5 secrets to overcoming the fear of failure

Jul 18, 2019

Fear of failure. It’s the number one reason people are held back from making a change in their careers. Not lack of ability, skills, or experience, having a clear strategy or plan. The greatest hurdle getting in the way of change and what we truly desire in our professional lives is fear of failure.

I see this everyday with my clients who dream of leaving the corporate world to start a business. Or moving from an established profession to change careers. They’re intelligent, successful and have all the skills and knowledge required to make a successful transition. And yet the fear of failure stops them in their tracks.

So, what holds them back?

There’s usually a lot at risk. Big financial and other life commitments. The worry of leaving a secure income. Or anxiety about throwing away the time, money and energy already invested into their current career.

And fear of failure is something that I’ve grappled with too.

Back in 2013, I resigned from my corporate role with the aspiration of starting my consulting business. I’d floated the idea around for over a year, but it took me months to actually quit once I’d decided to give it a go. I was taking nearly 6 years industry experience, a proven business model and established client relationships to establish my own business.

There was little at risk and I knew I could do it. Yet, the fear of failure held me back.

“Starting a business is one of the most terrifying steps I’ve ever taken. I was petrified of failing and constantly second guessed my decision to leave steady, well paid corporate job!”

Fear of failure will undoubtedly show up every time you’re ready to make a major transformation in your life. That internal voice telling us we ‘can’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ is designed to keep us safe. But it also holds us back from taking risks – and creating the careers and lives we want.

At some stage growing up we learnt that failure is ‘bad’. So, we began to stop taking risks to avoid failing altogether. However, by only making choices that guarantee success, we limit ourselves and play it small. I meet so many professionals who are seemingly ‘successful’ in their careers – and yet they feel dissatisfied, unhappy and dream of something bigger.

So – how can you stop ‘playing it small’ and create the career you want? Read on to learn my top 5 secrets to overcoming the fear of failure.

SECRET #1 – UNDERSTAND YOUR PURPOSE & VALUES

What’s your why? Why do you do what you do? Your purpose is the cause or belief that’s bigger than you, that drives you. It’s the work you were born to do and the impact you want to have on the world. Your values are what you stand for – what is truly important to you.

By understanding who you are – what motivates, fulfills and gives your life meaning – the more willing you are to take a stand for what you believe in.

Clarifying your purpose and values is the first step to silencing the fear holding you back. And fully embracing them is key to taking calculated risks, challenging yourself and making the difficult choices required to overcome fear and start playing it BIG.

SECRET #2 – KNOW YOUR BIG VISION

What if I fail? Can I really do this? Will I be successful? Am I’m throwing away everything I’ve worked for? This is the internal dialogue that surfaces whenever we’re contemplating a significant change. The voice of fear of failure.

One of the biggest secrets to overcoming this fear is having a compelling vision for your ideal life. A vision that’s bigger than yourself. By dreaming about what’s possible, you’ll get crystal clear about what you truly want. And knowing your end goal makes it easy to define the steps required to get there.

Ultimately then the choice is yours. Take the easy road and be held back by fear. Or take the path yet travelled, explore new possibilities and follow your big vision. Because we never regret the things we’ve done, only those we did not do

SECRET #3 – DON’T FAIL TO PLAN

The biggest mistake I see professionals make in their careers is waiting until they’re desperately unhappy and ready to move on before contemplate making a change. It’s at this stage they realise their transition is going to take some time, they can’t immediately afford to do it, or they have too many commitments to risk right now. Then they decide it’s simply too hard and give up because they’re scared of failing.

I challenge you to always be assessing your career, what you want from your professional life, setting your career goals and establishing a career plan. Because the best time to start planning your transition is when you’re generally satisfied with where you are right now. Not when you’re desperate to get out!

Think about your financial plan – how much money do you need to save to fund your career transition or start-up business? Consider your exit strategy – can you start a side hustle or go part-time whilst you gain new professional experience?

Set your career goals. Establish realistic time frames for achieving them. Consider any accreditations or new qualifications you’ll need and create a plan to make it happen.

SECRET #4 – TAKE ACTION ANYWAY

From the moment you’re born, you learn by taking action and failing. When you’re learning to walk you take a few steps, stumble, stand up and repeat over again. Failure from taking action is different to ‘being a failure’. We learn by taking action and will never be a failure, regardless whether we succeed or fail.

The number one secret to overcoming fear of failure? Embrace the fear, prepare yourself for the possibility of failure, be brave and take action anyway!

SECRET #5 – CELEBRATE EVERY  OUTCOME

The final secret to overcoming fear of failure is celebrating every action we take – regardless of the outcome. Every failure is an opportunity for learning and both success and failure should be celebrated.

Any important change requires you to push yourself outside your comfort zone. And it takes tremendous courage to challenge yourself, take a risk and potentially fail. Because the truth is, success is never guaranteed in life. But we all have the opportunity to learn and grow from the actions we take – success or failure.

Final thoughts…

Fear of failure is paralysing. It holds back even the most ambitious and successful professionals from going after what they truly desire.

These insights have supported me throughout my career and have assisted my clients to avoid playing it small in their professional lives. I hope by sharing them here, they’ll help you overcome your fear of failure too.

 

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Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners at a mid-career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms.

Stacey also supports professionals to transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business. She works virtually with individuals based across the globe.