Man on top of mountain

Face your fears.

One of the biggest obstacles we all face is a fear of failure. No matter how talented, intelligent, and capable you are, there’s at least one thing you avoid because it doesn’t come naturally for you. After all, if you’re not going to be good at it, why bother, right? From deciding not to apply for that perfect job opening to avoiding trying a new skill or hobby, you’ve let opportunities pass you by because you don’t want to risk rejection or a less than perfect outcome. But it’s a fresh, new year and there’s no better time to face your fear. Take a deep breath, clear your mind, and check out these four tips to help you toss your fear of failure in the trash and start on a different road toward success.

Figure out why you’re afraid.

More than likely, you’re not afraid of failing just because. There’s a reason behind the fear that holds you back from pursuing something you’re passionate about. Understanding what you’re really afraid of will help you take the steps you need to overcome it.

Do you fear failing at something because you think that that will prove to the world that you’re “not good enough”? Or do you hesitate to try something you’re really interested in because you worry that it won’t live up to expectations and you’ve been dreaming about something foolish for years? Your fear of failure may come from a completely different place altogether, but the actions you can take to tackle those negative thoughts are similar.

scared girl

Instead of shying away from doing something you may fail at, remind yourself that failure is not forever. If you’re stuck at a standstill because you think “I’m just not good enough,” make a mental list of all the things you are good at. One — or even fifty — less than perfect moments do not define you.

Redefine failure.

Failure is a harsh word. It never means anything good, so why wouldn’t you fear it? With a heavy word like that standing in your way, the goals that were challenging seem nearly impossible. Instead of letting the worry you’ll fail be a roadblock to your success, look at it in a new way. Failure isn’t a lack of success, but rather a lack of success the first time.

Those who eventually find great success often are those who’ve failed a lot and learned from that failure. Need to get inspired to take a risk? From Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Seuss to Oprah Winfrey, some of the most famous people failed and kept trying until they reached their goals.

dictionary definition of focus

If you’re about to start a new, slightly rockier road forward, think of failure like wildly successful people do: as part of the learning process. If you failed an exam or didn’t meet certain expectations on something, go back and ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What did I do wrong?
  2. What did I do right?
  3. What have I learned?
  4. How am I going to use what I’ve learned?

Use those answers to inform how you approach that same task again, or even the tasks you have ahead of you. If you didn’t take your time to study a particularly difficult section of your textbook before taking an exam, but you did take good notes, you’ve learned that you should give yourself more time to study before the next test. And keep this in mind: you’ve only truly failed at something when you stop learning and give up.

Concentrate on the reward, not the risk.

When you’re considering taking a class you’re interested in or applying for a new job, the worry that you will fail is always on the top of your mind. Your brain is working out the various things that can go wrong in an attempt to prepare you to address them. But instead of feeling ready to take on anything in your way, focusing on the possibility of failure almost sets you up for a guaranteed loss. You are so focused on the negative and the what-ifs you don’t remember what made you want to start down this path in the first place.

successful entrpeneurs

Before deciding that you can’t do something because you know you’ll just fail anyway, take a minute to consider what would happen if you don’t fail. If you finish the Veterinary Technician Degree Program despite being afraid you couldn’t handle the math or science classes, you’ll be able to start a career you’ve dreamed of since you were a kid. You can save animals! And let’s not forget all the doggos and cats you’ll befriend on the job. These are all good things that can happen because you worked through your fear.

If you’re not confident that you can overcome the fear of failure that holds you back or you aren’t sure how to concentrate on the end goal with so many obstacles in your way, try this trick:

Write down all the reasons you think you can’t do something, whether that’s something like “time” or “I hate math.” Get every possible thing that worries you out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Then think about what it would be like if you didn’t fail. What will happen if you reach your goal? Write down all those positive things that have you dreaming of doing something new. It could be a new job, a promotion, a friendship, anything that makes you excited for the challenge. Whatever it is, remember it! When you’re feeling unsteady or considering quitting something before you fail at it, pull out that piece of paper and remember what you’re working toward.

Remember that you are not alone.

Failing can be embarrassing. You don’t want the people in your life to think less of you. You want them to think you can do anything you set your mind to. Learning a new skill or challenging yourself to complete something you’re not immediately excellent at can damage your reputation with them. At least, that’s what the fear and nerves tell you.

4 friends watching the sunset together

The truth? The people in your life who care about you do think you can do anything you set your mind to. They’ll think that even if you work really hard and still fail. They’re there for you and they want to help you succeed. When you’re afraid you’re going to fail, reach out to them. They want to support you and support your dreams, just like you would do for them. Your classmates and coworkers probably feel the same way. They’re afraid, too, but they still want to lift you up. If you’re feeling stuck and unable to move past the fear holding you in place, try reaching out to your peers through LinkedIn or Penn Foster Facebook for advice and encouragement.

Challenge your doubts.

Your friends and family are there to cheer you on and boost you up when you’re working through tough obstacles to complete a goal and so are we. At Penn Foster, we believe that if you’re determined, if you use the resources available like the digital library, the Writer’s Block, and more, you can absolutely accomplish what you set out to do. You’ve got hundreds of people cheering you on and hoping to help you succeed, even if you never meet all of them. This year, sign up for a course that interests you, even if it’s one you’ve feared in the past. Start a project you’re not sure you’re able to do. Ask for help when you need it and know that it’s okay to be afraid. You’ll be an even stronger person after you push through your fear of failure and realize...

You’ve got this.