How to Overcome Fear of Failure to Succeed in Life

One of the greatest things about being human is having the capacity to learn and grow, but if we go into everything believing we already know what we need to – aside from being pretty boring – it stunts our growth.  That’s why overcoming your fear of failure is an essential part of having a success mindset.

Let’s face it: we don’t like to fail. All across the world, we are driven to succeed at everything we do, whether with our business or personal life. Many who experience failure repeatedly, take this to heart and let their failures actually define who they are and prevent them from continuing to grow.

According to Dr. Joseph Loscalzo in his article “A Celebration of Failure,” society has become increasingly sensitive to failure. To the point, he posits, that we even amend our educational policies to ensure children don’t fail. But how effective is this in learning?

As a consequence, these students not only don’t get to learn by doing, they are also denied the reality that failure is a part of life. This makes “failure” a really bad word.

Fear of Failure

There is actually a word for this (sometimes debilitating) fear: Atychiphobia. Fear of failure can be counterproductive to personal growth because when we fear something, we tend to avoid it. In the case of atychiphobia, our motivations to avoid failure are stronger than our motivations to succeed and this inevitably leads to self-sabotage. 

So when we ask someone out to dinner and they decline or apply for a job we don’t get, this might make us afraid to try again or –  worse – question our value as an individual.

But experts tell us that failure is sometimes the catalyst for success and can even be a necessary part of it.

Reframing Failure

What if, instead of taking a failure personally and letting it affect our efforts or stall our steps forward, we consider failure as an opportunity?

There are many ways to view failure in a way that helps us to embrace it rather than avoid it or let it keep us from moving forward.

Think about moments in your life when you incorrectly answered a question or miscalculated a problem. That’s because getting the answers incorrect (failing) actually helps us to retain the information we are learning. This is just one example of how failure actually serves us. 

Here are some other ways that we can begin to view failure differently.

Overcoming Fear of Failure is a Requirement for Success in Life

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” –Henry Ford

 No matter what your goals are – a new job, a new move, a new relationship – you’ll never know if you don’t try and if you’re afraid to fail, chances are you’ll avoid trying. There is always a risk of failing but understanding that failure is a natural, necessary part of life will help you continue to try.

Failure is Learning 

I never fail. I either win or I learn. –Nelson Mandela

Consider the famous case of Apollo 13. In 1970, the crew of Apollo 13 experienced a system failure that nearly cost them their lives and required them to dig deep into their reservoirs of knowledge. They faced a challenging situation that was unforeseen and for which they were not exclusively trained. Thankfully, they did survive and subsequent shuttles were improved based on that engine failure, leading to what NASA called a “successful failure” because of the lessons learned.

Failure Is A Step Forward

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. –Thomas H. Palmer

Thomas Edison is a great reminder that failure is just another way to get to where we are going. Edison’s teachers reportedly said the famous inventor that he was “too stupid to learn” but this did not stop this visionary from trying. In response to questions about his failures, Edison famously replied, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I’ve successful found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

When you are attempting something new, realize we don’t always succeed the first time but that failure helps us to know what to not do the next time. Each failure is another step forward.

Failure is Not The End of Life

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  –Friedrich Nietzsche

Back during the days of sabertooth tigers and competing tribes, our brains were wired to not fail because failure would mean death. Thankfully, we don’t have those challenges anymore today and the challenges we do have, are not quite so detrimental to our health. 

Consider the part of our brain that controls emotional responses: the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for our subconscious fears and back during the days of sabertooth tigers, our brains feared being attacked. This fear would become reinforced each time a member of the clan or tribe was attacked and killed by a wild animal.

In the same way, our amygdala protects us from taking risks due to self-preservation. But in general, today’s measures of failure will not result in the end of our lives. By reminding ourselves that failure is not going to kill us, we literally transform the way our brain sees failure.

Turn Fear of Failure into Fuel

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated” – Maya Angelou

Research shows that individuals with high self-esteem, tend to respond to failure with increased persistence. You can likely recall a time when you were pressed to produce results of some kind – perhaps a project – and with each time something did not come out right, you pushed forward with even more furvor, ultimately completing the task and feeling confident and accomplished.

By applying this same mindset to each day, each moment, each goal, you will be able to embrace failure as a motivator, rather than a discouragement.

When we embrace the realistic fact of life that failure will always happen and we sometimes simply cannot control it, it changes the way we see it and, consequently, the way we deal with it.

Rather than feeling defeated, we can emerge from any failure with a lesson (or lessons) learned and be grateful for the opportunity to improve ourselves.

Have you experienced a failure that felt devastating initially but became one of the best things to happen to you?

Let me know in the comment section below!