Which of these do you fear the most: spiders, ghosts, or failure?
In a study on human fears, it is found that one in three people has a fear of failure. Almost half of the respondents admitted that it was the biggest obstacle to achieving their goals.
The same survey revealed that people are more scared of failure than spiders and the paranormal.
There are people — perfectly rational, intelligent, and decent people — who would rather throw away their dreams than to deal with the fear of failing.
After all, you can’t fail if you don’t even try. For some, not having success is better than having failure.
For every endeavor, there can be two outcomes: success or failure. Without an attempt, the only outcome is failure. The shot you missed is the one you didn’t take.
Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the fear of failure is the failure.
Nobody likes to fail. That sinking feeling of disappointment when we fall short of our goals is awful.
Our ego takes a hit. We are reminded, rather harshly, that we’re not perfect. That hurts.
Then there are the people who care and love and support us. It’s horrible that we have to disappoint them too.
What about our detractors and rivals? They must be having a real party now.
Maybe we put money in this. Well, it’s gone.
And have I mentioned about our ego already? I have? But it’s still hurting.
Failure isn’t fun. But it’s nothing to be feared.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Despite the disappointment, coming up short on your goals is hardly the worst thing that can happen to you.
You may feel like you won’t, but believe me — you will. In fact, you’ll realize that the very second you draw your next breath.
If you find yourself procrastinating on your dreams, think about a question the prehistoric man asked himself early and often: “Will doing this kill me?”
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Because, unless your dream is to work in bomb disposal, nobody dies.
No matter how intimidating it can be, the fear of failure isn’t a life-or-death fear. Yet we allow and even empower them to decide our (in)actions and dictate our lives.
Acting on your dreams isn’t going to kill you. Not doing it wouldn’t either — but you wouldn’t feel as alive.
As Robert Kiyosaki said, “Don’t let the fear of failing be greater than the excitement of winning.”
In her book The Sky Is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson asks, “If you’re someone who knows the worst thing can happen at any time, aren’t you also someone who knows the best thing can happen at any time too?”
Pursuing your dreams isn’t a matter of life-or-death; it’s a matter of life-or-living.
Many people have no clue what to do with our lives. There are people in their twenties who have no idea what they want. There are people in their fifties who still don’t know.
These people just continue to muddle along numbly.
There’s probably one on the subway train right now, on his way to work on a job he absolutely hates. He’s probably reading this on his smartphone now.
You may be afraid to follow your dreams. But be more afraid of daily train rides to nowhere.
So what IS the worst that can happen?
- You make a complete fool of yourself
- You realize you’re not as good as you thought
- You waste all this time trying to make it work
- You give up something (like a job) that you’ve always settled for
- You lose everything, get kicked out by your partner, and have to sleep on the streets near some guy named Zuckie
- None of the above
While you think about that, here are some worst-case scenarios others have had to endure:
a) Getting fired by the company he founded
b) Getting rejected by a dozen of publishers
c) Getting jeered off the stage in his first performance
Had they given up on their dreams, the world may never have heard of Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, and Jerry Seinfeld.
Once you have identified your worst possible scenario, mentally prepare for it. Picture yourself managing it and somehow working out a positive outcome. Make this visualization exercise a regular routine.
If you can cope with the worst that can happen, nothing else can intimidate you. You’ll realize that failure isn’t as scary as it’s made out to be. This can give you a surge of confidence to get started on your dreams.
Failing isn’t failure.
“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.”
— Lao Tzu
Start removing the disproportionate amount of fear attached to failure.
We have this perception that failure is the end of the world. Even the word “failure” makes it look like a failure. It’s not.
Denis Waitley noted that “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.”
Author Eloise Ristad said, “When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
Change the way you see failure. It’s a necessary step on the way to success, a valuable lesson no one can teach you, an opportunity to find out what works and what doesn’t, and a test of your character.
Failure keeps us humble. It points out where we need to improve. It strengthens our resolve. It gives fuel to our motivation. It bonds us with others who are in it with us. It makes success more memorable.
That doesn’t sound so scary, right? Once you overcome your fear of failure, who knows, you might actually succeed.
Call to Action:
Visit my new website newandimproved.me to download “Adversity to Advantage” — my free worksheet to help you reframe your challenges and refocus on your goals.
Originally published at medium.com