April 14

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How to Overcome Fear of Failure: A Guide to Succeeding in Life

Do you wish you could overcome fear of failure once and for all? If so, you're not alone. Millions of people worldwide experience fear of failure on a regular basis. But what separates successful people from unsuccessful people is their ability to respond to fear appropriately. This article discusses how to overcome fear of failure and achieve success in life.

"Fear seems to be epidemic in our society. We fear beginnings; we fear endings. We fear changing; we fear "staying stuck." We fear success; we fear failure. We fear living; we fear dying."
Susan Jeffers, Feel The Fear… And Do It Anyway

What does fear of failure really mean?

Not much has changed since Susan Jeffers wrote her marvelous book, "Feel The Fear… And Do It Anyway" in 1987. Fear appears to be running rampant in our world. We've met hundreds of people who are stymied by fear and not living up to their full potential. We're here to help you overcome fear of failure.

Fear comes in all shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day, it comes down to one thing: you don't believe or trust in yourself to handle whatever happens. That's it.

Fear translates to:
  • "I can't handle getting sick."
  • "I can't handle getting divorced."
  • "I can't handle getting laid off."
  • "I can't handle losing my parents."
  • "I can't handle my kids going off to college."
  • "I can't handle being alone."
  • "I can't handle growing old."
  • "I can't handle global warming."
  • "I can't handle a global pandemic."

You get the idea.

"Lack of trust in yourself is stopping you from getting what you want out of life. Knowing this creates a very clear, even laser like focus on what needs to be changed… As you do, you will find yourself coming closer and closer to such a high level of self-confidence that you will ultimately begin to realize that you can handle anything that comes your way."
– Susan Jeffers, Feel The Fear… And Do It Anyway

Almost everyone experiences fear when growing; it's part of life. Overcoming fear of failure really comes down to trusting yourself to handle whatever life brings. But how do you do that? Here are the steps to conquer your fear of failure.

4 steps to overcome fear of failure


1. Challenge dysfunctional beliefs

It has been said that belief is the thermostat that regulates what we accomplish in life. If you believe you are worth little, you will achieve little. Conversely, if you think highly of yourself and your accomplishments, you will advance forward in life.

If you want to overcome fear of failure, you must manage your thinking, which means reframing dysfunctional beliefs. Here are three common dysfunctional beliefs that will keep you trapped in fear of failure.

Dysfunctional Belief Number 1: "It's their fault."

Here is a truth that will set you free: you are responsible. This can be a hard pill to swallow for some people; they blame their boss, their spouse, the government… fill in the blank. But when you blame others for your life experiences, you give away all your power. No, we aren't telling you that you a responsible for war, poverty, or global warming. However, you are in total control of your reaction and response to these experiences.

You get to choose how you experience and react in your life.

Taking responsibility means:
  • Never blaming anyone else for anything you are being, doing, having, or feeling.
  • Challenging dysfunctional beliefs and negative self-talk.
  • Being aware of payoffs that keep you stuck.
  • Figuring out what you want in life and acting on it.
  • Looking for solutions and being open to the many choices you have in life.

By taking responsibility and owning your reactions to life experiences, you can overcome fear of failure and move forward confidently—free from fear, pain, depression, and self-doubt.

Dysfunctional Belief Number 2: "I have to make the right decision."

Here is another truth that will set you free: there is no right and wrong. There is no one best life; there are many great ways to live.

"One of the biggest fears that keeps us from moving ahead with our lives is our difficulty in making decisions. The problem is that we have been taught "Be careful! You might make the wrong decision!" We are afraid that the wrong decision will deprive us of something—money, friends, lovers, status, or whatever the right decision is supposed to bring us."
– Susan Jeffers, Feel The Fear… And Do It Anyway.

We'll discuss this more in the following section, "change your attitude about fear." For now, consider if this dysfunctional belief is holding you back. Do you feel that you have one purpose in life and can't be happy until you find it? Do you believe that you have only one soulmate? Do you believe that your life will be ruined if you make the wrong decision? If you answered yes to any of these, then do some work on reframing this limiting belief.

Dysfunctional Belief Number 3: "I am not enough."

This belief is so pervasive it's heartbreaking. Feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and imposter syndrome are something that many people experience. Even people who've reached high levels of success can suffer from not feeling like they are enough. Read "The Hidden Truth About Imposter Syndrome: What Successful People Don't Tell You"

"Not feeling good enough is like looking in a mirror that is clouded and does not give us a clear image of what we are seeing or who we are. So how can we uncloud this mirror? One method that psychological research offers is the use of self-affirmations: positive statements about the self that reinforce our positive characteristics, abilities, skills, or values.
Research suggests that utilizing self-affirmations can support us in several ways. Self-affirmations may help to decrease feelings of powerlessness in our lives, help us see past the challenge in front of us, increase our self-competence, promote a positive self-image, reconnect us to our core values, and foster positive emotions."
Psychology Today 

Dysfunctional beliefs keep you stuck. We invite you to examine the stories you tell yourself and to identify beliefs that are serving you and not serving you. For those that aren't serving you, how might you reframe those beliefs in a way that gives you more confidence?

2. Change your attitude about fear of failure

If you really want to overcome fear of failure, change your attitude about fear. Some people view fear as a sign that something is wrong and they should retreat or withdraw. Others view fear as something that should be avoided at all costs. Neither is accurate.

Understand that almost everyone experiences fear when they are growing and moving forward through life.

"We can't escape fear. We can only transform it into a companion that accompanies us in all our exciting adventures."
– Susan Jeffers, Feel The Fear… And Do It Anyway

The only way to overcome fear of failure is to change your attitude about fear and take action.

According to Susan Jeffers, some of the biggest fears that keep us from moving forward are the fear of making the wrong decision and panic over making mistakes. This leads to "no-win" thinking. What does that mean?

Suppose you are facing a big decision. If you are stuck in 'no-win' thinking then you feel extreme anxiety about making a choice. You may even become paralyzed as you think about the consequences in life-and-death terms. You obsess and second-guess yourself: "Should I do this or do that? What if it doesn't work out? What if… ?" Your fear intensifies as you try to control outside forces and predict the future.

After making the decision, you constantly second-guess yourself and reassess the situation, hoping you didn't make a mistake. You continue to play the "what if" and "only if" game. That is 'no-win' thinking. Let's change that.

"You can actually shift your thinking in such a way as to make a wrong decision or mistake an impossibility… There are no right or wrong decisions. Just different ones."
– Susan Jeffers, Feel The Fear… And Do It Anyway

This attitude is what Susan Jeffers refers to as the No-Lose Model.

No-Lose Model:

Instead of approaching decisions as if there is a right or wrong answer, simply see that there are two paths in front of you, both of which are right! Each path is strewn with opportunities. Opportunities to experience life in new ways, grow and learn, and reach new levels of fulfillment despite the outcome.

As you approach life from the no-lose model, you will learn how to overcome fear of failure. You will build an unshakable trust and confidence in yourself that you can handle anything. And you will view each new experience and decision as an opportunity to win instead of lose.

3. Dial in your internal navigation system

Where do you turn when you are confused or have doubt and fear? Don't you wish there was a reliable system you could fall back on when you are overcome with fear of failure?

Well, there is!

It's your internal navigation system. Like flight controls on an airplane, your internal navigation system helps you correct course when you go astray and ensures you are heading in the right direction—even when you can't see.

"Success requires heart-and-soul effort, and you can put your heart and soul only into something you really desire."
— David Schwarz, The Magic of Thinking Big

Who are you? Why are you here? What values do you live by? What legacy do you want to leave behind? The answers to these questions form the foundation of your internal navigation system.

When you get clear, really clear, on who you are and why you are here, you will gain a sense of purpose, direction, and drive that will carry you forward despite any fear. You will seek out opportunities and solutions and no longer be paralyzed by fear, confusion, and second-guessing your choices. In short, you will become unstoppable as you pursue your deepest and innermost desires and will naturally and easily overcome fear of failure in the process.

4. Adopt a bias toward action

Action is the antidote to fear. Inaction—doing nothing—strengthens fear and destroys confidence.

"When we face tough problems, we stay mired in the mud until we take action. Hope is a start. But hope needs action to win victories."
– David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big

What kind of action can you take to overcome fear of failure? There is always some kind of action you can take.

Here are a few ways you can overcome fear of failure and adopt a bias towards action:

Expand your comfort zone

One simple way to start taking action is to intentionally move outside of your comfort zone. Do something that expands your comfort zone. Reach out to someone you have been too intimidated to contact. Ask for something you have been too afraid to ask for. Take one small risk today that widens your personal comfort zone.

Think like a designer

When a designer sets out to design a new product, like a smartphone, they don't go to work, sit down and draft out their idea, and send it to a manufacturer to be mass-produced and sold. That's just not how it works.

They spend months, sometimes years, prototyping. They design, test, often fail, and redesign many many times before they get an acceptable product. Even Elon Musk failed three times before successfully launching and landing the SpaceX rocket—almost bankrupting the company.

It is absolutely possible to approach your life in the say way. You can prototype life paths, test them out, and go back to the drawing board until you have found a solution that makes your heart sing and your life a true joy. The phenomenal book Designing Your Life outlines a step-by-step process for doing just that—creating a life that is wonderfully aligned with your core values and makes you happy. We highly recommend it.

Exposure therapy… just do it!

Facing your fears gradually and consistently is the most effective way to overcome fear of failure. We like to call it "exposure therapy." Exposure therapy is a technique that involves gradually putting yourself into situations that you usually avoid out of a fear that things won't work out perfectly. For example, the best way to overcome your fear of public speaking is to start small, like speaking up in meetings. Then you can progress to speaking in low-stakes situations like Toastmasters.

With exposure and practice you'll learn that it's okay to make mistakes and come across as imperfect. And be patient with yourself! You aren't going to feel confident right off the bat. You need to take action and practice. As you act, your brain sees that you can do it, and you start to identify as a confident and competent individual.

Final thought: Life is a process

If you take away ONE THING from this article it's this: life is a process, not an outcome.

Life is not one and done. It is a process. It is a process of learning, growing and becoming. Overcoming fear of failure is just a practice. If you can change your mindset so that you truly view life as a no-lose situation, you will be free.

Additional Resources for Overcoming Fear of Failure:

Jess & Kara


Our life’s calling is to help you increase your confidence. It is a culmination of our life experiences, study, and real-world trials and tribulations. We are dedicated to teaching you how to build your confidence and empower you by providing inspiration, support, resources, and proven techniques so that you can feel better about yourself and create a life that truly embodies your unique greatness.


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business, fear


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