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How to overcome your fear of failure by embracing uncertainty

Knowing what you want is only one piece of the puzzle. Moving in that direction is an entirely different thing.

Knowing what you want is only one piece of the puzzle. Moving in that direction is an entirely different thing. In my experience, many people share their reasons for not making that move towards what they want and a lot of them assume that it’s because they're afraid of failure.

But, when we take a moment to really think about what failing to execute a specific goal will look like, it's usually not that scary at all. Are we really afraid of someone saying no? Are we really afraid of what people will think or say about us? I don’t think fear of failure is the problem at all – it's uncertainty.

So, isn’t it time we get comfortable with being uncomfortable?

Before we even know what failure looks like in any given situation, we must get acquainted and (eventually) become comfortable with the idea that we won't know everything upfront. We won't know all the steps between 1 and 100 and can't expect things to work out exactly as we have planned.

However, instead of taking the necessary steps to face this uncertainty, we often stay stuck in research, thinking about things, or talking to people about what we want to do or this goal we have. These sneaky, passive activities can feel necessary, but they quickly become a way to hide. Eventually, you need to shift into a more active, admittedly uncertain phase of actual doing.

Make Progress Towards the Goal

Making this shift requires us to forward progress a goal unto itself. For example, you commit to yourself to completing 10 actions. You evaluate your success only on whether those 10 were done – not the result. After doing 10 things, you'll be armed with better information on what 10 to do next. The best way to learn is by doing.

You also need built-in accountability systems. For me, this is telling a colleague what I plan to do. I make a specific commitment with a due date. Because I like to be known for keeping my word, I'll do about anything to deliver. Everyone is different, so find what works for you and use it to your advantage.

Decide the Value of the Experience for Yourself

While uncertain, you can increase your confidence by deciding what this experience will mean to you ahead of time – no matter the results. This helps determine the value of lessons learned and which will inform your next steps. Once you visualise what you have to gain, it’s also a great motivation to keep going.

In summary, we avoid taking action not because we're afraid of failure but because we don't know how to manage uncertainty. Once we understand and acknowledge that failure is not truly dangerous, it's preferable to uncertainty. Because when you fail, it means you followed through and tried something. From there, it's just a learning experience. We have a definite answer and new information on where to go.

‍You decide when to adjust and re-plan, and you decide when to quit. Don’t fear uncertainty. Set clear goals and fail frequently. Failing is the fastest road to success.


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