The five fears that hold you back – failure

If you have a dream or a goal you’ve been mulling over for a while but not done anything about, what’s stopping you? Are you so scared of failing that you don’t even try? And how can you get past a fear of failure?

Do you have doubts about achieving your goal? Are you anxious about taking the first (or next) steps to achieving it? Or are you procrastinating – simply not taking action to get what you dream of?

Often when we fail to work successfully towards our goals, we’re held back by one or more fears. Over the next five weeks, career management coach and corporate trainer Jane Jackson looks at the five biggest fears that stop us from achieving our dreams, and shows you how you can overcome them.

Don’t let your fears stop you

It’s quite normal to feel scared from time to time – especially if you’re taking a bold step in a new direction. But when you let your fears stop you or control your decisions, you could well fall short of your full potential.

Of course, I’m not talking about rational (and quite healthy) fears of things like poisonous snakes, fire or violent situations. Instead I’m referring to the fears inside your own head – often ones based on misconceptions or limiting personal beliefs – that are preventing you from creating the life you want to live.

Is your goal the right one for you?

Before discussing the fears that are holding you back, let’s make sure that what you want, your dream or goal, is what you REALLY want for yourself. If you want something because of someone else, then maybe you’re not taking action because you don’t really want it at all.

So have a think now. What do you want, and why? Do you want to achieve something because your manager, shareholders, parents, partner, peers or children want you to do it? Or because you think it’s the ‘right’ thing to do?

If a goal isn’t in line with your values, passions and personal ambition, you’ll find it much harder to muster up the energy, enthusiasm and initiative to make a real success of it. And even sometimes to get started. 

The five big fears that hold us back

But if you’ve analysed your goal and are confident it’s absolutely the right thing for you to do, and are desperate to achieve it but just can’t get started, maybe it’s time to look at the big five fears that could be sabotaging your success. These are:

  • Fear of failure.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Fear of success.
  • Fear of not being good enough.
  • Fear of being alone.

Over the next five weeks we’ll tackle each of these fears – looking at why they may be stopping you, and how you can move past them to work successfully towards your goal.

How a fear of failure holds us back

A fear of failure is understandably common – you hesitate to take action because you worry that it may not work out, and instead of getting what you want, you could be worse off, or feel (or look) like an idiot for trying. 

So instead of speaking to your boss about an overdue raise, applying for a new job that sounds perfect for you or offering to take on additional responsibility, you do nothing – and stay exactly where you are now.

And to make yourself feel better about your lack of action, you tell yourself that it’s not a good time now, or when ‘something’ happens then it will be the right time. 

There’s no such thing as failure

But if you don’t take a risk at some point, how will you ever progress towards what you want? Simply waiting for the ‘right’ moment or situation may just leave you stuck where you are now forever. (And feeling frustrated when you watch other people move past you or achieve the goals you yourself desire.)

So instead of focusing on what can go wrong, instead consider this statement:

There is no such thing as failure. Only feedback.

It’s true that you won’t get everything you want the first time you reach for it. Few people do. But instead of giving up, you simply learn from the experience, and reassess the situation. What could you have done differently or better to achieve a different outcome? 

Prepare yourself to succeed – eventually

It can help to rationally consider all possible options when thinking about your next step – instead of simply fearing the worst-case scenario.

What could happen if it goes well? And if it doesn’t? What’s the worst possible outcome, and how would you handle it if it happened? Having a plan B for every scenario can give you the courage to reach out.

And when you are confident you are fully prepared, just go and do it! You may be lucky and get what you want the first time you ask or try. And if you’re not, you’re clear on your next steps. You’ll learn from the experience and continue to work towards the goal that you desire – confident that you’ll get there sooner or later.

Ending on a positive note

If you look around you, the world is full of stories of people who took risks that paid off, all because they were able to get past their fear of failure (you can read here how Hannah Martin from Talented Ladies Club launched a successful career as an advertising copywriter with no skills or experience).

And you can too! All it takes is some courage and planning.

I want to end this article with a wonderful quote by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov that I hope inspires you as much as it does me:

“One must be a god to be able to tell successes from failures without making a mistake.”

Next week I’ll be tackling the second of the five fears that hold us back – rejection.

Jane Jackson is a career management coach and corporate trainer specialising in building the confidence of executives who have experienced a redundancy or are at a crossroads in their careers. Her 7 Step C.A.R.E.E.R.S. programme, addresses all of these mistakes.