Have you ever had an awesome idea, but you didn’t tell anyone about it or take action because you were afraid of failing? I’ve been there, and I still catch myself occasionally trying to convince myself to stay small. But I’m able to move through it and take action despite the fear because I’ve redefined what failure means to me, and I decide over and over that it’s not something that will affect me long term.
This didn’t happen for me overnight. It took me years to figure this out on my own, and it’s still something I work on consistently. But it’s not just me, the bulk of the time I spend with my coaching clients is spent dismantling the fear of failure and redefining it. Since it is such a significant roadblock for many women I work with, I wanted to make an episode dedicated to it.
After you dive into this episode, you’ll know how to turn any failure into fuel so that you can bounce back quickly and not stay stuck in disappointment! If you’re using it as fuel, then your fear of failure will start to evaporate. Hell, you may even start to think about failure and mistakes as a good thing.
Let’s start with some truth.
Failure is Fuel Either Way
Do you want in on a surprise? The idea of using failure as fuel may sound new, but you’ve actually been doing it your entire life… Surprise! Okay, but serious talk now: you’re either using it to confirm negative bias about yourself or as rocket fuel to propel you forward.
The fear of failure happens when you make it mean something about you or add it to your identity. If you make failure mean bad, then every time you have a failure, you associate yourself with bad.
For example, if you already believed you’re a “bad” public speaker and stumble over your words on a Monday morning meeting, you’re using that “failure” as fuel for your negative belief about your public speaking. You’re unconsciously finding evidence to support the fact that you’re a “bad” public speaker.
Naturally, you’d start avoiding presenting at work, even though you have kick-ass ideas. You’d feed the fear of failure and knock your confidence at work.
Failure can be like coal or solar energy. Either you’re in a thick, dark smoke cloud that ruins your environment (a.k.a. your mindset), or clean, renewable energy leaving you with a clear head.
You get to decide what it’s fuel for because you’re driving your own car.
Switch from an emotional reaction to an objective/aligned action during and after failure.
The most important part of overcoming the fear of failure is to redefine it in a way that makes you willing to experience it. The definition of fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat“. If failure is something that you think that causes pain or is a threat, then no wonder why you don’t want to experience it!
Believing that failure is terrible keeps you safe, but it also keeps you right where you are. The quality of our lives is made up by the quality of our decisions. So, if you want to change the quality of your life or career, then you’ve got to decide to do things you’ve never done before. That means you’ll make a lot more mistakes than you’re used to, so instead of letting fear of failure stop you from trying, let’s talk about some strategies you can focus on to turn failure into fuel, both during and after.
During: Stay in tune with your body to see if you’re slipping into an emotional reaction. When you feel your body reacting, is your instinctual brain trying to keep you safe, so you’ve just to comfort it and remind it that you will be okay, even if everything goes to hell in a handbasket. You can remind yourself that no matter what happens, it is good for you, and there is meaning in it. As we talked about already, if you’ve been telling yourself that failure is bad and means pain, your brain will want to keep you from experiencing it.
But it’s your job to remind yourself that you’re stronger than an “unpleasant emotion“.
After: ask yourself high-grade questions. Getting over the fear of failure and using it for fuel happens with the questions you ask yourself. If I don’t catch myself mid-failure and check in with what my body is doing, I’ll start to spin in low-grade questions afterward. This is when I let myself spin in questions that make me feel worse as time goes on. Usually, they sound something like, “What if I never get over this?”. I call this a low-grade question because there’s usually no answer that will help move me forward.
High-grade questions, on the other hand, make you answer with useful and strategic answers. Like, “How to better move forward?” or “What was meaningful about this experience?”
Questions like these are the difference between staying stuck and coming up with a new strategy for moving forward.
Evaluate what happened from an objective & aligned place
I don’t know about you, but anytime I had a failure, AND I felt it didn’t help me accomplish my goals, I feel even worse than I would have if it were just failure. When this happens, it’s because I felt out of alignment. As in, the actions that I took didn’t align me with who I wanted to be or what I wanted to accomplish.
Reconnect with your higher self, makes sure your actions stay aligned with who you want to become. She is the version of you that has accomplished what you want to. You can think of her as your future self. She keeps you from spinning in questions that get you nowhere like, “Why bother?” and from falling into the negative self-talk.
In these types of moments where I really want to give in to the “Why bother?”s, I remind myself that self-pity makes the dream take longer to happen.
Thinking that a failure has no meaning and was ONLY bad for you doesn’t help you in any way. So, how do you find meaning in failure? You evaluate your actions, here’s how:
What worked? What didn’t work? What will I do differently?
It’s as simple as asking yourself these three simple questions.
The beauty in asking yourself this is that you always know what to do next, and you’re never stuck. Not to mention that you always know you’re improving. This is important for self-empowerment, too. When you know there’s an action that you can take to improve; you feel empowered to do it.
One last bonus question to ask yourself that will help eliminate the fear of failure.. How this failure helps you become your higher self and achieve your dreams.
Make yourself answer this question. THIS question the central part of turning failure into fuel. It keeps you going no matter who or what may be in your way. The answer to this changes failure from something that you should avoid at all costs, to something that is happening for you.
The Big Picture
Overcoming the fear of failure can sound like a massive and overwhelming undertaking when you don’t have a strategy. But with asking yourself the right questions like we talked about here and redefining what failure means to you, you’ll start to be able to use it as fuel. This isn’t an overnight process, and it certainly isn’t easy, but it can be simple.
As you go through this process, you’ve just got to remind yourself that you’re worth the investment of time that it will take to retrain your brain to think like this. If you’re willing to put in the time to challenge the way you think about failure, eventually, you won’t have as many compelling reasons to fear it.
If you want to make this process much faster and smoother, then schedule a 1-on-1 discovery call with me. In this hour-long call, it’s 100% devoted to you, your dreams, and removing the obstacles in your way of making it happen. (Spoiler alert: a lot of the obstacles are fear of failure, and becoming aware of how your definitions of your abilities! It’s hard to see for yourself, which is why having a coach point them out is incredibly helpful). Schedule your free call here.
Also, if you listen to this as a Monica Chats podcast episode, I would LOVE if you could take two minutes to leave a review of the show on Apple Podcasts. If you do, make sure to leave your Instagram handle and I’ll DM you the link to my new Finding Motivation Everyday comprehensive course for free! This course covers why it’s been challenging, how to overcome the main block in your way, and the three strategies for long-lasting motivation.