Let’s come straight to the point – fear of failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy. On one hand it stops you from taking risks and actions that can cause potential breakthrough. On the other hand, not taking those risks and actions is exactly what causes you to fail in the longer run. You see, not taking a risk is also a risk – the biggest one, and the one that we often miss. So, how does one overcome the fear of failure?
You see, the key to overcoming fear, is in knowing and understanding what fear really is. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. One might ask what does that even mean? It means that fear is not real. It is most certainly valid, to the person who is afraid. However, it is NOT real. It is imaginary. Let’s look how.
Say you are afraid of fire. Now answer these questions without thinking much.
1. Is there fire around you right now, in this very moment?
2. Can you get burnt while you read this article?
3. If a fire breaks out in your surroundings right now, will you google a manual to not be fearful, or would you simply douse it with water?
4. If you can’t control the fire, would you try to get out, scream for help, or sit their twiddling your thumbs, saying ‘I have a fear of fire?’
Your responses you see, are enough to tell you that your fear might be a very valid emotion for you (some of you might have actually felt afraid when reading question 3 and 4). However, the cause of that fear – the fire, is not here. It either happened in past, or you were told it could happen. Yet the very idea is enough to paralyze you with the fear.
Which brings us to how we defined fear above. If there is no evidence of a fire right now, here, in this moment, isn’t fear nothing but simply False Evidence Appearing Real?
Now let us look at this in work context.
30 years ago, a business was started. It was run a certain way. It has since then been run a certain way. The old patriarch of the business thinks there is a certain way the business should be run, otherwise things might get unstable unnecessarily. In this case, fear stems from uncertainty and potential lack of control.
20 years ago, a young manager joined the business. He was full of ideas, lots of insights and took a calculated risk, initiated a project. It went successful, he started another. One after the other, he had multiple feathers in his cap. Now 20 years later, he no longer starts a new project. However, he doesn’t let the young managers today to start any new projects either. Afterall, all the initiatives he started give good returns. Why bother? In this case, fear stems from complacence.
Another young manager joined. He was also full of fresh ideas and started and executed successful projects. However, after a few projects, one of his projects didn’t succeed. Since then he hasn’t started a new project either. He is equally non-responsive to the new managers of the present times. In fact, he suggests it’s best not to take unnecessary risks. In his heart he feels that he will become irrelevant if younger ones come and deliver more than he does. In this case, fear stems from insecurity.
In none of the cases, the situations are real. The threat these people perceive is not even existent. It’s just a new management and leadership team that wants to try new things and try to deliver great results! What’s there to fear?
If you understand that your fear of failure is rooted in what you believe about success or failure, you will see that the fear doesn’t exist.
You believe that success is in stability.
You believe that success is in consistent growth.
You believe that failure is in not getting the result you wanted to get.
We could say – failure is in not even trying new things. Failure is in not even attempting to cause a breakthrough.
The question is whose belief is right, and whose is wrong? Or is it even about what is right and wrong? Shouldn’t you be more concerned with what has the possibility of giving us a breakthrough? If a breakthrough is what you want, then why keep carrying the baggage of beliefs that hamper it? Why not instead question it and change it to what facilitates a breakthrough instead?
You see, there is no freedom in fear. It is a self-perpetuating cycle of dependence and restrictions. In fear, you feel you have arrived; in freedom, you explore. And the way to end fear is to be free of it, by truly seeing it for what it is. Fear is nothing but your own beliefs about what should be, a belief which doesn’t always have real evidence.
If you’ve read this far, let us leave you with a question… What is that belief about success, failure, life, risks, results, that causes your fear? Once you really see it, do share if it frees you to act the way you want, in order to create the results you want!