When it comes down to brass tacks, you might be surprised at just how many successful business professionals are terrified of the prospect of failure. The fear of failure can be an intense motivator; it can also destroy a person’s inner sense of well-being.

Why People Fear Failure in Business

So why do so many business professionals fall prey to this kind of fear? Isn’t unyielding confidence the key to success in business?

The answer to these questions is a bit tricky to resolve. In many respects, the upper echelons of the business world are filled with highly motivated and aspirational people. These are individuals who are accustomed to setting and achieving very big goals. They are not content to let life pass them by. They tend to want to stand out from the crowd and have some sort of impact on the world.

When Fear Sets In

But therein lies the problem: Too often, these professionals are motivated on a deep level by a series of “what if” scenarios. These scenarios can play out in the mind in the form of various questions:

  • “What if I’m just mediocre?”
  • “What if I don’t live up to the expectations set by my family or friends?”
  • “What if I lose my ability to support my family?”

Mental health professionals might refer to these kinds of questions as “catastrophizing.” To wit, these kinds of thoughts arise when a person is afraid of setting in motion a chain of events that can lead to a feared outcome. Too often, that outcome involves some degree of failure.

So how do you overcome such fears?

The Role of Early Experiences in Status Anxiety

In many respects, a fear of failure tends to spring from early experiences in life. Perhaps as children, we grew up in a household where success was equated with self-worth. Perhaps negative experiences in school led us to feel insecure about our personalities. Whatever the reason, letting these early experiences dominate our lives is not healthy.

Above all else, in fact, we must seek to fundamentally change our beliefs about failure if we are to change our reaction to the concept of failure. We should challenge our own thoughts on the matter: For example, is self-worth tied to social status? If so, impoverished humanitarians like Jesus and Gandhi would be “worth” less than most other people in society.

Changing Our Mindsets

Of course, most of us realize that this is not the case. Setting aside talk of business success, we can measure our progress in life by many factors: For example, do we act selflessly when others need our help? Do we strive to improve as people even when we make mistakes? Do we strive to forgive others? Do we strive to become better parents and better friends?

When we widen our perspective on our place in society, we will see that success in the business world is just one facet of our experience in life. It is true that success in business may speak to our work ethic and our ability to set and meet goals. But it does not encompass our worth as human beings. Neither does failure negate our worth. When we learn this fact, we can begin to move on from our fears. That alone can make a great deal of difference in our lives.