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Seven Steps for Overcoming Fear of Failure

Aug 18, 2008
Fear of failure is like a debilitating disease. It keeps us paralysed, living a life that is trapped within the boundaries of safety and ordinariness and preventing us from living life to the fullest. This fear can actually prevent us from succeeding, and much of the time it will stop us from even starting a project in the first place.

While we may list any number of reasons why we have not started something, or why a project failed, on closer inspection it will often turn out that our fear overcame us and stopped us in our tracks.

Our fear, therefore, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we cannot step through it, how can we possibly succeed?

We don't have to be stuck with this. Below are seven steps you can take to overcome your fear and lead the life you desire:

1. Recognise your own fear

The first step in overcoming anything is to acknowledge that it is there. Look back at the last time you had an idea and never started it, or when you gave up on a project. Were there really obstacles that were impossible to overcome, or did you just lose confidence?

Success comes in spite of obstacles, not without them. When your fear of failure is too large, obstacles occur as excuses not to continue. Success only happens when you find a way round those obstacles.

2. Start boosting your self esteem

The root cause of fear of failure is usually low self esteem. Improving your opinion of yourself and your abilities will weaken your fear.

Low self-esteem is often to do with negative feedback or events from long ago. When we are young we all need acceptance and love, but if you have had constant negative feedback and little praise for efforts while growing up this can lead to a belief that no matter how hard you try, it will never be good enough. As adults, any potential project seems doomed before it's even started.

Realising that the negative stuff from the past has very little to do with who you really are can help you to start thinking about yourself in a different way. Start to see the positives in yourself and recognize your abilities. Rely less on the opinions of others and trust your own judgment. Read self-help books and learn as much as you can about building self belief.

3. Recognize your giving up point.

When people expect failure, they tend to lack patience. What's the point of spending so much time when it's not going to work out anyway? This is why many people give up on a project far too soon.

Think about how much time and effort you have put into previous projects. Did you find that you became too overwhelmed early on and then decide that it wasn't worth carrying on? Once you start to recognize your own burn-out point, you can start putting in strategies to break through this.

4. Be kind to yourself

When you next get to the point where you would normally give up, you can now use a different tactic. Instead of a) giving up or b) struggling on in grim determination, I recommend that you stop for a while and just take time out.

Trying to push yourself forward when you are feeling overwhelmed can actually do more harm than good and reinforce your fear. Sometimes all it needs is a few minutes to go for a walk or maybe a day or two to relax and have fun so you will come back to your project refreshed and in a positive frame of mind.

5. Take small steps

Trying to tackle a project in one go can quickly lead to overwhelm and fear of failure. Instead, break it down into much smaller and easily achievable steps. When you begin to feel stressed, stop for your "mini-break" and then come back to what you were doing. Once you have achieved one small step, your confidence will increase and motivate you for the next task.

6. Work on activities you are good at

Working on something you enjoy and know you are good at will also develop your confidence and self-esteem. Choose projects that you know you will love, and when breaking them into smaller steps, start with something you know you can do. Having achieved these, you will be able to move on to the more difficult steps with greater ease and confidence.

7. Surround yourself with positive people and support

Friends and family usually believe they have your best interests at heart, but only you can know what's right for you. If those who are close to you are in the habit of putting you or your project down, this can re-kindle your low self esteem and fear of failure. Try to focus on those "true" friends who support you in every way.

If you find this difficult, you may want to employ professional support such as a life coach or counsellor. If this is too expensive or daunting for you, there are many personal development books and online resources (such as Success University) that can support you and help you get over your fear of failure and achieve success.

Follow these seven steps and you will be well on the way to overcoming your fear of failure and well on the way to a life of success and fulfilment.
About the Author
Ros runs her own online business and is also a successful writer and life coach.

Find opportunities (and information about Success University) at her website at Financial Freedom Online

Ros's coaching site is at Career & Life Change Coaching
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