Is Your Fear Of Failure Keeping You From Failing?

Posted on /by Natalie Sisson/ in Entrepreneurs / 4 comments

Ask ten random people on the street if they enjoy failing and I don’t think you will find anyone that would answer yes.

Do you enjoy failing?  I would assume you would fall right in line with everyone with the answer, “Hell no.”

If it’s one thing we all have in common it’s that we have all failed at something and we can all agree that failing really sucks.

Before we get to a solution to this fear of failure epidemic, let’s take a look at what failure really is

Fear of Rejection

I looked up a few top ten lists of the greatest fears.  One of the lists had the fear of failure as #7.  Instead of the fear of failure, many lists had the fear of rejection listed.

All of us have the need to be wanted and accepted.  One reason we don’t take on bigger challenges in life is because we fear how we will be judged if we fail at what we said we would do.  We truly fear rejection.

I recently ran a half marathon with my daughter but I almost quit before the race even started.  I’m an avid cyclist.  My daughter is an avid runner.  She asked me to run this race with her so I thought it would be pretty cool to have this bonding experience with my oldest daughter.

As I trained for the race my fears started to creep in and mess with my mind.  I began to believe the lies that I couldn’t run 13.1 miles.  Who was I fooling?  I’m 52 years old so give it up now before I hurt myself.  I’m better off quitting now instead of dropping out of the race and failing.  What would everyone think of me then?

Fear of Rejection Challenge

I’d like to read your comment to this question.  How many times in your life have you been rejected in a way that deeply hurt you?  I’m not talking about the time someone said they didn’t like your hair color, or the time someone said they didn’t like your shoes.  I’m talking about the time the rejection hit the core of your being.

My guess is that true rejection has happened to you less than ten times in your life.  In no way am I making light of true rejection for you but let’s look at the other side.

Along with the number of rejections, I’d like to hear your answer to this as well.  How many times in your life have you been encouraged by someone in a way that it made a difference in your life?  Now, in the face of failure, how many times have you been accepted and cheered on.  Ten, fifty, one hundred times?  I would guess that the answer would be in the hundreds if not thousands of times.

The Fear of Rejection Reality

We have all failed many times but the reality is that more often than rejection, what we experienced from others is encouragement, praise and support.  The thing that holds us back from potential success barely ever happens and even IF we were rejected a hundred times for trying, is that enough of a reason for not going for it?  Not in my book it’s not.

Is Your Fear of Failure Keeping You From Failing?

We’ve all heard the stories of inspiring famous failures.  Those of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Walter Disney, Winston Churchill and many more.

All of them failed in epic proportions yet each one went on to accomplish something great.  Do a quick Google search and check out their stories.

Failure should not be feared.  The greatest failure is in never giving yourself a chance to fail.

Take Action

Let’s wrap this up with a few solutions to this fear of failure epidemic.  You will find this list different than the usual stay positive fluff.  Although there’s merit in positive thinking, this list gets deeper to the core of attacking the fear of failure at the root level.

Give yourself a break and take the pressure off.

Expect to get it wrong and stay flexible enough to try again and again until you get it right.  I’m not advocating the expectation of failure but the realization of the possibility that you won’t get it right the first time around.  Do it, adjust and do it again and again.

Break the mindset of automatic thinking.

When we’re stuck in the daily routine of mundane tasks, we get stuck in a rut of creative numbness and we fall back on the automatic fear of failing.  It might help to do your writing at the library for a few hours.  Mix up the training route you run.

Break it up and break it down.

Try this exercise.  Take a hundred cards and count them as fast as you can one at a time.  Now count the cards in stacks of ten piles of ten.  Which was easier?  Obviously when you break things up it becomes easier and you become more confident in your skills.

Have a plan and set it up with a few early successes.

I couldn’t run 13.1 miles at first.  I couldn’t even run 5 miles but I could run 1.  I ran 1 mile over and over until I could run 2 and then 3.  I cycle 500 miles every summer with a few friends.  Do you think I just started riding 500 miles the first day?  I rode 6 miles over and over and over until I could ride 10.  I experienced those small successes to push me to greater confidence for the longer rides.

Be Realistic

Assess your skill and training in relation to the task.  There’s nothing wrong with stretching yourself with greater challenges.  There is something wrong with embarking on a challenge that you are not prepared for.  There’s a reason for progressing through grades in school.  You don’t jump from middle school to college.

Accept the Result But Don’t Stop There

Leaders are born from failure.  If you’re always getting it right then you’re doing something wrong.

I’d like to hear your comments about the number of rejections vs. the number of times you were encouraged by someone.  Comment on an epic failure of yours and what you learned from it.

Stay Strong and Be Inspired!

About the Author: Geoff Reese is passionate about life and inspiring people.   The greatest inspiration and change occurred in his life when he and his wife sold everything and moved their family from Illinois to Texas to start a ministry with gang kids and urban high schools.  There, you will find him motivating and inspiring kids that most people want to forget about.

Geoff has been married to his high school sweetheart for 30 yrs.  He enjoys adventure cycling and is currently training for a triathlon and his next 500-mile cycling trip to raise funds for their ministry.

This is a sponsored post by Geoff Reese

  • Hey Geoff,

    Nice post. It’s true about failing. A couple years ago, I tried skiiing. Was afraid of falling over, even though I wasn’t steaming down the slopes. It was my first time, so I was going slow just like any normal beginner, but I was still afraid of falling over.

    Afraid of losing face? Maybe. Afraid of embarrasment? Maybe. Afraid of getting hurt. Not sure. But when it came to my last day of skiiing, unlike the first day when I didn’t fall over at all, I feel over a tonne of times. In fact, falling over was quite fun, because it meant I would push myself and go faster. I was finally enjoying skiing, pushing those boundaries.

    It’s funny how you forget those little lessons that you can apply to your whole life. Susan Jeffers reminded me of that fact, and now yourself.

    So thanks again for the post.

    It’s a timely reminder.


  • Thanks Gemma I’m glad it was a timely reminder for you. You made me laugh when you said that falling became quite fun. Sometimes you just gotta go with it and laugh at yourself.

    The beauty of it is that you didn’t stay down. You got back up and went at it again. Congrats.

  • Great Post! Love: The greatest failure is in never giving yourself a chance to fail.

    Personally I think the word “Failure” is dramatically exaggerated. Trying something and not succeeding the first, second or third time does not make someone a failure. As you stated above, Not trying or not re-trying is failure.

    The media likes to say 80% (give or take) of businesses fail inside the first 5 years. Huge exaggeration. The fact is less than 10% suffer great financial losses. Most simply close, that doesn’t mean failed.

    I think using this verbiage is terrible as the majority of people associate pain with failure. I wish more people would share successes and more importantly also share those that didn’t get it the first time but continue to get up and try.

    Wishing all Entrepreneurial Successes!

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