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OWNER'S MANUAL

5 Ways to Kick Your Fear of Failure

How to regain your motivation and determination on even the darkest days.

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Losses come in a variety of forms, but the worst thing we can lose is faith in ourselves: in our ideas, in our skills and talents, and in our willingness and ability to overcome challenges and achieve our dreams.

When you constantly try to achieve big things, some amount of failure is inevitable. So is the resulting loss of confidence and self assurance. The key is how you respond and how quickly you regain belief in yourself.

If you’re struggling to find motivation and determination:

Think critically about the worst that can happen. Most fears and almost all worries are groundless. Whenever risk is involved—and trying something new definitely involves risk—it’s easy to back away when you’re stewing in a pot of vague, indefinite concerns. But nothing I’ve ever tried has ever turned out as badly as I imagined it could. (And I’ve done some really stupid stuff.)

Say you quit a full-time job and open a retail store. What is the worst possible outcome? Oh, your business could fail, your savings could evaporate, and your family could be out on the streets, homeless, and destitute. Possible? Sure, but not at all likely. If your store struggles you will work harder and adapt your business model, and if that doesn’t work you’ll shut it down and get a job. Failing would hardly be ideal but failure is something you and your family can overcome. Back away from the edge, determine the more likely “worst” things that can happen, and then create plans to deal with those possibilities.

Worries are just possibilities you haven’t decided to face. When you don’t face them, you can’t control them.

Recognize you aren’t different—in a good way. Spend time with a person who is very successful in some field or pursuit; it doesn’t matter what. After a few minutes you’ll probably think, “Wait, this guy isn’t any smarter than me.”  After a few more minutes you’ll probably think, “Hey, I’m actually smarter than he is.” Success doesn’t require a high IQ or some special intangible quality that you don’t have. Successful people only become “special” after they succeed; before they put in all that time and effort they were just like everyone else. Spend time with a few successful people and you will realize you are just as capable of achieving great things.

Get a buddy. The average business owner lives in the land of “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” Entrepreneurs actively seek authority and responsibility, but going it alone doesn’t work well when the only person you can turn to when times are tough is yourself. You don’t need a business partner, but you do need someone you can occasionally lean on for emotional support. Finding a buddy is easy: Just ask a friend how she’s doing and listen, empathize, and offer a little support. When you’re the first to reach out, creating an informal support network is easy... and while you may never need your buddies, it inspires confidence to know they’re there.

Think about a time you succeeded. How did you feel about yourself? How did others feel about you? Bask in the glow. Remember the praise you received. Remember when you took a deep breath, nodded your head, and thought, “Wow, that was awesome.” You probably felt like you were almost floating. Hold on to that feeling. Then...

Think about a time you failed miserably. Think about how horrible you felt. Then promise yourself you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you never have to feel that way again.

And go get started.

IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Dec 7, 2011

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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