How to deal with fear of failure

How to deal with fear of failure

– Henry Ford: failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently
– fear of failure is universal across cultures – running from it is understandable because failure has a lot of negative connotations plus it feels bad
– failure can mean not “topping” a subject / test / assignment & yet logically, this is not a “fail” – failure in this sense is not living up to expectations a person had set for themselves (and this can also be learned &/or reinforced in the home environment
– note: perceptions can change – with understanding of the concept failure – realising it can help a person to innovate – to understand that failure is feedback (in its purest form) – it is assistance, guidance – it is often necessary for creativity, innovation & success – it is feedback which can tell you that you have not learned enough, that you may need to focus upon a particular area
– another perception at the time is that “failure” is incredibly personal – as if somehow unique to a person – as if it is a reflection of them as a person – their self-worth – remember, it is not – that is just a (untrue) perception of being “dumb, lazy, unworthy, unmotivated, not good enough etc.,”
– anxiety regarding fear of failure is often based around shame, being mocked, being judged as unworthy – in other words a lot of negative social evaluation
– fear of failure can also come from being “out of your comfort zone”/ being in an unfamiliar situation
– the big question to ask yourself: are you taking the fear of failure personally or seeing it as a fundamental & necessary part of life
– if you take the fear of failure personally, you learn ways to “protect” yourself which work in the short-term, but which work against you in the medium to longer term
– such ways of protecting ourselves include:
– being a perfectionist – only trying/doing things we know we can do/will work – as a result there is not much learning or growth
[note: when a person is labelled “gifted”/”exceptional”, they have a lot of expectations placed on them & dealing with failure is difficult; further many such gifted students have never found themselves particularly challenged by school & have never had to learn resilience – this is further reinforced by “helicopter parenting” or a parent who is over-protective]
– research suggests that often helping the child involves helping the parent cope with their own feelings with respect to learning, failure etc.,
– denying that mistakes have been made – they are never wrong
REMEMBER: failure – in and of itself – is not valuable unless you are open to learning from it – but it must be timely – study is about eliminating what you cannot do – that is learning so there are less & less things you cannot do.

1 – James Dyson – CEO of Dyson Vacumes – he says:
– the inventor’s life is one of failure – there were over 5000 versions of the Vacumes before he got it right
– he believes school children should be marked by the number of failures they have had (learning from what they are doing)
– if you want to discover something that other people have not, you need to learn from doing things the wrong way – watching something fail, & learning why can take you on a completely new path
– solving problems is what he is about
2 – famous US choreographer
– all real change involves failure
– perfectionism – ultimately is stagnation – or in another way – failure by erosion over time (because there is no growth/learning)
– she says her ratio of material developed & then used is 6:1 – which means there is a significan amount of failure because 5/6 (83.33%) of the material is not used
– she says she needs that amount of failure to get something right
[could this be applied in the context of students – with respect to assignments & learning]

James Hunt – there are 6 types of failure
1) abject failure – large scale – which effect many people, their lives, the environment
– it marks you & you may never fully recover from it
2) structural failure
– it hurts at the time, but it doesn’t cripple you nor does it impact your identity or enterprise in the long term
– e.g. Apple iPhone 4 and the antenna – signal loss when phone was held in a particular way
3) a glorious failure
– it is catastrophic but exhilarating
– e.g. The Jamaican Bobsled team
4) a common failure
– everyday instances of mistakes that are not too difficult to recover from
– e.g. Oversleeping; missing a meeting at work; being late for a pickup; over-cooking food;
5) version failure
– small failures that lead to incremental improvement over time
– e.g. The Linux operating system; evolution
6) predicted failure
– an essential part of learning – you need to see what is necessary to refine it
– e.g. Prototypes

– remember: what is the meaning we are putting on failure?
– to manage it, we need to re-frame – in other words, we need to put another mean on the word &/or use another word

Source: Study Samurai Podcast | 07 August 2013


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