Understanding Fear of Failure – The positives and the negatives

Understanding Fear of Failure – The positives and the negatives

When it comes to starting your own business, taking that new job and most other decisions that we make in life, there is an abundance of information available to provide you with the essentials. Planning, finance, structure, goal setting etc.

But what about the other stuff we don’t usually talk about. The non-tangible things which arise around a business start-up & operation or taking the leap of faith in a new job? 

The challenges within ourselves which we need to overcome – our mindset, our own expectations, our fears & the excuses we make.

These inner “demons” can make or break you and your business, so it is very important that you recognise, understand, confront and acknowledge these inner emotions and then learn to harness them into positive energy which is necessary and powerful for your drive to succeed. 

The fear of failure is by far the number one challenge to most people wanting to go into business for themselves. 

This fear is an actual phobia, known as “atychiphobia”. It is when we allow that fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals that it becomes a big issue.

But before you can overcome this, you should understand what “failure” actually means to you.

Like with success, we all have different definitions of failure. Everyone has their own set of standards, values and an inner belief system. Therefore, failure to one person might simply be a great learning experience for someone else.

So many of us are afraid of failing. 

But why?

Because everyone fails at some point. Failure is a given. 

But it is not the end. 

Failure is often just the opposite, it is the beginning of a new way, a new direction fuelled by the learnings that you got the mistakes made the first time around

Most successful entrepreneurs have failed in their business, even to the extent that some very famous entrepreneurs have been bankrupt at some stage.

These include 

Henry Ford | Ford Motor Group | Now worth $188 Billion

Donald Trump | Developer / Politician | Now worth $3 Billion

Walt Disney | Film maker | Now worth $1.1 Billion 

And this is just a snippet.

If they had stayed in that place, they never would be where they are now. They didn’t let failure stop them.

People experience the fear of failure differently and allow it to affect their lives and ability to achieve their dreams differently. 

Some commonalities include:

A reluctance to try new things or get involved in challenging situations and activities.

Self-sabotage by way of procrastination, making up excuses not to do something, allowing anxiety to take over your thoughts, not following through with goals because you don’t believe in yourself.

Low self-esteem & self-confidence  – Constantly using negative statements such as “I’ll never be good enough to get on the team” or “I’m not smart enough to go out on my own”

Perfectionism  – A lot of people put so much pressure on themselves to be and do everything perfectly, that they don’t try new things or engage in activities which they feel as though they will fail at. They’ll only undertake something which they know they’ll complete successfully.

So, to assist with getting past these inhibiting fears, it’s important to recognise that in everything we do, there’s always a chance that we’ll fail. But by understanding this and giving yourself permission to try (and forgiving yourself if it doesn’t work out exactly as you had planned), it will be the first step to a much more rewarding a fulfilling life. 

And there are ways in which you can overcome these fears. 

Why not try some of these activities to overcome this fear of failure.

Knowledge is key – Fear of the unknown is a big part of the fear of failure. Most people like to know what the outcome will be based upon their actions. They make decisions around what they know. So, by researching and analysing all of the potential outcomes of your decision, it helps to visualise the process and each path that your decisions may take you – kind of like creating your own map to your goals. If one path leads to failure, find your next path.

If you have an alternate route to get you back on track, you won’t fear arriving at that place. You’ll already have a way of moving forward planned.

Train your mind to think positively – The best way to build self-confidence and stop the self-sabotage is to always look on the bright side and to believe in yourself. Be aware of your thoughts and your inner voice. Change the process if they are negative, you are in control of your feelings and amotions. Only you can change them. Do the things which will make you happy and set your thoughts around how you will feel if you were to overcome this fear and to enjoy the success you’ve always wanted.

Consider the worst-case scenario. You have to be real with this. Sometimes the worst-case scenario could be catastrophic. Obviously if this is the case then your fear of failure is valid. This is a self-protection as much as it is an inhibitor, so each decision has to be made with this in mind. But in most cases, this worst case may actually not be that bad, and recognising this can help you to not be so afraid of it. Just don’t focus on it though. What we focus on we create.

Have a Plan B – I am not really a Plan B kind of person. I go into my businesses wholeheartedly and wholemindedly (Yes that is my new made word!). But a lot of people feel safer if they do have a Plan B so that is perfectly okay as well. Because having that Plan B in place can help you feel more confident about moving forward with a safety net in place.

But as well as looking at the negatives a fear of failure can present, there are positives too.

Having a HEALTHY fear of failure can be a fundamental part of success.

Here’s why.

  • We’re motivated to move. When presented with the very real fear of failure, we are more likely to do whatever it takes so that doesn’t happen. If looked at in a positive manner, you will be able to use this fear to reset and make the adjustments necessary to avoid major failure. It is incremental to keeping you on the shifting paths and to always be looking at the end goal. In other words, it stops you from becoming complacent.
  • We’re eager to take action. Healthy fear of failure can be used as the fodder we need to keep driving us forward. If you are “hungry” for success, you won’t be holding anything back. In these people, it is the fear they turn into the energy to push hard day in and day out to ensure their business is a winner and not a failure.
  • We’re more open to taking risks. When all is smooth sailing and you’re happily drifting through the days on an even keel, there’s just no incentive to take risks. And yet, it is the calculated risks which serve as fuel for growth. As they say, the real growth occurs when you step out of your comfort zone. To push forward, you cannot stand still. Risks can be measured against the fear of failure to get you where you want to be.
  • We don’t brush off the little things which can make all the difference. Sometimes, when you’re just focused on the way ahead you miss the little things which can have a big impact on the success or failure. With just a hint of a fear of failure in the back of your mind, you’ll be more willing to make that extra call, send that additional e-mail, proof advertising materials in more detail, encourage your team to go the extra mile and increase your margin for success.
  • We’re more likely to get creative. To keep growing as a business these days you have to think outside the square. With the surge in social media activity as an example, people are inundated with information and branding. Fearing you will be lost in the crowd can force you to become more imaginative and create a new and exciting focus.
  • We’re inspired to learn from others. Realising a sudden fear of failure can be a very humbling experience. Humility can bring growth if we think we might not be able to figure things out on our own. Asking others how they did something or got through a difficult situation is a perfect example of howe you can turn fear into a positive redirection or solution for your business.

In summary, the fear of failure keeps you from realising your potential, but it also stops you from settling for “good enough.” Because good enough is not enough.

So, it is essential that you recognise the difference – either way, never let the fear stop you.

This is part one of a series around the psychological & mindset aspect of starting your own business or moving to a new job. In the coming weeks, we will continue to roll out other challenges you may face and solutions to overcoming them.

For more information on how to plan for the ups and downs of business, contact Mitchell or myself at www.hiveconsulting.com.au

– Written by Marnie Beauchamp, Founding Partner of Hive Consulting Co.