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A great idea strikes you, but you hesitate, then decide not to execute on it because of a fear that it will end in failure. Your greatest need isn’t finding the perfect idea – what’s really essential is a radical change in perspective on failure.
With discipline, you can cultivate the mindset that characterizes highly successful people and propels them past the fear of failure. Leaders in nearly every arena of life enthusiastically declare that failure is profitable.
Take a look at what some of these high-profile personalities have asserted:
“It is impossible to live without failing, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” ― J.K. Rowling
“When you take risks, you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” ― Ellen DeGeneres
Slip-ups and mistakes along the way are important signposts on the road to achieving success. Your fear of failure can be overcome by embracing seven fresh perspectives on failure.
1. The Goal Is Learning Something New, Not a Precise Outcome
Some people mistakenly limit their definition of success to a certain income level or smooth upward growth, with no setbacks. Instead, failures must be viewed as an inevitable part of the process of growth and preparation.
Both good and bad outcomes are beneficial. Failure shapes us just as much as success does. When examined closely for lessons to learn, failures turn into excellent tools for uncovering better methods or learning new things about ourselves.
2. Uncover Exaggerated Fears and Lies You’ve Believed
Often, there is no real threat, but your brain, your emotions, and even your body perceive that there is one. This may be holding you back from taking a deep dive or cause you to give up on your plans.
It can even be a self-fulfilling prophecy where you don’t give a project your all because you think you’ll fail. For some strange reason, humans tend to default to worst-case scenarios when approaching a new venture.
You need to consider that your inner self may be misinterpreting data or exaggerating possible negative outcomes. If someone other than you were facing the same doubts and anxieties, what would you tell them?
Try writing out your greatest concerns, and read them back to yourself. Ask a friend to help you determine what you’re afraid of, and investigate what’s real and what’s imagined.
3. Be Realistic About Probable Obstacles and Plan for Them
A good way to defuse the fear of failure is to clearly define your vague worries about what might happen. What is it exactly about possible outcomes that scares you? Be as specific as you can. Face the fear and learn to leverage it.
Spend time planning what you’ll do if and when these things occur. Get advice from others about these potential issues and uncover the best ways to avoid difficult situations. Sometimes just bringing these unknowns or fears out into the open for discussion can be very releasing.
Research indicates that most people aren’t afraid of financial loss. They’re more concerned about the psychological cost of embarrassment or diminishing self-worth. Often we become our own worst critic and taken on a loser mentality. Don’t fall into that trap.
4. Defuse Negatives From Your Upbringing and Background
This will take some detective work, so don’t rush through this process. You may have had a parent or teacher who had restricted ideas of what you should do with your life or told you the dreams you had weren’t worth pursuing. See what you can identify.
Maybe you’ve made mistakes in the past that left you embarrassed or feeling like a complete failure. It’s natural to be plagued by “what if” questions – What if I look like a fool again? What if people lose respect for me?
Instead of those questions, ask yourself: What have I learned from past experiences? Where have I grown as a person? There are always positives to be gained from a bad experience, but it does take an effort to uncover and learn from them.
5. Expect That Success Will Look Different From Your Original Vision
“Ideal” situations are rare. Situations keep changing, and your personal experience becomes wider and deeper. There’s much about life, other people, and the future over which you have no control.
Regularly evaluating what’s working for you and what isn’t allows you to adjust your expectations and your approach. A mindset of continual learning, improvement, and change is an essential habit to cultivate.
You won’t really know what success looks like for you when you’re in the thick of it. Everyone encounters failure along the way, and it’s what you do with it that matters most. If you’re continuing to make progress, then no failure is involved!
6. Flexibility Is Key
Successful people learn to “course correct” as they go. They realize you must examine the details, learn, and improve processes, instead of allowing subjective feelings to be the chief measure of how things are going. Plans can and will change. You keep changing, too.
Plan time for re-evaluating into your weekly schedule. Wrap up each week reviewing what was great and what wasn’t. Think through contingency plans and enlist a few trusted friends or mentors to regularly run things by for feedback and advice.
You should keep up a practice of learning from the example of inspiring individuals – through books, through the media, or in person. Ask those you respect what they learned from failures and how they turned them into successes.
7. Deconstruct Your Overarching Goals Into Smaller, Realistic Actions That Can Be Managed More Easily
Lofty goals are inspiring, but they’re not practical until broken down into incremental steps that are readily deployed on a daily and weekly basis.
Every task should be made up of elements that can be executed and evaluated to see clearly where it’s working and where it’s not.
This is one reason that many believe that the development of effective systems is superior to the practice of establishing specific goals. Goals that are not met quickly can lead to frustration or discouragement, while a commitment to regularly improving a system leads to an ongoing series of successes.
As you acquire a valuable new perspective on failure and conquer the fears you’re uncovering, be kind to yourself. Realize that you’re a unique individual with a combination of ideas, strengths, skills, and intuition that no one else possesses.
Keep asking what you can learn from each success as well as each failure you encounter – bravely welcome each opportunity that shapes who you are and the path you’re traveling. Before long, you’ll be the guide, helping others to see that failure is not something to be feared but a welcome tool that enables continuous growth.