Why do we fear failure so much?
This is a question that I often ask myself. It is a struggle I am intimately familiar with.
Can you think of a time when you very much wanted to try something new and were so excited about the prospect, but found that taking that first step was almost paralyzing?
I know I have. And I doubt I’ll stop doing it any time soon.
What Do We Fear?
But what is it we really fear? Why do we dig in our heels and resist something, even something we say we want?
The human condition will never cease to amaze me. We’re complex creatures. We want something, but fear going for it. We understand in our heads that the fear is most likely overblown, but the more we think about it, the harder it can be to get beyond.
We over-think it.
What’s the Worst That Can Happen?
No, that’s not the start of a sitcom script. It’s a good way to put things in perspective.
I’ve used this question many times to work past my fears: “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Of course, your mind can conjure up all kinds of worst-case scenarios, some big and scary enough to stop you in your tracks.
But have you ever asked yourself that question? Because it really can help get you unstuck.
The worst-case scenario is usually something that you can overcome, should it happen. But it’s much more likely that things will go considerably smoother than you dared hope.
And if you think about it, what you’re really fearing is that you’ll find out that you can’t do it. You’re afraid of having to give up on something, and it’s easier if you leave it in the abstract, rather than making it a reality.
But then you never get to find out that you could have done it. You never get to realize your success.
And to me, that should be the greater fear.
How We Rationalize Our Behavior
Do any of these rationalizations for your inactivity sound familiar?
- you spend an inordinate amount of time in preparation, never actually doing that thing you want to do.
- you train and research and read and explore, but never actually act.
- your tell yourself that you’re laying the groundwork, getting your ducks in a row, getting everything in place, so you won’t fail.
How about it? Did these hit any nerves?
Now, granted, you should never rush into anything that’s important. You should spend some time researching and laying the groundwork, getting prepared. But when that phase never ends, then it may be a sign that you’re letting fear stop you.
How to Break the Fear Cycle
So how do you break the cycle? How can you get prepared, while not letting that step become a stop?
Action. Specifically, the taking of.
And it doesn’t have to be huge actions either. You can start with smaller steps. Dipping your toes into the waters, if you will.
I’ve discovered that when I find myself in that perpetual preparation phase — and I do, more often than I care to admit — the fear of actually taking a definite step is always worse than the step itself. In fact, even one small action, or step, in the direction you want to head can be a huge relief. It’s like removing a tremendous weight off your back.
Here are some steps you can take to get moving:
- decide on one actual activity that you can accomplish that will begin to open that door into that place you’re afraid to go. If you’re launching a new business, maybe it’s getting your website up and running. Getting your domain name, your theme and getting the website set up.
- begin to tell people that you’ve gotten started and direct them to what you’ve done so far. There’s nothing like announcing what you’re doing to get you off your rear end and moving.
- Each day, decide on at least one action you can take that will move you forward and take you beyond the prep stage, where you can get all too comfy and find yourself settling in for the long haul.
- go online and find others who have done what you’re attempting to do, read their stories, see how they began to see success. I guarantee that seeing what’s possible will help you realize what you can do.
Break the Inertia
None of these alone may seem like much, but they will at least get you moving. They break the inertia. And once you begin to move, much of the fear and stress you’ve been feeling will lift. It’s remarkable, really, how well it works.
So if you’ve been struggling to get something started, but fear has been stopping you, take action. Any action. Even a small one. One small action will turn into two. And then you’ll begin to move. That’s how you begin to build momentum and get beyond your fear into your wonderful new adventure.
Take action. Take steps. And boldly go where you have never gone before.
Is there something that you had to overcome your fear of, in your life? How did you do it? Was it worth it? Share your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.