7 Ways To Let Go of Your Fear of Failure

Published on: May 21, 2014

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“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash

I want you to consider the following questions.

  1. What does failure mean to you?
  2. When did you last experience failure?
  3. What lessons (if any) did you learn from the failure?

Failure may have different implications to various people. It can cripple some, while for others, it is simply the opportunity to start afresh with a renewed approach.

Where does the notion of entitlement to success stem from? History is celebrated with those who failed miserably, yet pursued their goal with staunch determination. You are no doubt familiar with Thomas Edison’s story that lead to the invention of the electric light bulb. The following quote strongly echoes his overwhelming desire to succeed, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”

Oftentimes, the process may be more rewarding than the goal. I mentioned this in a recent article which explored the concept of Flow. The process may be imbued with purpose, passion and excitement and in some instances, more gratifying than the victory. The goal, whilst still alluring, takes a backseat as one is completely consumed with the process. Flow is the opportunity to be at one with your pursuit – to be totally absorbed in the present moment.

The following points are ways in which re-frame your fear of failure. I should render a caveat at this point that fear is a trained response. Every time we entertain fear, we reinforce its power. Therefore in order to break the cycle, one must become vigilant to habitually guard their thoughts. Defend the entrance to your mind like a fortress!

“Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.” – Denis Waitley
  1. Get to the heart of the fear: When did you first become aware of your fear? Fear has an origin. Get to the heart of it. Personally my fear can be traced back to a fear of water while I was young. I was petrified of swimming in the deep end at the local pool. I still recall the intense emotions that engulfed me every time I entered the deep end at the swimming pool. Years later fear dominated my life in various ways. In time I managed to trace the root cause of the fear back to my childhood, whilst simultaneously examining the context behind it. While fear is still apparent these days, it does not have a vice-like grip over me like it once did. I eventually learned to dial down the volume on the fear.
  1. Reframe failure: Like letting go of our attachments to our childhood toys, it is vital that we let go of fear by transforming it into courage, faith and trust. We learn more through our failures than our successes. Given your WHY? is substantial enough, you will find inspiration and motivation to pursue your goal with gusto. It was Tony Robbins who said, “There is no such thing as failure – only undesirable outcomes.” Reframe failure to see it as a stepping stone instead of a negative consequence of action.
  1. Fail fast: Fail fast suggests that the bigger the goal, the greater the chance of failure. Failure in this context is inevitable due to the size of the goal. Bigger goals require additional steps, many of which lay obscured out of sight. In a number of cases, these steps are revealed once the journey is undertaken. Therefore it is advisable when mastering a large goal, that mistakes are limited to early in the piece. Your aim is to gain valuable insights before persisting forward. Failing fast invites you to harness vital lessons from the experience and thus transform them into success further down the path.
  1. Failure does not equal to self-worth: This is where many people have it wrong. They associate failure of the goal to ones self-esteem. Failure is simply pointing you toward an aspect of your goal which requires attention, in order to assure success. Viewed from this perspective failure becomes a signpost pointing you in the right direction, rather than a negative event. Perhaps there needs to be more steps undertaken in order to reach your final objective. Recall Thomas Edison’s one thousand attempts to create the electric light bulb? He no doubt realised that his invention was worth pursuing and those failures were simply drawing him closer toward success.
  1. Failure is not permanent: It is edging you closer toward your desired outcome. It has the potential to become permanent if you don’t learn from the mistakes. Failure is a transitory process. It continues to make itself known until you have mastered the lessons to forge ahead. I urge you to read an inspiring book about overcoming failure called Delivering Happiness, in which Tony Hseih founder of online footwear retailer Zappos overcame frequent failures to build one of the largest online footwear business in the world. In recent times the company has been sold to Amazon for close to $1 billion dollars!
  1. Feel the fear and do it anyway – Susan Jeffers book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is a pertinent reminder that we walk through life carrying our fears with us. They have the potential to overwhelm us if we allow them power over us. History is marked with people who were consumed by fear yet persisted in face of it. The death of fear is imminent when we take bold action. It was Dr Orison Swett Marden, American author and founder of Success magazine who said, “Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.”
  1. Stay grounded in the present: Fear is a future phenomenon. We fear the unknown since we have an expectation of how life should unfold. When life does not develop according to plan, we suffer. Your body is always in the present moment, so it stands to reason that your mind occupy the same space in time. Don’t be consumed by future worries or concerns. Don’t waste valuable resources imagining a future which never arrives as you expect. When you love what you do fear of failure becomes an illusion, since you are no longer attached to outcomes. The future always arrives at precisely the right time when you choose to practice infinite patience. All your needs are met in the moment called NOW, so there is never a need to rush the process.

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