Fear of failure is one of those fears that everyone assumes they’ve got. Well apart from the Musks and Bezos of this world. They seek out failures!
When I start working with people I do a Head Trash audit and a fear of failure inevitably comes up. This is because it can show up in all aspects of our lives. But here’s the thing, it’s very rarely the problem that we think it is. And you’ll be surprised at what usually is. Fear of failure is just the fall-guy.
But first let’s explore why a fear of failure is not the problem and why it highlights a flawed assumption that’s being made.
Fear of failure; the flawed assumption
When you think about starting something that could fail, it would be fair to assume that deep down you want to succeed at it. But do you?
Let’s take a new relationship for example.
Right now you could be living alone and have a great group of friends. You like your home and how things run in your life. And yes, the only thing missing for you right now is a serious long-term relationship.
Well, let’s say you meet someone and this new relationship takes off. Before you know it you’re all consumed by it and you see your friends less and less. If things continue the way they’re going it won’t be long before you’ll need to make a decision about where you live and you might need to move out of your lovely home. Deep down you might not want to leave your home or see less of your friends, so actually what you have a fear of success.
This means that you don’t take the relationship seriously or give it your all because a part of you doesn’t want it to succeed and take away these things from you. Perhaps a successful relationship will force you to make some choices or decisions that you’re not ready to face.
Do you have a fear of success instead?
I’ve seen this a lot in my work with women who suffer with tokophobia, the extreme a fear of pregnancy and birth. Many tokophobia sufferers struggle to have long-term relationships because at some point they know they will need to have sex (which could lead to pregnancy) or have The Baby Conversation (which they’re not ready for). So they sabotage new relationships which means they rarely go beyond three months.
Let’s look at a work project.
Perhaps you want to launch a new program or build your reputation as a public speaker. They’ve been on your plan for a while and you’ve put quite a bit of effort in to preparing for them.
But what would happen if you your program launch went gang-busters? How would you feel?
Delighted? Maybe the prospect of lots of customers of your program fills you with worry. Will it be a customer service nightmare? What if they all want a refund? What if they tell you that your program is crap? Will it be a huge time suck?
And what about if you ended up being booked out solid for loads of speaking gigs (assuming we’ll be able to leave our homes and travel at some point). How would you feel?
Getting booked up for speaking gigs all over the country might fill you with dread because you hate the idea of being a way from home and your young family. All the travel and hotel stays might be the last thing you really want.
Is success what you truly desire?
In both of these situations, what you might really be fearing is actually succeeding.
Until you can fully embrace and truly desire the thing you’re setting out to do, you’ll be caught in the fear of failure trap. I call it a trap because it will keep you stuck. You will procrastinate and self-sabotage so that the thing doesn’t happen or succeed, all the while believing that what is really holding you back is your fear of failure. Well, it probably isn’t.
Explore all aspects of your desires
It’s important to acknowledge all aspects of our desires and ourselves if we want to achieve what we truly desire.
Here are some questions to help you to do this.
When you think about The Thing you’re aiming for…
- Do you truly desire it?
- Do all parts of you desire it?
- Is there a part of you that doesn’t desire it?
- How would you feel if the opposite happened?
When you think about succeeding at this thing…
- Is there an aspect of this that you fear?
- Does succeeding at this mean compromising something else that’s important to you? If so, what? These are the conflicts that are pulling you in two different directions.
The answers to these questions will help you to figure out what’s going on for you.
Head Trash Clearance Tips
When identifying a new goal or desire it’s worth doing some head trash clearance around it to ensure that there aren’t any traps that will keep you stuck and prevent you from achieving it.
Here are some items you can add to your head trash clearance to-do list to that can help;
- The goal
- The things that are in conflict – success and family for example.