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Fear of Failing

Part of our series on mental health for business professionals.

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A fear that stops us from doing things, especially those things that move us forward to reaching our goals, is known as “Atychiphobia.” All of us have different definitions of what success and failure are and what they mean to us. A failure to one person might be a great learning experience to another. Our belief systems, values, and standards that we live by determine our definition of failure. Fear of failing can be immobilizing; it can stop your forward progress in your personal life, business or career.

Let’s look at what are some signs of fear of failure. Keep in mind that this is in no way a complete list.

One of the most common mode of failure is self-sabotage. This includes high level of anxiety, procrastination, or the general failing to follow through with goals. Nearly everyone has gone through or is going through this type of fear, sometimes without knowing it.

Another very common symptom is reluctance — an unwillingness to get involved with a challenging or new project. This type of symptom can be brought from dread to triumph by having others — such as personal and business associates — openly encourage that person, but encourage not too overtly, which can cause the fearful person to have anxiety or stress.

Related: Setting Business Goals When You Have Depression, PTSD or Bipolar Disorder

Lack of communication is a subtle condition. For example, not answering telephone calls, especially when you are self-employed. This deficiency can lead you down the wrong path or to an area of no verbal communication, whether in business phone calls or in social or private settings. You don’t make the call because you don’t want to learn bad news, which is the prime purpose of your call.

Perfectionism is very diabolical type of fear of failure. Perfectionism is a willingness to attempt those actions or job functions that you will finish perfectly and successfully. If you are dealing with perfectionism, you will not start most projects because you know you will not finish them perfectly.

How about overcoming a fear of failure? There is no simple answer. No matter what we do in life there is always a chance for failure. Face that chance, realize that everyone fails sometime. Give yourself a chance and reward yourself whether you fail or succeed. Succeeding can be better, but like the Good Witch in Oz, “What have we learned Dorothy?” What can you learn from this “non-success” and apply it to your next task?

Analyze all outcomes. This is a hard one, as over analyzing can be a form of self-sabotage. Looking at what the failures and their results can be analyzed with a decision tree (more on that in another blog). Have a contingency plan. If you are hesitant or have that fear of failing feeling, have a Plan B in place. This can be a small plan to keep your momentum going while you find a real solution to your problem. If you are a great planner, then work out an alternate plan, possibly with decision trees so if any part of your task doesn’t work out, you have a backup plan ready to fit in.

Related: How to De-Clutter Your Desk and Help Your Mind

Another method regarding fear is to set goals. Setting small, easy-to-reach goals, can help you reach your final goal because you have few winners “under your belt” already. The ladder may not be easy to climb in the beginning, but after a few steps it can be easier. Goals are the same way — you need to find what size of a step you need before you reach each goal. Certain tasks will take many small steps, and some can be done in two or three steps.

Failure is a part of learning. Look at a lot of the great inventors — they have shared details on numerous trials and errors to reach a “eureka” moment.

Finally, fear of failure can be a symptom of a serious mental condition. If fear of failure affects your daily life, it is important to go to your doctor or mental health provider for advice.