There are many things people are afraid of.

  • Acro-phobia is the fear of heights
  • Agora-phobia is the fear of crowded spaces
  • Astro-phobia is the fear of thunder and lightning

Each of these fears can hold us back. For example, a fear of flying (which is known as aero-phobia) would prevent you from visiting some of the amazing far-away lands across the globe, or even easily seeing your family if they lived far away. 

To reach your full potential, you need to conquer your fears. One of the biggest fears I see – and one that can impact your professional growth and the growth of your company – is the fear of failure. This fear is especially diabolical since the fear itself prevents the sufferer from even trying new things. 

Some of the indicators that you have a fear of failure include:

  • You tend to tell people beforehand that you don’t expect to succeed in order to lower their expectations.
  • You get distracted or procrastinate and “run out of time” to complete preparation for tasks.
  • You worry about how smart or capable you are.
  • And once you fail at something, you have trouble imagining what you could have done differently to succeed.

In business, we need to confront this fear. For employees to deliver results, they need to – among other things – provide productivity, profitability, and innovation. All three of these are difficult if not impossible if you are sabotaging yourself with a fear of failure.

Some practical fixes for overcoming failure-oriented anxiety:

  • Baby-steps approach. Just like acclimatizing your body to an allergy, you can take small steps and build your confidence with small victories. In all things, there are aspects that are well in your control. So, focus on these first.
  • Root-cause approach. This is what therapy does. It tries to locate the real reasons for the fear. Deep in your psyche there is a feeling or an event or a memory that is holding you back. A root-cause approach will have you “own the fear”. This means that you embrace the fact that failure leads to fear and shame. Finding people with whom you can speak openly about this leads to a healthy resolution instead of sabotage.
  • Big bang approach. Sometimes you just need to jump in headfirst. Before Chuck Yeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier, he did all kinds of prep and testing. But when it came to the actual event, there was no way to know if he’d be safe. Chuck surely was afraid, but he bounded headlong into that fear. 

I don’t know what you’re afraid of or what the fear of failure is preventing you from achieving. But I do know that fear can hold us back from many things. Conquer your fears. Even if you do fail in a situation, failure will make you stronger. Learn from your failures. Embrace them.