Are you chasing your dreams and trying to accomplish them? Are you taking the actions required to achieve your dreams? You dont have fear of failure?

If you answered NO to the above, Why are you not taking the leap to achieve your dreams? Why are you holding back?

Everyone hates to fail. For some of us, the threat of failure is such that the motivation to avoid failure overtakes the motivation to succeed. In this process, we destroy our dreams.  

It is well known that fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. Fear is the only thing that makes it impossible to achieve your dreams.

Are you afraid of failures?

I was. After completing my studies, at 23 years of age, I joined my first job at Larsen & Toubro as Mechanical Engineer. At the age of 28, I nurtured a dream to be an Entrepreneur (by 40).

The idea of entrepreneurship was very uncomfortable. The thought of not having a well paying day job was scary to me. I used to think of all the difficulties and the change of lifestyle that would result if I don’t have a job. I was hesitant to take the plunge. It was in 2013, at the age of 32 years, after fighting many devils within, I quit my job and became an entrepreneur. It was not easy.

We can get over the fear of failure in four steps

  • Understanding how our mind feeds on the fear of failure and Negative bias
  • Detecting the signs early
  • By changing our perspectives on failure
  • Steps we should take to avoid the sink hole of fear of failure

Negative Bias : The problem with evolution of human brain

Everyone fears failure. It’s human nature.

Moving out of comfort zone and doing something uncertain makes us jittery. At the thought of quitting my job, my mind would always get filled with all the potential negative outcomes. I would be building a strong base in my mind as to what I am doing is the best thing to happen to me and I would stick to my current job.

Humans are hardwired to feed on negative emotions. Let us understand the evolution of human brain over the past 400000 years. In the early days, we were hunter-gatherers and our brain developed many shortcuts as tools/biases for survival. In that, the primary tool is to have a strong bias for noticing negative information over positive information. This is called Negativity Bias.

Let’s look at this short story:

#1 Lion & an Apple Tree

You are stranded in a jungle and feeling very hungry. You’ve reached an apple tree. You thought you can eat apples and fulfill your hunger desires. Just then, you saw a Lion. Immediately, you would just drop the idea of eating an apple and run as fast as possible far away from the Lion.

Another one…..

#2 Dope on a rope

There once was this criminal who had committed a crime. He was sent to the king for his punishment. The King told him he had a choice of two punishments. He could be hung by a rope or take what’s behind the big, dark, scary, iron door. The criminal quickly decided on the rope. As the noose was being slipped on him, he turned to the king and asked. “By the way, out of curiosity, what’s behind that door?”

The king laughed and said: “You know, it’s funny, I offer everyone the same choice, and nearly everyone picks the rope.”

“So,” said the criminal, “Tell me. What’s behind the door? I mean, obviously, I won’t tell anyone,” he said, pointing to the noose around his neck.

The king paused then answered, “Freedom, but it seems most people are so afraid of the unknown that they immediately take the rope.”

Human brain took 400000 years to evolve. The world become a safer place in the last few hundred years.

The cutting edge technology and ideas are spreading faster. Our brains can’t evolve with the same speed.

The Signs of Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is a behavioral process. Its not a symptom. You may be exhibiting a pattern which are the signs that you fear failure.

  • You are very reluctant to try new things. There is no enthusiasm to attempt new projects, take up new activities. You may be following the same routine: Wakeup-eat-work-eat-sleep-wake up.
  • There is no motivation to try the things you dream of like learning a new skill, practicing art, blogging, chasing your dreams. Things that matter the most to achieve the dreams are procrastinated.
  • You get very anxious when faced with uncertain situations and problems. Restlessness creeps in.
  • You are more worried about what other people think of you. You feel low on self-esteem. Any failures make you feed that you are not capable. You tend to believe that your efforts are not up to the mark. Your team is awful.
  • When you are working on something, you tend to declare beforehand that you are not sure about the results of your efforts and keep the overall expectations low.
  • You may be putting off things in the name of perfectionism.
  • When you imagine any failure, you imagine worst case scenarios happening to you.

Mental Reboot : Change your perspective on fear of failure

The first step to overcome the fear of failure is to reboot your thinking and change your perspective about failure.

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

You can change your perspective on fear of failure by changing your beliefs about failure. Install the following beliefs in your mental system and change your perspective about failure.

  • Fear is inevitable when you get out of your comfort zone. Learn to live with it.
  • Never fear failure. Instead, fear being at the same place the next year making no progress in anything you wish for.
  • Most of the time opportunities knock on our doors. But we fail to grab them and move ahead as we don’t notice those opportunities as we are blinded by our fears of failure.
  • Failures are the life lessons from which you can learn and get better. What will you learn if you don’t do anything fearing failure?
  • What you can achieve in your life is not constrained by your capabilities. But it is by your fear of failure.
  • The fears that you don’t face become your limits. You cannot do anything beyond them.
  • Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. Keep it very shallow.
  • Failure is only a temporary change in direction. It sets you straight for your next success.

Never succumb to your Fear of failure. Imagine if Michael Jordan had given up on his dream to play basketball when he was shown the door from his team. Imagine if Richard Branson had listened to the people who told him he’d never do anything worthwhile without a high school diploma. They would not have achieved anything that they are now famous for.

Fear of Failure : 6 Steps to avoid the Sinkhole

1. Redefine your Goals:

Redefine your goals without losing purpose by including learning objectives rather than keeping binary result oriented goals. By linking your goals to learning objectives, you will never technically fail in achieving your goals.

Example: When we started the business, we’ve set the business goal at 15% Profit over Sales, whereas we could have set “Learn how to make the startup profitable”. We would still have anchored to our goal to achieve 15% Profitability and learn something of value.

2. See through Obstacles

When you face fear; imagine the worst thing that can happen to you and what you would be doing in that scenario. Feel the Fear and see yourself moving forward. Fear manifests in uncertainty.

Just staying positive is not enough in the face of fear. You should have a balance between positive thinking and visualizing the obstacles and struggles that you will encounter. Spend some time in thinking about the strategies you would adopt and actions you will take to overcome the obstacles.

3. It’s not about you

When you take failure very seriously, you tend to associate the failure to your capabilities. You tend to feel that you don’t have capabilities and you will fail again. When you look at a specific failure, ask yourself: What do you think of the situation realistically and practically? Don’t exaggerate it to yourself.

If you miss your goal, try to articulate failure objectively. If you take my profitability goal, it would be like – I have achieved 8% Profit against my goal of 15%. Let’s always separate the story from facts. Try to get over it by identifying the learning’s and how you can progress? List a few positive things that emerged from the situation.

4. Don’t lose faith

Always have faith. Faith is the antidote for the disease called fear. It’s in failures that we learn many things that we would never have learned otherwise. Use it to discover the new you, make new friends and get motivated.

Often, valuable insights come only after a failure. Accepting and learning from those insights is key to succeeding in life.

5. Face the Fear, Head on

We don’t like feeling Fear and we are paralyzed by its existence. Instead, face the fear when it knocks at you and slowly you will feel that the situation is manageable.

Whenever you feel stressed up due to fear of failure, take your mind off of the problem for some time, sit quietly and relax. Take breaths and distress your body. You will feel much relieved. If you practice this, you will improve your stress threshold and can tide over your fears with ease.

6. Take action

Do something. Anything for that matter. Fear feeds in action and you move nowhere. Start taking decisions. Let’s do away with the feeling that you cannot take any decision unless you are sure about the outcome of the decision. Life never works this way.

Fear feeds indecision. It gives comfort in status quo. We move nowhere as we don’t make any progress in anything.

Personal testimony:

I have personally gone through what I have written during the time I was planning to be an entrepreneur and all through the last 6 years making our startup profitable and sustainable. While it’s difficult to go through it personally, the effort you put in chasing your dreams is worth it.

Success is going from one failure to another. Failure is not the opposite of success. It is part of success.

Let’s flush out fear of failure. Let’s Welcome failure with three Cheers to succeed in Life.

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