How to Fail Without Fear and Embrace the Lessons

How to Fail Without Fear

Failure can sting regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. It’s easy to feel discouraged in the face of it or feel it’s a sign that you should give up on trying to accomplish something. For many people, it can actually become a fear, holding them in place and preventing them from growing. People who fear failure sometimes allow their worry about what could happen to control them.

Having a fear of failure is surprisingly common. A 2018 Norwest Journey study explored this fear in CEOs and business founders, with an astonishing 90% self-reporting that failure is the primary concern they worry about at night. Despite admitting to having this fear, CEOs are no strangers to making decisions, pushing their companies forward, and even taking risks at times.

The truth is, the most successful people don’t balk away from failure, even when they worry about the results. Instead, they embrace it. Sure, failure is unpleasant and undesirable, but it’s also part of the human experience that everyone faces. Taking a look at failure from a different perspective can help you transform it from something terrifying into an opportunity.

Redefining Failure as a Learning Opportunity

When you look at failure in a negative light, it’s only natural that you’ll shy away from it. What the go-getters do when they fail, however, is look at it in a completely different light—as a learning opportunity. They’re experts at embracing failure for growth. When you attempt something that fails, you’ve just learned something; you know that something you tried isn’t working, and that’s a step in the right direction. Even famed inventor Thomas Edison discussed his numerous failed attempts at creating the light bulb in this light: “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Failure is far from defeat unless you let it determine you won’t try again. The ability to get back up and face failure with resilience and a willingness to try something new transforms failure into an opportunity for success and growth.

Shifting Perspective on Mistakes and Setbacks

Life is unpredictable, and that often comes with mistakes and setbacks. Even after a meticulous planning process, it’s always possible that something out of your control will happen. For example, if you order a certain set of supplies for a work project, it’s possible that supply chain issues could bring progress to a grinding halt. A mistake can have the same debilitating effect, sending you back to the beginning of the process.

It’s frustrating to run into these issues, but like failure, mistakes and setbacks bring lessons. More importantly, they bring the opportunity to self-reflect and identify where things went wrong. You have the opportunity to brainstorm solutions and ways to avoid running into those setbacks again in the future, which can help streamline your processes and grow your skills in any situation.

Rather than letting mistakes and setbacks get you down, look at them as a chance to improve yourself and your skills. While you may not be able to help setbacks out of your control, you can learn to create contingency plans and have alternative options available. Learning from your mistakes helps you to avoid repeating them in the future.

Extracting Lessons and Insights from Failures

Imagine you decide to attempt baking a cake from scratch for the first time. When it comes out of the oven, it’s sunken in the center, somehow burnt on the edges but still undercooked inside, and it tastes far too salty. You might be tempted to throw it away and never bake again, but that’s not the only option in front of you. Through self-reflection and identifying where things go wrong, you can begin learning positive lessons from setbacks by seeking insights from your failures.

Sometimes this is as simple as researching the failure. For example, you could review your cake recipe and notice that you set the oven’s temperature too high, over-mixed the batter, and added two tablespoons of salt instead of teaspoons. With a few simple corrections, your cake would, in theory, turn out much better.

In other cases, it could involve asking for help from a mentor or someone with more experience than you. By discussing the problem with someone well-versed in the issue you’re facing, you can gain valuable insight and advice to tackle the failure from an entirely new angle.

Cultivating Resilience and Adaptability

By far, resilience and adaptability are two of the most important skills everyone should hone. These build a mental fortitude to face any situation with the understanding that a solution exists, so long as you’re willing to keep trying until you find it. With these skills, you can endure the tests of failure and uncover the lessons and learning opportunities that come with it.

Resilience is best understood as the ability to handle and recover from stress and adversity, ideally learning during the process. Part of cultivating it is self-awareness and self-compassion. Understand what your skill levels are while also acknowledging that they’re not fixed. With practice and perseverance, you can grow and do just about anything you set your mind to.

Adaptability is the capability to adjust to changes in the environment or circumstances. This sort of flexibility allows for overcoming setbacks, especially when used in tandem with resilience because it allows individuals to see past the potential for failure. By recognizing that there could be more than one path or solution to a problem, adaptable people can often resourcefully achieve their goals. Be proactive when potential roadblocks loom on the horizon and keep a positive outlook as you tackle the challenges in your way.

Embracing a Growth Mindset for Continuous Improvement

As you redefine failure, choosing to learn from it and face it head-on with resilience and adaptability, you actively foster what’s known as a growth mindset. People with this mindset welcome challenges and tackle them head-on. Failure ceases to be a set of shackles weighing you down, instead helping you spring forward and develop as a person rather than holding you back. With a growth mindset, you recognize your abilities are not fixed; rather, they’re within your control to foster and grow.

Developing this habit requires you to change how you think and see the world. You have to stop seeing failure and challenges in a negative light. If you’re ready to make the change, here are some simple steps to begin transforming your mindset.

  • Change your inner dialogue: Your mindset begins with the language you use. Instead of ruminating on the what-ifs of failure, look at it as an opportunity. Talk about failure in a more positive light and identify all the silver linings to reduce the negative association. Try phrases like, “If I fail, I’ll be able to learn something new about the process,” or “If I fail, I’ve eliminated one more possible solution from my list and I’m one step closer to success.”
  • Disregard the doubt: Often, that little voice whispering what-ifs in your ear is trying to protect you from the effects of failure. You don’t have to listen to it. When doubt starts creeping in, remind yourself that you are capable of learning and growing from failure. Like coal pressed into diamonds, the pressure of failure helps you achieve your potential.
  • Push your limits: Being in a challenging situation can feel daunting if you typically stay within your comfort zone. Acclimate yourself to challenges by seeking new opportunities. Try new things regularly, even if you’re unsure you’ll like them, and be sure to keep trying a few times before deciding whether it’s an activity you’d like to continue.
  • Replace “can’t ever” with “not yet”: If something is tough, don’t get caught up in thinking you won’t ever be able to succeed. Instead, when you’re still learning, tell yourself you can’t do it yet. With enough practice, you can and will succeed as you learn and grow your skills.

Overcoming fear of failure is possible with the right tools and support. If it feels too big to overcome on your own, we’re here to help. Our team of counselors can provide you with compassionate support and guidance as you rework your mindset and learn to tackle failure head-on.