Overcoming the Fear of Failure was originally published on Firsthand.
The fear of failure is a psychological phobia called atychiphobia. Much like any other phobia, the thought of failing can make you anxious, nervous, and put you under extreme pressure. Just the thought of tackling a significant issue can leave you questioning whether to give it a try in the first place.
Overcoming the fear of failure isn’t as simple for some as it is for others. While some people welcome challenges and see failing as a learning step, others are so afraid of failing they’ll never try. If you fall into the latter category, the good news is there are concrete steps you can take to begin to tackle this fear. And below you’ll find out how to begin to overcome the fear of failing.
Find the root cause of your fear
The first step to overcoming the fear of failure is finding the root cause. This is a valuable tool that will help you understand why you have this fear. Write down several potential causes and start thinking about why they’re relevant to you. Think long and hard (the only time you should overthink) about where this fear comes from and why it’s there. Once you identify the root cause, overcoming the fear can be much easier.
If you have a hard time finding the cause, keep in mind that a big reason why people develop any phobia is trauma. Trauma can put off any person from engaging in a particular activity. In the case of fear of failure, a person might have gone through trauma early in life—in middle school or high school—and now the simple thought of failing evokes extreme pressure or anxiety. So, a person won’t even try to succeed—the thought of failing is too great to bear.
Shift your mindset
The second step to overcoming your fear is shifting your mindset. What’s your go-to solution to overcoming an issue? Do you think about it endlessly and stress about it or do you just go ahead and face it? If the answer is think about it endlessly, chances are you’re overthinking. In some situations, overthinking can be considered a positive trait, but in most situations, overthinking is harming your chances of finding the correct solution.
Typically, overthinking plays a massive part in the dialog that you and your inner voice are having. Your inner voice is your subconscious, where you tell yourself you’re not good enough to succeed. So, you end up overthinking why you’re not good enough when you’re just as likely to succeed if you put in the work. So, to beat the fear of failure, you need to shift your mindset—you need to stop overthinking and start doing.
Fortunately, you can stop overthinking by thinking positively instead of giving in to your inner voice. Shifting your mindset is all about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Remind yourself that everyone fails before succeeding—it’s the way the world works. Everyone goes through trial and error. Everyone fails at some point. Even a person who fails (and fails often) can become hugely successful.
Always have a backup plan
Every success story teaches us to have a backup plan—just in case our main one fails. While this seems logical, it’s far from typical. People who fear failure often neglect to have a backup plan. That’s because they often end up overthinking the main plan, leaving no room for a backup. So, when the initial plan fails, they’re left with nothing. This is an obvious mistake to eradicate from your thinking and how you approach each issue.
Not having a backup plan is incredibly shortsighted and naive. It puts you at risk and only proves your inner voice was right the whole time. So, allocate a portion of your brainpower to creating an alternative plan to act as a backup in case the initial one fails.
Think of failing as learning
It’s important to understand that failing doesn’t have to mean the end. Sure, things didn’t go to plan, but don’t forget that you can always start over—and now you have more knowledge to take with you the next time.
So, if you fail, write down the lessons you’ve learned, try to learn from them, and try again with your newfound experience and knowledge. The way to win is to get back on your feet. As the great Walt Disney once said, “The difference between winning and losing is, most often, not quitting.”
Erik Bergman co-founded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an iGaming organization that donates 100 percent of its profits to environmental charities. In addition to running a successful online affiliate business, Erik hosts the Becoming Great podcast, shares entrepreneurship tips with his more than 1 million social media followers, and contributes to sites like Entrepreneuer.com, Business Insider, Foundr, and Forbes.