in you because throughout the history of humanity people from all circumstances have come to create some amazing things. It was all through the power of perseverance and the willingness to fight through the fear.

I will be facing my own feelings, will you? I hope so. I am here rooting you on. You go girl (or guy)!

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