Tag Archive for: fear of failure

Want to make a difference? Don’t be afraid of losing your job

Economic crisis. Instability. Insecurity. Fear.

These are just some of the key words we’ve heard (and felt) in recent times. Naturally, being exposed to all of this reflects the fear of losing your job. It’s a natural fear. However, science knows that fear blocks risk, and in times of crisis perhaps what you most need to do is take risks: by being brutally honest with others and yourself about past decisions and their impact on the present and future; testing new ways to sell, relate or perform everyday tasks; and saying no to what is pleasurable but irrelevant.

The unemployment rate in Brazil stood at 11.2% in the quarter ended in May this year, the highest result in the historical series started in March 2012, according to the National Household Sample Survey (Pnad). Naturally, the fear of Brazilians of losing their jobs accompanies the numbers. In December 2015, this fear had grown by 36.8% compared to 2014, according to a survey by CNI (National Confederation of Industry). The phenomenon is not exclusive to Brazil. A survey published in January 2016 and conducted by the agency ICM Unlimited with 9,000 workers (16 to 25 years old) from countries such as Australia, South Africa, the United States, Brazil and also from Europe shows that 50% of these young people believe that their training it did not prepare them for the job market, which is reflected in the fear of stopping on the street.

Eager to explore this theme, we conducted a study on success, fears and values with approximately 200 people, mostly between 25 and 35 years old from the Southeast region of Brazil between June and July of this year. Among other concerns such as health and family problems, 46% of respondents associated their greatest fears with their professional life. In response to the question “What are you most afraid of?”, 25% associated it with stagnation and professional failure, 16% with instability or financial failure, and 5% directly mentioned unemployment. In contrast, 42% of respondents demonstrated a negative degree of career satisfaction (on a scale of 1 to 6, up to 3 points). Of this portion of dissatisfied people, 26% linked their fears to professional failure, 18% to financial issues and 4% to being unemployed. This same group of people stated that, if they were not afraid, they would take more risks such as traveling or leaving the country (32%), would change careers or open their own business (28%) and would hesitate less in their decisions and actions in general ( 22%). Basically, those most dissatisfied with their careers are the same ones who are most afraid of losing the career they don’t like. Curious, isn’t it?

Fear is part of the human essence and guarantees our survival in risky situations. It allows you to analyze scenarios and assess consequences, but it must be managed consciously. Practicing self-awareness and understanding our real fears is the starting point for identifying situations in which fear inhibits our actions at times when we should be guided by caution — fear is a primitive and often irrational response, while caution is rational and logical . By focusing our perceptions and energy on what we don’t want, we end up running away from our real essence and our dreams and enter a vicious cycle of failures.

It’s easy to criticize. But the fear of success is a problem that affects many people. In a study published in February of this year in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, Neureiter and Traut-Mattausch address the Impostor Syndrome, defined as the state of perceived intellectual and professional disability, despite evidence to the contrary. This condition affects approximately 70% of people at some point in their lives and is related to fear of failure and fear of success, as well as low self-esteem. The study points out that these feelings are proven to reduce career planning, ambition and motivation to lead.

Although a biological process, fear is not an insurmountable phenomenon. Our brain is in continuous evolution due to the experiences we live and, therefore, it is possible to reconfigure it (cerebral neuroplasticity phenomenon). This requires knowing your strengths and using them to gain self-confidence as your exposure to what you fear grows. The greater the exposure to conflicting and challenging situations, the easier it will be to face and overcome anxieties. The psychological foundation is in exposure therapy: exposing yourself gradually and repeatedly and, with a rational perspective, getting out of mental exercises like “oh if I had…” and actually living new experiences in a practical and visceral way. Afraid to fail? To change? From stepping out of the comfort zone? Not taking initiatives and defending yourself with shallow arguments is always the easiest way. However, if you don’t risk it, you certainly won’t know your limits and you won’t experience transformative experiences. Staying conformed and choosing to remain in “standby” will only make you stop embracing new opportunities and watch time pass without any initiative. Is this really your profile and how do you expect to trace your trajectory?

To answer this question, we suggest a simple and useful diagnostic exercise. Answer the questions: In the past year, how many times did I:

(1) Did I accept a wrong answer or poor work from my team and stay quiet so as not to “create a fuss”?

(2) Did I fail to give honest feedback to my boss and colleagues because I feared their reactions?

(3) Did I not position myself firmly and convincingly in a debate in which I dominated the subject in order to save energy and not confront?

(4) Was I not interested and determined to embrace a new project in the company for fear of failing and not delivering?

Difficult and uncertain times are great opportunities to review where we are coming from, where (in fact) we are and where we want to go. Of course, it’s not easy and help from colleagues and professional coaches can be welcome.

People who make a difference are dreamers and visionaries, but above all, courageous. Tracing a unique and non-linear trajectory in which we reach our maximum potential implies taking risks and escaping mediocrity. Don’t reduce your dreams out of fear. The failure of extremely daring goals is even more enriching than the success of mediocre dreams. Mistakes and failures are part of the learning process and a successful career. Change your mindset, have positive attitudes, work hard and take risks.

On fear of failure

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears,” wrote Les Brown. Fear is a natural human emotion that helps us stay alert and protected in dangerous situations. However, when fear becomes excessive, it can prevent us from living our lives to the fullest. It can hold us back from pursuing our dreams, taking risks, and experiencing new things. In this self-serving article, I would like to explore strategies for conquering fear and living a more fulfilling life, particularly the fear of failure, which can impact our lives by preventing us from following our hearts and achieving our full potential.

Conquering fear has been a major theme in my own life. Leaving my hometown of Florianópolis, Brazil, to explore the world with no money, learning new languages despite ridicule, and leaving comfortable career paths to find what truly makes me come alive, are all examples of how conquering fear has stretched my possibilities in unimaginable ways.

The fear of failure is a common and powerful fear that can hold us back from pursuing our goals and dreams. I have met many overachievers who have put several ambitious personal and professional projects on hold due to the fear of not being able to deliver on these new paths. However, science shows us that with the right mindset and strategies, we can learn to overcome this fear and achieve our full potential.

A learning opportunity

One of the first steps in overcoming the fear of failure is to change our perspective on what failure means. Instead of viewing failure as a negative outcome, we can reframe it as a learning opportunity. Every failure is an opportunity to grow and improve, and by embracing this mindset, we can reduce the power of our fear of failure. It is important to remember that everything that has been created in this world was created by people similar to you and me, and they all had to go through a learning process with very few getting it right on the first attempt.

Set realistic goals

Another effective strategy for overcoming the fear of failure is to set realistic goals and break them down into smaller, achievable steps. By focusing on incremental progress rather than perfection, we can reduce the pressure we put on ourselves and increase our confidence in our ability to succeed. Perfectionism is a powerful enemy if we want to design and execute new projects; the best path is to get it done little by little and then iterate and improve it, like in the Design Thinking process.

Revisit your beliefs

It can also be helpful to identify and challenge the underlying beliefs that contribute to our fear of failure. For example, we might have a belief that success is only achieved by those who are naturally talented or lucky. By challenging this belief and recognizing that hard work and perseverance are also key factors in success, we can reduce the power of our fear of failure. As Angela Duckworth has shown, grit is a major determinant of professional success. It is a matter of trying, iterating, learning, and doing it again and again.

Be kind to yourself

Practicing self-compassion is also important when dealing with the fear of failure. Rather than being overly critical of ourselves when we experience setbacks or failures, we can practice self-kindness and remind ourselves that everyone experiences failure at some point in their lives. For type A overachievers (like myself), it’s much easier to be kind to others than to ourselves, as our bars are always set high. However, by talking to others, changing contexts, and expanding one’s life through multiple genuine relationships, we gain perspective on what we’re trying to accomplish, allowing us to detach from perfectionism.

Share where you are heading to

Seeking support and accountability from others can be a powerful tool in overcoming the fear of failure. By sharing our goals and progress with a trusted friend, family member, or mentor, I have gained encouragement, guidance, and motivation to keep pushing forward even in the face of obstacles. I have three people in my life that I call my personal board of advisors, folks who are present to me when I need them and who ask me the right questions at the right time, making me accountable for my decisions and actions while encouraging me to go further.

Accept that life is short and the others’ opinions don’t matter

Lastly, I would like to recall some of the lessons from Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich states that “without fear, we are able to see more clearly our connections to others. Without fear, we have more room for understanding and compassion. Without fear, we are truly free”. When reflecting that most of our fear of failure is based on how others will judge us, I found helpful to highlight the five remembrances from Buddhism that Thich elaborates on his book “Fear”:

  1. I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape growing old.
  2. I am of the nature to have ill health. I cannot escape having ill health.
  3. I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape death.
  4. All that is dear to me, and everyone I love, are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
  5. I inherit the results of my acts of body, speech, and mind. My actions are my continuation.

Recognizing that life is short and that change is the only certainty, allows me to see life in perspective and to not care to how others will potentially judge me for a project that fails. Not caring about others’ opinions is a form of freedom, and the path to listen and be your authentic self.

In summary, conquering the fear of failure is essential to our evolution as human beings. Conquering fear is expanding our comfort zones, learning new things about ourselves, connecting to our authentic selves and allowing us to dream bigger and do more of what makes us unique. This, ultimately, is what the world needs: a community of people who are living their unique strengths, collaborating with each other and making the world a better place.