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Why Do We Have Fear of Failure?
In my previous post on dissolving limiting beliefs, I talked about several beliefs, to include “failure is bad”. This one of the most common beliefs that we tell ourselves. On an almost daily basis, we sabotage ourselves with this belief while trying to make progress. This is also the biggest reason why we constantly struggle to overcome the fear of failure and rejection.
In this article I would like to explain this common phobia, known as Atychiphobia, and the easiest way to overcome it.
The first question to ask is, why is this belief prevailing in so many of our lives? Why does failure or rejection make us feel nervous?
The short answer is evolution of the human brain. Let me explain further.
Subconsciously, our minds are programmed to think that failure will cause disapproval from those around us, to include family, friends, co-workers, and peers.
Having the belief that failure is bad leads us to think thoughts such as “If Mom and Dad see me fail, they won’t love me as much.” Or “If this work project falls through, my co-workers will not respect me anymore”. In turn, your subconscious mind falsely translates this as “Everyone around will no longer accept me as part of their pack.”
When we think thoughts like this, our primal instincts kick in and automatically produce stress and fear within our body.
This happens because way back in the days when humans were beginning to evolve, they needed to be part of a group for survival. Without a pack or family to help with things like hunting, finding shelter, etc, you would die an almost certain death. Being accepted in a pack meant everything. There was great danger in not being accepted. Because of this, you literally needed people to like you to survive!
Obviously in today’s world, that is no longer true. There is no real need to live in a pack for survival. Is theory, you could have the whole world hate you and live a normal life (although it would be awfully depressing!). Regardless, that survival instinct is still firmly hard-wired into our brains, and therefore even harder to get rid of.
How to Overcome The Fear of Failure
Now that we have drilled down to root cause of the fear of failure, how do we fix it?
The answer is to dive right in and start experiencing failure or rejection as much as possible.
As I mentioned above, to get over the fear of failure, you must get rid of the underlying belief. The ONLY way to do this is to start experiencing failure with the mindset that failure can actually be a positive thing. Just like any type of training, the more you practice it, the better you become.
For this to truly work however, you must really experience the failure, not just think about it. Most people just try to pump themselves up by telling themselves things like “I’m not going to be scared, I’m not going to be scared, I’m not going to be scared”. Then they go do whatever it is they are trying to do and guess what? They still get scared!
It’s almost like going to the gym, staring at the treadmill and saying “I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to lose weight”. How effective do you think that is?! Do you think you are going to lose any weight? No, of course not! To lose weight you need to jump on the treadmill and start running!
So in the same regard you need to get out there and start failing. The more you fail, the faster you become immune to the fear associated with it. As you push yourself through the failures and come out the other side, your brain will eventually begin to realize that failure can be overcome rather easily. In turn, you will begin to dissolve the underlying belief “failure is bad”, which will then cause the associated fear and stress to disappear.
100 Days Of Rejection
One of the best real life examples of this technique in action came from a gentlemen named Jia Jiang. Jia, who migrated to the United States from China is best known for his TED Talk on the Fear of Rejection. In his talk, Jia explained how he had always experienced a high level fear and stress when faced with the threat of rejection.
Sick and tired of having that fear, he decided to use the technique I outlined above by seeking out rejection for 100 days straight! Each day, he would make ridiculous (and sometimes hilarious) requests from strangers so that he could purposely experience rejection and in turn, learn how to deal with it.
Throughout the 100 days, Jia realized rejection was not all that bad. More importantly, he began to see that there was no need to have a fear of rejection, as the rejection itself caused him no harm.
By conquering this fear of rejection, Jia found himself getting braver and braver each day as the fear ultimately began to subside. He essentially trained his brain to realize that fear of failure was no longer essential to his survival and that it could easily overcome.
Whats even better, throughout his experiments, he experienced many people accepting his strange requests! Take the below video for example. On this particular day, he entered a Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop and asked them if they could bake 5 doughnuts together to form the Olympic Rings. To his surprise, they actually did it!
Fail Faster, Not Harder
Jia’s experiment brought out another really good point about overcoming failure and rejection. Simply put, the faster you fail, the faster you will conquer your fear.
One of the things I liked about Jia’s experiment is that he set it to a rigid 100 day schedule. This was important because it forced him to face his fears on a daily basis. Jia could have easily set a goal to try and deal with rejection as it comes for the next two months. However that would have severely limited the amount of times he failed, causing a much slower pace of progress.
To go back to the example of losing weight. If you were serious about your goal, would you tell yourself that you are going to work out simply when free time arose or when you felt like it? Of course not! You would set a rigid schedule to ensure you get the required amount of workouts in.
Much in the same way, you must get your failure “workouts” in as much as possible.
Put more simply, the faster you fail, the faster you get over your fear! In addition, you will also learn at a much more rapid pace.
Failing My Way To This Blog
A perfect example of this is this very website. When I set out to create Livn.org, I had no problem creating the actual content, however, building the website was a completely different story.
I had previously sourced out all of my website design to professional web designers, however, that had proved to be very costly. I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to learn a new skill.
To start a website from scratch with absolutely no knowledge can be a very intimidating thing. I went in knowing that I would be repeatedly experiencing failure, however, I decided to go ahead and dive in anyways.
To say I experienced failures along the way is an understatement. When I started I could not even get the URL up and running! It took me almost a day before I could get the URL www.livn.org to even point to this site. Complete disaster on the first step!
Despite the failure, I kept moving forward, failing more and more. But as I progressed through each failure, I began gaining confidence. After a while the setbacks didn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore. I also began to realize that my web design abilities began improving at a dramatic pace. Before I knew it I was programming and designing this site without even thinking about it.
You can now see the final result of my efforts on this site. Although it is still a work in progress, I would dare to say that it turned out nicely. I now have a fully functioning website, complete with integrated social media, mailing list and AdSense. More importantly, the skills and confidence I gained along the way proved to be invaluable. If I ever decide to build another website, I will now be able to do it with relative ease and the confidence. This would not have been possible had I not pushed myself to go through the experience of failure.
Overcome Failure With This Thought
One more thought that will help you dissolve this belief is to remember that beliefs themselves are not real things. They are entirely made up and in reality have no meaning, other than the one you assign to them.
An easier way to put this into perspective is to use the Lefkoe Method. Take a look at your cell phone or any object near your right now and describe it to yourself. What shape is it? How about color? What kind of sound does it make when it rings or gives a notification? How does it feel in your hands?
You can say your phone is rectangular in shape, black in color and makes a noise when someone calls you. Notice, these are all things you can easily describe, right?
That is because your phone is an object in your reality. It is not an imaginary thing.
Now go ahead and describe the belief “failure is bad” in the same manner. What does it look like? Does it make any sounds? What does it feel like?
Take a second to think about your answer…
Having trouble? Of course you are! That is because it’s impossible to describe because “failure is bad” is not a real thing. It’s completely imaginary! When you look at it this way, it’s much easier to see that there is no reason to have a fear of failure. What doesn’t exist, cannot hurt you.
Bottom line, failure or more specifically, the fear of failure is only bad if you define it that way. Even though we are hard-wired to believe that failure is a frightening thing, ultimately it’s up to you to realize that it is not.
The most effective way to overcome the fear of failure is to simply appreciate the experience, recognize the fear for what it is and move on.
Once you do that, you will quickly realize that failure is simply a stepping stone on your path to great achievement, no matter what your goal.
So stop the stress and worry and take massive action. Go out and start failing your way to success!