Every entrepreneur I know is afraid of failure. It’s human nature. When we go outside of our comfort zone, we feel scared. As entrepreneurs, our ego and identity become so wrapped up in what we are doing, that when things do not go as we expect, we can literally feel like we are going to die.
How can you learn to use failure to your advantage, rather than dreading it? Here are five proven strategies to move through your fear of failure:
Reframe Your Goals
First, reframe failure by shifting your goals. Expand your goal to include learning something new and you will never technically “fail” because there is always something to be learned.
For example, instead of having a very specific goal like “Earn at least $100,000 from this new product launch,” expand your goal to include “Learn something new about how to successfully launch a product”. You can still target $100,000 in revenue, while at the same time anchoring yourself to the goal of learning something of value about launching a new product. This way, you cannot “fail” because regardless of the outcome, you are bound to learn something of value.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, asked two groups of college students to write about what lay in store for the coming week. One group was asked to imagine that the week would be great. The other group was just asked to write down any thoughts about the week that came to mind.
The students who were asked to imagine the week would be great reported feeling less energized and went on to accomplish less during the week than the control group.
Positive thinking alone is not enough. Research has shown that the best outcomes are created when we balance positive thinking with visualizing the future obstacles and struggles we will encounter.
Think of a situation in which you are afraid of failure. Visualize yourself now hitting an obstacle, allow yourself to feel the fear, and then see yourself moving forward. Next, spend a few minutes planning how to overcome whatever obstacles may stand in your way. Then see yourself succeeding despite these obstacles.
Uncover Your Story
When we take failure very personally, we are always – always – associating the failure with a bigger story about ourselves. We are taking the failure to mean “I am not good enough”, “I will never be successful as an entrepreneur”, “My team is awful”, etc.
When you feel very upset about a specific failure, ask yourself “Hmmm, what is the belief I have about this situation?” See if you can uncover the big, hairy exaggerated story you are telling yourself about this particular failure. Try to separate the story from the facts. Facts: Product launch generated $20,000 of revenue as compared to goal of $100,000. Story: My father was right, I’ll never make it on my own. I’m a loser.
Once you uncover the story, notice that it is just that. A story. And see if you can re-write it by creating a more positive response such as “I’m willing to take risks, I learn from my mistakes and move on.”
Ask Three Powerful Questions
The best response to perceived failure is to ask oneself these three powerful questions:
1) What did I learn from this situation?
2) How can I grow as a person from this experience?
3) What are three positive things about this situation?
When you first attempt to list three positive things about the “failure”, your mind may be very resistant. But if you stick with the exercise, before you know it, you will see a new opportunity that can come out of this “failure.”
For example, you might think; “Well, losing my biggest client gives me time to focus on my smaller clients and sell more to them. And I will also have more time to chase after that other potential new client. And I learned that my product demo needs to be improved, so I can make changes before targeting this new client.”
Surrender and Feel The Fear
Many of us allow fear to paralyze us because we don’t like feeling fear. But if you simply allow yourself to feel the fear when it shows up, you will notice that it quickly dissipates and suddenly the situation feels more manageable.
The next time you notice yourself getting stressed out or feeling afraid of something not working out, sit quietly by yourself, set your timer for two minutes and start taking deep breaths. Notice where you feel tightness or tension in your body, and simply breathe into that area for the two minutes. When the timer goes off after two minutes, chances are the feelings will have shifted. The more you do this, the more you will trigger your body’s natural calm response and you will move through fear with greater ease.