“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill
We all set goals for ourselves as markers against which we measure our level of success and achieving them can be very inspiring, but there is always a fear of failure lurking around. Most of us do not know how to deal with it as we are not taught to deal with failure in school or in life. Many times, this fear of unknown, the danger of failure makes you give up on your goals either because you are scared of failing at them or because you fear other people’s judgments.
Sometimes, the dreams you had been working so hard to accomplish might take longer time than you expected. There might seem to be certain nuances or obstacles on the way in achieving them which you didn’t expect or sometimes things just don’t go the way you would like them to. It would be nice if accomplishing them was easy, but usually is not. There will always be times when you just want to give up and think that your great idea is just not going to make it if you fear failure.
Why we fear failure?
‘what if i fail?’ This sentence is a great stumbling block that does not let you try many things and take new approaches to accomplish what you want to leading to self-doubt. We fear failure mostly for two reasons. First, we see status and social acceptance as important to survival, so the thought of damaging our reputation is seen as huge danger when it comes to facing a risky situation. Second being we have learnt to accept failure as an unpleasant experience that causes feelings of shame and hurt.
Some people are in general more persistent and passionate about their long term goals. But the less gritty ones are not resilient in the face of adversity or difficulties. They give into their fears allowing them to dominate in convincing that ‘It cannot be done!’ Because of this, they are unable to stay the course when progress is not obvious and cannot bounce back after a minor disappointment.
Often, we get so caught up in facade of achieving our goals that we fail to identity obstacles that might stand in the way and do not to make plans to avoid or overcome them. However sometimes even the best laid plans can fail for any number of reasons. When things don’t go as planned, fear manifests into despair and becomes a major obstacle to progress. Because of this, you don’t put in the total effort that is required. It can be done, but you do not do it. Even though you have the ability but because you put in less than required, you cannot further overcome the failure.
With fear of failure,
• You subconsciously undermine your efforts and to avoid a larger possibility of a larger failure, you will convince yourself it’s better not to try.
• You impede your ability to address the actual problem fearing rejection.
• Self doubt makes you give up because you don’t want to feel incompetent or appear foolish.
• Fear of failure imprisons your experience in a cage that’s meant to keep the dangers out, but ends up locking you in.
• You never commit to your goals fully and avoid situations in which you don’t have control.
• You fail to capitalise on opportunities.
• You condition yourself not to set any goals as you self deprecate, devalue your worth convincing that you cannot achieve even though when they are within your reach.
How to stop fearing failure?
When you deny your goals or even give up on them fearing failure, you are rejecting who you are on the inside by fooling your subconscious. Failure is not something exclusive to you. As long as you have the will power to persevere the difficulties or failure and pick up from here, you can put up with situations that seem to be going against. You can continue to live with intent, purpose and direction.
If you use fear to understand the mechanism of failure by reflecting on your mistakes, you can stay motivated and adjust your course by learning from your failures. Maintaining high expected values for your goals over extended periods of time despite failures, setbacks and other kinds of adversity increases your endurance and tolerance.
Here are few strategies to work around your fear of failure and to persevere through obstacles.
“Thinking is the hardest thing that is and that is why so few involve themselves in it.” and that is why the failures.
There is no disgrace in honest failure and fearing to fail. But in most cases, lack of planning and thinking that makes all the difference. Substitute failure thinking with success thinking. When you face a difficult situation, think ‘I’ll win’ not ‘I’ll probably lose’. When you compete with someone else think ‘I am equal to the best’. When opportunity opens, think in terms of ‘can’ and never ‘can’t’. Thinking success conditions your mind to create plans to succeed and overcome failure.
Learn from past failures
It might feel like failure only has negative. There are many who succeeded despite their failures. Each of them may have different reason for their failure; find out how successful people have succeeded despite their failures. Try to reflect on your past failures so as to figure out where the problem was—be it the method you applied or if your goals were unrealistic—don’t take the failure personally. Learn from past experiences and be honest about your weaknesses to move ahead. If you don’t learn from your past failure, you’re throwing away value. Use your experience to build something even better. Treat failure as simply a necessary part of your progress and rise from the past setbacks and disappointments.
Create your own version of success
Others opinion about you and they judging you should not hold you back from surpassing failure. The opinion of others has no power unless you yield it. Stop letting others dictate what you should and shouldn’t do. Believe in your unique goal and dwell on possibilities. Your beliefs have to be more powerful than any anxiety, fear or negativity you come across. There is no one prescribed way to achieve success and overcome failure. Be inspired to keep finding new ways to explore and build your own version of success.
Accept your fears
Failure can seriously dent your self-esteem and confidence. This is because we are made to believe that we are too good to fail from young age. Though it is good to build our self-esteem, but when faced with failure, we are more likely to take the escape route and allow fear, worry and self-doubt to dominate us. With failure also comes feeling of disappointment and rejection. It is important to recognise that fear that’s stopping you is just a feeling. Let yourself feel and let it pass without letting it to have an overpowering hold on you. This allows you to put everything in perspective and you can make the best possible decision to move forward.
Persevere through difficulties
It is very essential to persist through times of failures. Are you willing to go that extra mile? Are you willing to move out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to do what others won’t do ? When you are seeking your goal, don’t become impatient with the time taken or any difficulty you face. Instead consider it as a detour and devise a new way to reach your goal. Grow tolerant to put up with situations that seem to be against.
“Failure is only a temporary change in direction. Develop an inward zeal not to give up and persist in your efforts to transform it into success.”
Expect future obstacles and difficulties
Spend time on analysing what could be the possible obstacle to the goal you are pursuing, be your dream project or new career venture. Write down the worst possible outcome of facing the failure and then come up with an action plan to overcome it just in case. Think of future obstacles but don’t let it rule your decision to pursue your goal. Thinking of worst-case scenario gives you a balanced view and puts you in a positive frame of mind. You will be better equipped to tackle obstacles or solve difficult problems as they arise and you can get back with more vigour.
Grow the Action habit
Don’t wait until conditions are perfect. Action cures fear of failure. Waiting for perfect time by doing nothing about a situation will only strengthen fear and destroys confidence. Ideas of how you are going to overcome failure alone won’t bring success. They have value only when you act upon them. Thinking in terms of tomorrow, next week, later and words like this are synonymous with never. Be as ‘I am starting right now’ kind of person.
We have all been conditioned to perceive success in a certain way, which then makes us believe that shifting those boundaries is failure. A way to stop fearing failure is to stop seeing it by the standards you may have been brought up with. Ignoring your small achievements will only lower your confidence in your future endeavours. Encourage yourself by celebrating every small effort you make. It may be in small doses, but it is the best way to get ahead. Don’t let the negative thoughts and anxiety hold you back. Manage them and prepare to tackle your next challenge.
Finally, don’t give up on your goal. The greater the effort you put into achieving a goal, the greater will be your fear of failure in achieving it. You face failure the moment you stop striving for. Don’t let the fear of bad decision or misstep hold you back and hamper your chances to improve. Instead cultivate a can do attitude and maintain high expected valuations for your goals despite failures.
To get out of your fixation on fear of failure,
• Focus on things that are within your control.
• Always believe that “there is a way”.
• Seek out your faults and correct them.
• Start fresh to see new solutions or new approaches.
• Learn from your past failures to make yourself strong,
• When facing difficult situation, take a step back and reconsider your perspective. Look at a problem from all angles. Break it down into small steps that are more achievable than big leaps.
• Stop judging yourself. Use failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.
• Admit your fears, identify challenges and structure your expectations to create a road to your success.
“The obstacles that are in your way aren’t meant to stop you. They’re designed to point the way to a new route, new possibilities, and new doorways.” Anonymous
“Chains of Habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”- Warren Buffet
Our habits define who and what we are. We struggle to kick deeply-ingrained negative habitual patterns and negative behaviours as we get used to a fixed mindset on things and on our habits. As a result, we get used to doing and thinking in some specific ways that it becomes hard to be able to transcend those habits.
Most of us find it hard to adopt and stick with new, healthier and safer habits. Even when we begin to follow a new pattern, we all have a tendency to revert to previous patterns during times of stress. This is due to the comfort factor associated with our older habits.
“Comfort comes as a guest, grows into a host and finally stays to enslave us.”
Unless we let go of old and negative habits, we cannot redefine ourselves in newer or better ways.
You are the product of your HABITS
Our habits define our comfort zones. Any violation of our comfort zone brings us discomfort. So is the case with the violation of some bad habits which when we let them go brings agitation, stress and even anxiety. Many struggle with a range of negative behaviours like smoking, overeating, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking and don’t think that these habits are unhealthy because either these habits make them feel stress free or feel good factor they bring with them. You need to do an honest evaluation of your habits as to whether they are positive or negative.
While evaluating your habits, focus on their relevance and impact. Are your habits strengthening you as a person or are they making you rigid and edgy. For instance, it is very essential to see when you decide to follow a particular habit, is it bringing with it restlessness, agitation or poor health. If it is, it is time to reflect upon those habits and is better to change them. Most of the times, we fail to let go of negative habits because of the comfort we feel inspite of these habits being wrong and harmful.
If you continue to hang on to the comfort of the older ways never attempting to change, these habits tend to degenerate your personality and they become toxic.
“The battle of big dreams, greatnesses is often the battle against our own ingrained habits.”
What makes a HABIT and how they work?
Three things that make a habit.
First, a habit is a specific behaviour not an overall goal or pattern of behaviour. It is like a learnt physical behaviour.
Second, a habit is something you do regularly in a particular situation. It is like a mental mannerism which is consistent.
Third, a habit requires little or no psychological effort to engage in. It is largely automatic.
Repetition and attention is the fuel that keeps habits going, both good and bad. A new behaviour you start to engage in isn’t always a habit. It becomes a habit once you have followed it for so long that it becomes a habit.
According to Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”, every habit has four components and they form a habit loop.
The Cue causes you to start the habit.
The Routine that you engage in.
The Reward you get for doing the routine, and finally,
The Craving that drives your desire for the reward.
Habit loop identification makes it easy to break away from your bad habits.
There are many things that hold you back whenever you want to change or end a bad habit to create a new one. These things tend to push you back into the spiral of old patterns. Here are some things that hold you back from changing your habits
Lack of determination
Nothing can stop a determined mind from changing an old habit to a new one. But, do you have the determination? Do not let your mind completely disregard your own decisions. Whether you decide to follow a new diet or give up foul language, it is difficult to keep up unless you take it seriously. Be strict with your decisions even if they are difficult.
Lack of purpose
No clarity of purpose leads to lack of inspiration and rewards. If your cue is a negative purpose, then it is difficult to stick with it longer. For instance, it should not come with the intention of making others happy. This kind of negative approach makes your determination weak. You may attempt to change your habits, but this may end up making you angry, bitter and anxious to prove yourself to others. Allow a positive purpose to push you out of the old undesirable habits.
Lack of consistency
Motivation tends to be high when we start something new, then drops off after a while. Permanent habit change requires consistency and keeps you up to date with your new habits. Being consistent with newer habits lets you form new pathways for habit change system and helps you to stick with them. Choose a new habit and provide opportunities to establish the habit. Practice being consistent with your new pattern until it becomes a habit.
Lack of substitution
Whenever you attempt to let go to of old habits, your mind starts feeling deprived of the comfort which is associated with the old habit. The feeling of deprivation makes your mind too rigid to change your old habits. So the only way you can change your habit is to substitute them with newer habits that are equally rewarding and leave you feeling complete and better.
Lack of Belief
Our belief system has a great impact on our habits. We form many of our habits based on our beliefs. We may know and understand how risky certain negative behaviours are, but we indulge in some of them because of our ingrained beliefs. We fail to change them. But if we try to change the deep driving belief, we can change the habit.
Newer ways of thinking and doing will let you change your old beliefs and negative behaviour.
Your Habit Change System
According to the research, once you have followed a new habit or refrained from an old pattern for five days, it gets much easier to stick to and the odds that you will make that habit change stick becomes very high. Here are some ways to change your habits.
Break bad habits
Break away from your old habits. One way to do this is to suppress the cue that causes you to engage in that habit. Prevent cue from happening. Second way to end bad habit is to stop engaging in the routine. And the third way can be by sabotaging your reward so it feels less rewarding and satisfying whenever you indulge in a bad habitual pattern.
Choose one bad habit related to your goal and identify the cue, routine, reward for that and as well as its craving. Select one of the ways and use it every day to break that habit.
Build positive habits
There are some habits whose impact is much broader and they are habits behind habits and are called keystone habits. Building positive keystone habits can have cascading effect. For instance, being healthier makes you more productive, be less stressed out and you spend less on junk food.
To build keystone habits you can use cue piggybacking by choosing an event that occurs on a regular basis to act as the cue for your new habit, then start doing the routine every time your chosen cue occurs. You can also use chaining to build two or more habits that you will be doing one after the other. Try routine substitution to replace a old routine with new. The new routine has to fulfil the same craving as the old routine.
Hold yourself accountable and stay motivated
Avoid getting motivated only by external factors. This makes you feel like you are forced to do, rather than something you want to do. Intrinsic motivation is better when it comes to the habit change system. An external source of motivation that reinforces intrinsic motivation helps you to continue with changing your habits. Holding yourself accountable will get you through brief periods of temptation by strengthening your will power.
Improve your environment to improve your habits
Your behaviour and attitudes are often shaped by your environment. Conformity distorts your perceptual abilities. This impacts your personal development. Changing your environment helps you to maintain your good habits or change from old ones. Put yourself in an environment that supports the person you want to be. Think of one way you can alter your environment to make it easier to maintain your good habits.
Finally, Do not justify wrong habits. Negative self talk holds you back from changing your habits. Maintain your will power throughout your habit change system. Master yourself in ways that lead you into newer habits. Practice self- love and be kind to yourself.