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6 Strategies to overcome the fear of failure as a leader

6 Strategies to overcome the fear of failure as a leader
Bitrix24 Team
April 28, 2022
Last updated: April 28, 2022

Taking time for introspection

You can’t overcome fear unless you know where it comes from.

This step will take a lot of patience and honest self-analysis, but without identifying the root causes, you are very likely to continue falling into the same traps. If you seriously want to work on yourself, your introspection sessions have to be a priority. 

Therefore, try adding a recurring event on your work calendar, with an urgent tag to remind you of its importance. To paraphrase a Zen proverb: “If you don’t have time to meditate for an hour everyday, you should meditate for two hours.” 

Mindfulness

One of the buzzwords of the past few years, mindfulness is one of the best strategies to overcome fear as a leader. It’s incredibly effective too, to the point that an increasing number of companies are offering free sessions to their teams. In the context of how to overcome fear of failure in business, mindfulness can first and foremost be used to calm your mind.

From a state of peace, you can think in a deep and non-judgemental way about the causes behind your feelings of fear. But that’s not all. There are all kinds of secondary benefits to mindfulness, including:
  • Controlling your response to stress
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Using your fear to your advantage
  • Accepting yourself Improved professional relationships
When you’ve identified your root causes, you can think of ways to counteract them. For example, one of the most common mentalities that lead to fearing failure is an overbearing sense of perfectionism.

Leaders worldwide have answered the conundrum of how to overcome fear of failure in business by using Voltaire’s aphorism “perfect is the enemy of good”. By changing your perspective in this way, you can start to prioritize productivity over perfection. 

Identify your red flags

Having reflected on the causes, you’ve already taken a great step forward.

However, if you want to know how to overcome fear of failure in business, you need to recognize the fear. Start by noticing patterns you fall into when the fear arises.

These patterns can be physical or behavioral, and typically include:

Procrastination

When you find yourself getting distracted from your task, think about whether it feels too daunting.

Missing deadlines through a lack of satisfaction in work

Similar to procrastination, people who fear failure often focus on getting things perfectly right. This causes a rise in stress, a drop in cognitive ability, and inevitable missed deadlines. 

Negative self-talk

If you find yourself predicting your own failure, or telling yourself you aren’t worthy for a project or role, you’re experiencing negative self-talk. 

Underselling yourself to avoid high expectations

If you find yourself sharing your negative self-talk with others because you feel you aren’t qualified or capable of new opportunities, it might be because you feel expectations are too high. 

Focusing on negative consequences

You’ve just received a task, what is your first thought? If it is something along the lines of “I’ll never make that deadline” or “I don’t even know where to start”, you focus on negative consequences. 

Anxiety when given a task

If you suffer from anxiety when you are assigned a job, you’ll know exactly what this feels like.

Anxiety is a physical and mental feeling of panic and stress at a given situation. Once you’re confident enough to identify the tell-tale signs, you need to develop active strategies to overcome fear as a leader in your working life.

The next four points will detail actions you can take to switch your instinctive negative feelings for positive ones. 


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Visualize success and failure before you start a project

It’s human nature to be scared of the unknown, and for good reason.

Our ancient ancestors who ventured into strange new lands were often met with dangers they didn’t know how to defend against. But us humans also have a powerful skill that can help us overcome a fear of the unknown:our imagination.

When the warning signs of anxiety arrive, take a moment to go through the following steps, and you’ll shrink your fear of the unknown.
  • Think about what success looks like for you
  • Go backwards through the steps needed to reach your version of success
  • Make a note of the milestones you need to achieve along the way
  • Make a note of the potential stumbling blocks on your journey
  • Write up contingency plans for every obstacle in your project 

Using the right tools

When creating your plan, make sure to write it down. Project management tools are excellent in this regard as you can clearly see the steps you need to take toward success.

You can map out the time needed for each task and break large projects down into smaller, more manageable tasks. By following this process, you remove worries from the frantic chatter in your mind and turn them into a constructive plan instead.

 Visualization, in essence, hands the reins of control from your emotional reactions that thrive on fear and adrenaline to your rational thoughts. By using visualization as a method of how to overcome fear of failure in business, you can free yourself from paralyzing thoughts and begin your projects with confidence. 

Accept that you can’t control everything

As the ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Whether those shots end up in the bleachers or the back of the net is a secondary concern. So many missed opportunities are due to leaders thinking about all the possible things that can go wrong and letting them overwhelm what is in essence a good idea.

A key strategy in how to overcome fear of failure in business is to accept that you can’t control everything. By focusing on what you can control, you reduce your scope to the tools and resources you have in front of you.

There is a common misconception that this mentality is short-sighted and shows a dereliction of duty. But in reality, you can be well aware of all of the things that can go wrong, and carry on regardless. There is no situation where you have full control over every aspect of your work, but what you can control is the effect your concerns have on you.

It’s quite easy to practice this mentality. Start on the small scale — go ahead with the barbecue even if the forecast says it might rain. Throwing yourself in at the deep end like this not only helps you beat the fear, but you learn how to react when things don’t go according to plan. Set up a contingency plan with a gazebo to keep people dry and you’ll have taken one step in how to overcome fear of failure in business and in your private life. 

Accommodate the art of positive thinking

Everybody knows somebody who seems to sail through life with no problems at all. Their good luck is an illusion. Everybody faces issues in their daily lives, it’s how they perceive those issues that makes all the difference. 

Lucky for you, it isn’t something innate. You can learn to change your perspective on life through practice. Staying with the barbecue metaphor, if it does start raining, focus on the fact that you’ve still got people together in a social setting. Yes, the grill is cold and wet, but you can quite easily turn a failed barbecue into an indoors board game session. 

Positive thinking appears in all the self-help guides on how to overcome fear of failure in business and in life. All it takes is a moment to stop, breathe, and focus on what is going well, rather than what is going badly. 

Practicing positive thinking

Positive thinking as a strategy of how to overcome fear of failure in business isn’t something you’ll learn overnight, but there are methods to follow to help you on your way. 

Expressing gratitude

While it might sound cliché, spend a minute or two each day to write down what you are grateful for. 

The physical act of writing helps you concentrate more and gives you a written account that you can refer back to later. This helps to switch your perspective and, with practice, will become your natural way of thinking. 

Build positive habits

We’ve all had those days when nothing seems to be going to plan. But you can control what you do at the start of the day.

Getting out of the house every morning is an example of a positive habit that is enjoyable and easy. Remote leaders can seriously benefit from this as it is a break from the home office. 

Spend time with positive people

Just like negative self-talk can have a major impact on your outlook, if those around you breed negativity, you will absorb some of that too.

But it works the other way around too. By spending time with positive people, you can improve your self-esteem and feel more confident. 

Prove your progress with challenging, but realistic goals

If you’re prone to negative thinking, you create a feedback loop that ends up confirming your thoughts.

To break that routine, you need to prove your worth. And, with practice, you will reverse the stories you’ve been telling yourself and start focusing on the positive.

At the beginning, you should keep your challenges small. Old habits die hard and you have a lot of rewiring to do in your brain before you get into the rhythm of successful thoughts. Before setting yourself challenges, make sure you are familiar with the previous five points from this list. They will be your guide throughout the process. 

Be mindful about how you set and work towards your goals

As we’ve mentioned, when thinking about how to overcome fear of failure in business, one of the most important factors is the visualization of the steps to success. To give yourself the best chance, use SMART goals (specific, measured, achievable, relevant, time-bound), both for the overall objective as well as for the smaller steps that take you on your way.

In the beginning, you’re going to feel the same old feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. However, now you can use your positive thinking to focus on the progress you’ve made so far, not the progress yet to make.

If one of your red flags is procrastination, by being mindfully aware of it, you can accept it and get back to work, instead of letting it consume you. On the other hand, if you feel a deadline rushing up to you, focus on getting the job done, rather than spending your time polishing every aspect. 

By practicing your new strategies to overcome fear as a leader, you will develop your sense of competence. All of us feel imposter syndrome at some point or another, but once you start being consistent with your success, your feelings of not belonging will gradually fade away. 

Start turning you career around today

Now you’ve got a good idea of how to overcome fear of failure in business, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice.
But you don’t need to take on this journey alone. 

Bitrix24 gives you a full range of business tools, putting a lot more things within your control. You can plan out your daily schedule on your calendar, write down your fear triggers on a private document, and meticulously lay out your plan of action for every future project you work on. 

So if you’re looking for a platform that works hand-in-hand with your desire to lose the fear of failure, sign up to Bitrix24 today. 

FAQ


What are the signs of the fear of failure?

The tell-tale signs of fearing failure are:
  • Negative self-talk.
  • Underselling yourself to avoid high expectations.
  • Focusing on negative consequences.
  • Procrastination.
  • Missing deadlines through a lack of satisfaction in work.
  • Anxiety when given a task.

How to overcome fear of failure in business

You can overcome feeling a fear of failure by:
  • Identifying the root causes of fear.
  • Recognizing signs of fear.
  • Visualizing the path to success in your mind.
  • Accepting that you can’t control everything.
  • Positive thinking.

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