How to overcome fear of failure

It's important to understand how to overcome fear of failure to live your best life. In a recent survey with group coaching clients, I discovered that the number one concern that people wanted help with was overcoming the fears that hold them back.

The fear of failure is a big one.

The fear of failing often holds people back from living the lives of their dreams. It keeps them from making positive life changes. It keeps people from going for goals.

Techniques: how to overcome fear of failure

Here are four methods I've used personally and with life coaching clients to tame the fear of failing.

1. Make friends with the fear

Your feelings, especially the negative ones, have three purposes. They want to protect you from something, provide something for you, or prevent something from happening to you. How do you know which it is? Make friends with your feelings.

Let's say you feel some fear around some issue in your life. One thing we might do is to push the fear down. This never works, because your unconscious mind wants something. It's going to get your attention somehow. That feeling will push up against or manifest in some other way.

Instead of pushing the feeling down, welcome it like an old friend. This may sound weird, but welcome it up, and it may dissipate. Your unconscious mind goes, "OK, he or she got the message, I can relax now."

While part of you is feeling the pain, you can talk to it in your mind. Have a little conversation. First, thank that part of you for bringing something to your attention, and ask what that part wants for you.

You will get answers back (whatever comes to mind first). Often, this may be something like - "to keep you from being embarrassed." In this case, the fear is trying to protect you from feeling another negative feeling. What you're frightened of are your feelings.

Sounds crazy, but we all have this to some extent.

So you can thank this part for protecting you, and ask if it would be willing to let you choose your actions for yourself.

In the end, if you make an enemy of parts of yourself, you will not be working efficiently. Find a way to cooperate.

2. Innoculate yourself against fear

One of the most powerful fear-dissolving tools I have at my disposal is inoculation. The more you teach yourself to move towards the thing you fear, the less fear becomes an automatic reaction.

The way to do this is to frequently do things that are safe, yet cause you some concern. It's all about stretching your comfort zone.

Social activities are perfect. Have a little stage fright? Buy or rent a karaoke machine and invite some friends over. Scared of heights, spend a couple of minutes on a rung of a stepladder where you feel a little nervous.

Again, do things that are safe. It also helps to start small. Having a panic attack because you did something you weren't quite ready for

3. Dive into the source of the fear

One of the tenets of the Sedona Method, a system I love, is that all the fear in the world has no more substance than a soap bubble. When you touch a soap bubble with your finger, it just pops.

Fear is a feeling, but it has no substance. It can feel like that sometimes. It can feel very physical.

Take a minute to turn inside and imagine diving right into the center of the emotion. Go deeper and deeper and deeper. What is there? I think you'll find that the feeling suddenly becomes less real.

4. Feel the fear and do it anyway

This is a title of a book by Dr. Susan Jeffers, and it's a good one. Dr. Jeffers offers a lot of solutions to help push through fear.

But you can feel all kinds of things and still get into action. The fear itself is only an impediment if you make it one. You can be afraid of a roller coaster, and still get on it. You can be afraid to fail and still make the goal and push towards it.

5. Do some risk analysis

Risk analysis can help in mitigating fear. It's not the most powerful tool here because it most takes place in the neocortex, while fear comes from the deeper parts of the brain.

However, it can impact your beliefs and ideas around fear.

To do some risk analysis, you first look at the thing you want to do where fear is holding you back. Then you could look at the things that could go wrong. You look at the impact those things could have realistically. Then you look at ways of mitigating those risks.

Let's do an example.

Let's say I'm afraid of starting a new group coaching program because I am afraid of failing.

What could realistically go wrong? Well, I could have nobody interested in signing up for the group.

What would I lose, realistically if that happened? I could lose all of the time and money I put into developing the coaching program. The big thing I'm frightened of is that I would feel like a failure if the coaching program didn't do well.

How do I mitigate the risks?

  1. Control costs and time investment, and look for ways to leverage any resources I create later.
  2. Test market the coaching program and make adjustments. If I don't get enough signups, I'll take that as a lesson learned instead of a failure.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Great article, John! I love the metaphor that fear is like a bubble. Along the lines of your first tip of "making friends with fear," I've started talking to my fears. Out loud. But, usually not in public so people don't think I'm odd. I'm finding it's a good way to disassociate myself from the feeling. I start by acknowledging it. Something like, "Oh hi fear. I feel that you're nervous/ anxious/ scared about x. That's ok. I know that you're just wanting me to be safe ." Then I'll thank it for looking out for me and invite it to come along so it can see that I'm going to be fine. If it's not too attached to me, it will dissipate at that point. Sometimes it sticks around and I reassure it that I'm going to be ok. "I know it seems scary, fear, but I'm going to do it anyways and you'll see that everything will be fine." "See, I'm doing it and I'm still alive."
    • Jen, I love your strategy of talking to your fears. Maybe the next one to work on is the fear of appearing odd in public by talking to your fears :)

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