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Fear of failure: is it crippling you?

I’m often asked by HR peers working in large businesses whether I was hesitant to open my own consultancy. They occasionally point out Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing more than 60 per cent of small businesses cease operations within their first three years.

The question I commonly hear is some variation around “fear of failure”: was I concerned my venture might not work out?

Short answer? No.

But it started me thinking: we’re surrounded by worry, fear and negativity. The media is full of stories on business collapse, societal chaos and increasing anxiety conditions across all ages. And as a person running a business, it’s hard not to be influenced by this…to fall into the habit of sticking with what you know and being hesitant to try new things.

So…here’s some food for thought around fear and failure. Much of the following is random samples from readings I’ve collected over the years, interspersed with my own musings. Most are simple concepts…and that appeals to me (draw your own conclusions from that). I share these in the hope some may resonate with you and encourage you to try something new today.

In most cases, fear is the primary thing that keeps us from trying new things. We’re afraid of the investment, consequences and worst-case scenarios: what if I don’t like it? What if it doesn’t work? What will people think?

Everyone hates to fail, but for some people, failing presents such a significant psychological threat their motivation to avoid failure exceeds their motivation to succeed. This fear of failure causes them to unconsciously sabotage their chances of success, in a variety of ways. Their default position is fear.

One psychological theory says when you avoid something that scares you, you tend to experience a sense of failure. Every time you avoid the feared object or situation, your anxiety gains strength while you lose some of your own. So avoiding anxiety maintains and magnifies it…the classic lose/lose. The answer? Exposure. Exposure is by far the most potent medicine known to psychology. In facing the scenario, your anxiety lessens and your fears decrease.

Some level of fear is always present when trying something new but you’ll soon realise that your mind has a tendency to exaggerate things. How much of the “huge drama” of two weeks ago is still an issue today? Eventually, once you make it a habit to try new things, fear will cease to be a crippling factor for you. Instead, you’ll see fear as a minor speed bump that stands between you and some new and valuable experience.

Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger – if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason.

Whenever I’m confronted with an opportunity to try something new I ask myself: “what’s the worst that can happen?” If the answer is “not much”, that’s as good as a green light to me. Hence my approach to Bare Bones Consulting.

Like to try something new for your business? How about taking the first step to ensure each person on your team operates at optimal capacity for longer? That’s dollars in your pocket. And it’s not that hard or expensive.

Check out how easy it can be here: what’s the worst that can happen?

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