Fear cages you in and stops you from pursuing the things you want to pursue. It’s what stands between you and your best life or at least giving yourself the chance to strive towards it. So powerful is the fear of failure that some might even pre-emptively sabotage their own success just to avoid the possibility of facing the crushing blow of defeat.
The Romans used to say “Carpe diem”; seize the day. But so many of us get too hung up on what happens after you’ve seized the day to actually get up and seize it in the first place.
Our fears have lulled us into a false sense of security. We’ve convinced ourselves that we’re okay with the status quo. We think, “At least I’m getting by.” Sooner or later, though, that sense of security will likely turn into regret at not having summoned the courage to disregard our fears and aim for the stars.
Knowing all of this, though, why do we still let our fears of failure dominate our lives? Here are a few possible reasons for it.
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Some people make it seem so easy; it’s almost like they were born entirely fearless. That, of course, is a simplistic explanation; there is no “courage” or “fear” gene. Everyone feels fear, though they may direct it at different channels and varying intensities.
The most successful ones among us aren’t fearless. They just don’t let fear stop them from taking risks and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone.
A prime example of this is Elon Musk. Despite being one of the most innovative entrepreneurs out there today, he has admitted to being afraid of failure in the past. The only difference, though, is that he’s more fearful of the costs of failing to innovate than he is of failing itself.
As Nelson Mandela once said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
How you frame your failures in your mind has a higher impact on your growth in the long run than the failure itself. If you see them as an indication of your deficiency, you’re likelier to treat it as a death sentence. In so doing, you let your understanding of failure take a heavier toll on you than the actual failure.
In the words of the Roman philosopher Seneca, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
Conversely, instead of taking it personally, some see failure as a mere bump in the long road to success. This makes it easier for them to dust themselves off and get back on track with a new game plan.
In other words, you have to stop seeing failure as a dead end. It’s merely a roadblock that calls for a diversion or a detour; it doesn’t completely obscure your destination from you.
If you’ve been kicked to the curb so many times, it’s understandably hard to cast off the baggage that comes with failure. Feeling inadequate and insecure is normal in the immediate aftermath of a defeat.
Holding on to these sentiments longer than necessary, though, can make them blend into a more debilitating perspective of victimisation. When you get stuck in a victim mentality, you’re removing your personal agency from yourself. In this state, it’s easier to blame others instead of taking charge of yourself and your situation.
You end up engaging in passive thinking and open yourself up to self-pity, which further poisons your negative self-perception. The result is someone who thinks of herself as powerless to effect change or make success happen on their terms.
For some people, the fear of failure is so great that they’ve convinced themselves that they’re better off leaving things as they are. They would rather put up with the status quo than navigate the frightful complexities of actually pursuing their dreams in the long run.
It comes down to not actually realising what they’re losing out on by allowing their fears to lord over them. As mentioned before, Elon Musk himself was afraid of failure, but his fear of stagnation was much higher—and that has made all of the difference for him.
So yes, if you don’t take that risk, you don’t need to plunge into the relative unknown. You also won’t need to stare down the barrel of your own insecurities and shortcomings. But in doing so, what are you willingly forfeiting by choosing to stay in your comfort zone, and by entertaining your fears of failure?