Fear of failure is the worry we feel when we imagine all the negative outcomes that will happen if we do not achieve a goal. We often anticipate these feelings before we actually take a step towards our goals – this kills our self-confidence and can prevent us from even getting started. However we know that failure is a part of life – so how do we navigate fear of it to chase our dreams and goals?
I believe putting the following strategies in place can help you build and maintain your confidence, and manage the fear, as you pursue the goals most important to you.
- Focus on Learning
- Create Approach Goals
- Silence Your Inner Critic
- Overcome Potential Obstacles
Focus on Learning
Continual learning plays a large part in having courage to fail. Sometimes you fail because you didn’t know how to do something. That’s ok – take that experience and evaluate what your gaps in learning or approach were. When you focus on learning from failures, you can guard against killing your confidence because you realize there’s opportunities for you to grow. And if you strive to learn and grow, your self-confidence can actually increase even when you fail.
Create Approach Goals
There are two types of approaches people take when it comes to their goals—approach and avoidance. Approach goals help to achieve a positive outcome. For example, “I want to get promoted” is focusing on the positive goal. Avoidance goals are about avoiding a negative outcome, such as “I hope I don’t lose my job.”
Fear of failure hinders approach goals and increases avoidance goals, but reframing these negative feelings is one way to eliminate the fear of failure. How you frame your goals can go a long way in meeting them. When you are dreading a task, you might unconsciously set goals around what you don’t want to happen, rather than positively affirming those that do. By positively reframing avoidance goals, you will have the motivation to follow through with tough tasks.
Silence Your Inner Critic
Your inner critic tells you things like, “I can’t do anything right.” Or “I didn’t do well with that project so I shouldn’t take on another one like that.” This self-doubt prevents you from being able to perform at your full potential. Don’t ask “What if I fail?” but instead “How can I succeed?”
In order to silence your inner critic, practice self-affirmation about your capabilities. Listing specific things you are good at can increase your confidence. Being positive offsets some of the anxiety that is associated with failure.
Overcome Potential Obstacles
It might seem counter-intuitive but sometimes playing out what will happen in the worst-case scenario provides an opportunity to consider how you’ll handle those situations in a positive way. Framing a situation that you think you might fail at differently can help keep negative feelings at bay. You can think about, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” and consider how you will navigate if it does happen.
Of course, this doesn’t involve obsessing over the potential negative outcome – it’s evaluating the situation objectively to proactively identify what you can do in response.
Self-evaluation is a critical component of overcoming the fear of failure. For example, if you are considering a change in careers, collect your resume and any other documentation you use for job applications and analyze your qualifications and skills, job history, and education. Ask yourself honestly: what do you need to do to position yourself for what you want next? Feeling well-prepared that you have the right experience can decrease feelings of failure. This can translate to any situation that is daunting.
By understanding the consequences of failing that scare you the most and your ability to deal with the consequences, you may find that you are more than capable of handling it. And if not, you can work on building confidence to deal with any fallout.