Overcome a Fear of Failure

One of the delights of living in the UK is I have never watched Oprah. So I was surprised when one of my favourite blogs, had “Oprah’s Top 7 Tips for Creating the Life You Want“. The writer, Henrik, is Swedish so who knows how far her influence has spread!

Oprah had an interesting take on failure – she redefined it:-

I do not believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.

Looking at some of my recent posts, a fear of failing can be another interpretation of the problems. With perfectionism for example, a person sets their required standard high – and anything less than 100% achievement of that target is a failure. There are no shades of gray.

If we lack confidence in our ability to do something, our thinking can revolve around whether we will fail or succeed. Failure enters the equation, rather than say “mistake”, when the stakes are higher. Usually with the fear of failing we can imagine unpleasant consequence, rather than just inconvenience.

These fears can have their roots in childhood, like most of our negative thinking habits. Being punished, criticized or embarrassed by parents or peers can live on in our memory – to be resurrected as a “consequence”if we get it wrong again.

So a “fear of failure” can be looked at as another anxiety led fear – such as any fear about what others think. My response is to start facing that fear and getting used to the uncomfortable feeling that is generated when you try. Anxiety generates physical symptoms that we all experience, especially when we step outside our comfort zone.

Returning to Oprah speak, her other quote was:-

Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.

Is this just psychobabble from someone talking from a lofty perch – however hard she worked to get there? History is littered with figures whose later success was preceded by failure and rejection. This video highlights a few

No one wants to fail. No one enjoys failure. I’m sure Thomas Edison would have been more than happy if his early experiments worked – or The Beatles had they been signed by Decca! The difference between those at the top and the rest of us is whether we persist after failure – how desperately we want to achieve something.

We’ve no evidence if those in the video ever considered themselves failures at the time. Someone can view themselves a failure for not achieving what others would consider insignificant targets. Continuing to fail something, however small, doesn’t necessarily make it an easier pill to swallow. It could deepen someone’s low self esteem.

Some people can be very high achievers in their chosen field, but can consider themselves failures because they didn’t get the ultimate prize they were striving for. An athlete getting a silver rather than gold medal, a team losing in a final, reaching the board of directors but not Chief Executive.

Whether you see yourself as a success or failure, its up to how you define the terms. Whilst I don’t really agree with her quotes in full, I’m with Oprah on one point. I don’t believe in failure. If any act leads to us considering ourselves a failure, it will only undermine our self esteem.

We may “fail” or not reach a set standard at certain activities along the way – with exams, driving test, interviews. But that doesn’t make us a failure.

mudge May 26, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Well written. Your comments on perfectionism are particularly useful. Don’t remember where I found this aphorism, but I like it and it applies to my everyday life: The pursuit of the perfect is the deadly enemy of the perfectly good.

Robert A. Henru May 27, 2008 at 10:32 am

Thanks for the motivational message David!
Failure is an event, not a person. That’s what Zig Ziglar said.


Robert A. Henru’s last blog post..How to break religious attitudes and learn from anyone

Personal Development by TRCoach May 27, 2008 at 11:05 pm

One of T. Harv Ecker’s (Secret of the Millionaire Mind) quotes is ” If you want to expand your money zone you MUST be willing to stretch the boundaries of your Comfort Zone.”
My regrets have been things I haven’t done, rather than what I have done.
Thanks, Tom

Personal Development by TRCoach’s last blog post..What is rssHugger?

Land Projects UK June 2, 2008 at 4:37 am

Thanks for that very nice post, very useful
thoughts you’ve share. Failure makes the person more stronger. Whether we like it or not, failure will come in our life, so it’s up to us on how we will manage it.

Land Projects UK’s last blog post..Is Commercial Property Investment A Good Choice?

mercola August 11, 2008 at 11:43 am

A very well written article.. and a nice message too. facing your fear is very hard mainly because, well it’s frightening. But once that is done, whether you pass or fail, facing other fears will be much easier.

Daniel McBill September 17, 2008 at 2:02 am

Here is my favorite instant technique to overcome your fear:

1. Think of a situation that you are afraid of. You have to be very specific about it. Like “I’m afraid to ask my boss for a raise.”
2. Imagine the worst outcome possible. I mean the very worst outcome. (“Ex: You would be fired because you dared to ask for a raise and you could never get a job again.”) What are the real chances for that outcome? Almost zero I guess.
3. Imagine a possible failure. A real one. What could you learn from it? Would your life change dramatically if you would fail? What would be the experience for you?
4. Ask yourself the following question: Which is more painful? The FEAR to act or having every day the same FRUSTRATION if you don’t act.
5. Imagine the best outcome. See yourself coming out successful from the situation. Close your eyes and imagine how would you look like, how would your environment look like and how would you feel inside.
6. Burn the bridge behind you and TAKE ACTION! You have to do something, which makes it impossible for you to turn back. You have to face your fear. (“Ex: Tell your boss that you want a private meeting with him.”)

VEDA January 12, 2009 at 4:39 am

Actually – No act of a human is a failure if that has helped the doer ‘learn something new’ or ‘motivate to correct oneself’ .. Rightly seen it is the failure that brings out our personal ‘failings’.
It is one of those ‘Sweet are the uses of Adversity’ instances.

But – If a person is too egoistic to accept and even own his-her failures – then they are sure to ‘succumb’ to their failures. And – it takes them Nowhere !

Keys to Overcome Fear of Failure June 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm

You might want to fail, you’ll fail, it is a part of the building methods, a part of the way we mankind find out, and the only way we significantly learn. Failure is merely accomplishing a thing the wrong way. We may ‘ve got nine variables appropriate however the 10th absolutely wrong leading to our plan failing. In this way you can actually cope with the fear of failure.
.-= Keys to Overcome Fear of Failure´s last blog ..Comment by =-.

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