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November 21, 2019

Does the Fear of Failure Stop You From Reach Your Full Potential?

fear of failing
Photo by Ryan Tauss on Unsplash

Fear sets the boundaries of our lives. Fear limits what we experience. If you fear crowds you probably won’t be attending many concerts or athletic events. If you fear flying you will likely stay close to home when traveling. If you fear speaking then several career options are off the table. Each fear makes our individuals worlds smaller and smaller. But, the worse fear is the fear of failure. Fear of failure stops you in your tracks before you even move.

Fear of failure is failure without even attempting. Not trying or attempting is failure as it leads to the same result as trying and failing, but without the experience gained from trying. Many successful people will tell you that they failed their way to success. “Fail fast and fail often,” is the mantra of many entrepreneurs.

J. Wallace Hamilton said, The increase in self-sabotaging behaviors is evidence that many people are training for success when they should be training for failure. Failure is far more common than success; poverty is more prevalent than wealth; and disappointment more normal than arrival.

Well, that all sounds encouraging, doesn’t it? But, the point is this. We fail a lot, a lot more than we think. History is replete with individuals who failed over and over before achieving some great accomplishment.

As much as we like to avoid it, failure is quite beneficial …. if we learn from it. Failing is a learning experience. Experience is what we get we don’t get or achieve what we want. Find ways to make failure your friend, because if you make it your enemy you will not go very far in life. Failure actually guides eventually to the successful pathway – if you let it.

Fear of failing is the number one reason people fall short of their goals. The fear is so great many don’t even try. And, if you don’t try you cannot achieve and you cannot become better, and you simply cannot become the person you are capable of becoming.

The Fear of Failure

To live life to its fullest and to become the best you, you must learn to conquer your fears …. daily. “Fear not” appears in the Bible 365 times – one “fear not” for each day of the year. That’s probably not coincidental.

Failing causes negative emotions that include: anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness/depression, regret, confusion, and self-doubt. But the most impactful negative emotion we feel when we fail is shame. Shame goes beyond feeling bad about our actions or efforts. Shame makes us feel bad for who we are. It is a more gut-wrenching emotion than the others.

What we really fear most is the fear of not doing something right the first time. Yet, there are few things we master the first time. This fear of not doing something right the first time may have its root in our educational system where the first person to get something right the first time is rewarded and recognized by our schools.

If you fail in school what happens to you? You get an “F” and probably laughed at or made to be felt inadequate. After 12 years of this many of us have been conditioned to fear failing.

The Signs of Fear of Failure

Why do we fear failing? To avoid the negative emotions associated with it. What are signs of fear of failure? There are several signs associated with fearing failing listed below. Most of us have experienced some of these signs.

  • You fear what others may think if you fail.
  • You fear disappointing someone whose opinion you value.
  • You have doubts about your knowledge and abilities.
  • You fear not achieving the future your desire if you fail.
  • You tell people in advance you probably are not going to succeed to lower their (and your) expectations.
  • In preparing for something you find yourself frequently distracted interfering with your ability to perform tasks.
  • You get headaches and stomach aches leading up to an event.
  • You procrastinate completing your preparation.

Dealing with Fear of Failure

Here are some tips to combat the fear of failure.

  • Deal with your fears head-on.
  • Learn to comfortable with failure.
  • Focus on what you control.
  • Realize failure is part of the success cycle.

If you fear do it. Do the thing you fear most. In doing so you frequently find your fear was unfounded, or at least, doing something wasn’t as bad as you thought. Overcoming fear is called courage. Courageous people do not not have fear. But, rather they confront fear head on when needed most.

Overcoming your fears means owning your fears. Be honest with yourself and talk out your feelings or concerns with trusted others. Sometimes simply expressing your fears minimizes the magnitude of the fear. You begin to put the fear into proper perspective.

Get comfortable with failure and put failure in perspective. If you take a step back and a look back at your life you will find you have been failing all your life and most of it never held you back from moving forward in life.

Focus on controlling what you can control. If you control, just do it. If you don’t control it, don’t fret or worry about it.

I recently heard that Greg Maddux former 4-time Cy Young award winning baseball pitcher would focus simply on how the baseball left his hand and fingers. After it left his hand what the ball did traveling 60 feet 6 inches to home plate was out of his control. The only thing he controlled was releasing and spinning the ball off his fingers the way he wanted with each pitch – so that is what he focused on.

The biggest thing you control are your decisions.

Realize failure is part of the success cycle: test, fail, learn, improve, retest.

You will not and cannot become the person you are capable of becoming if you fear failure.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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