Fear is a natural part of our human experience. And it’s a necessary emotion. After all, if it weren’t for fear and fear of failure, we could live in a world where everyone walked into busy streets without looking both ways, no one read expiration dates, and business owners would go for it whenever an opportunity came their way.
But, of course, fear has an insidious side too. It can keep you from tasting new foods, riding that thrill ride, or taking a chance on a relationship. And the fear of failure can keep you from flourishing in business too.
None of us want to fail. But there are ways to manage your fear of failure so that it doesn’t eternally hold you back from success. Educating yourself, preparing for the worst, setting realistic goals, and determining your stopping point are all excellent ways to deal with the fear of failure in business.
1. Educate Yourself
Many times what we perceive as fear of “failure” may actually be “fear of what we don’t know.” When we feel inadequately trained, prepared, or lack proper resources, fear automatically rises up.
If you’re thinking about starting a coffee shop, determine to know all the ins-and-outs of running a coffee shop business before you launch.
- Do online research on what it takes to be successful.
- Meet with one or two successful coffee shop owners.
- Learn about the best practices for employee training, advertising, and small business accounting.
The more you know, the more prepared you’ll feel. And that can lead to less anxiety.
If you’re being asked to make sales calls, don’t go in blind. Do a little research on tried-and-true sales methods. Write out your first few sentences and key sales points before you dial your first number.
When I was preparing to launch out as a full-time freelance writer, I spent a great deal of time researching what it takes to be successful. I also took a course that showed me the ins-and-outs of professional writing.
The outcome? I felt much more confident in my work and less timid to reach out to new clients. A little education and preparation can go a long way towards remedying your fear of failure.
2. Visualize Your Best-Case Scenario
One of the best ways to overcome fear is to simply drown it out with hope. Or, as Brendan Burchard explains in his video, How to Overcome Fear, spend more time “focusing on the potential gains.”
Think through the best things that could happen if you kill it with your sales call this week.
- How much money could you make?
- What could that mean for your family?
What’s the best thing that could happen if your business is a huge success?
- How much personal and financial freedom would that bring into your life?
- What kind of house would you be able to buy?
- What kind of difference could you make in your community?
After you’ve listed out all of these amazing benefits of success, ask yourself this question. Are all those things worth passing up because you were too afraid to try?
In order to overcome your fear, most of us need to find our “why?” So list out all of the personal and financial goals that success could help you enjoy. And then get busy chasing after them!
3. Prepare for Your Worst-Case Scenario
The fear of what “might go wrong” can be a paralyzing force. So how do you get past this fear? Think carefully through your worst-case scenario? You may be thinking, “Wait, that’s just going to scare me even more.” But actually the opposite often happens.
When I started pursuing a writing career, I used this exact “worst-case scenario” exercise. I discovered that my worst-case scenario was that I didn’t make it as a writer and I became a high school finance teacher instead. And guess what? That worst-case scenario didn’t sound all that bad.
Now that I’m a full-time writer, I have a different “worst-case” scenario. Today, my doomsday scenario would be that a bunch of my clients dropped me all at the same time. If that were to happen, there could be a few months that my expenses outpace my income.
But I decided to prepare for that possibility by saving all of the freelance income that I earned while I still working a day job. So before I launched out full-time, I had built-up an emergency fund of nearly a year’s worth of expenses. Again, the “worst-case” wasn’t worth stressing out over.
Spend some time thinking through the worst thing that could happen in your own business or job. And then do your best to prepare for it. You may find that it goes a long way towards helping you overcome your fear of failure and start chasing your goals with reckless abandon.
4. Set Realistic Goals
Part of the reason that you’re so afraid of failure might be because you know that you’ve set goals that are simply unachievable.
I’m all for having lofty goals…but if you set short-term goals that are too high, you may find yourself paralyzed by the fear that you won’t meet them.
For instance, if you set a goal to make a sale on 25% of your sales calls this week (when your average is 10%), you may find yourself avoiding phone calls just to keep yourself from getting a “no” and having your percentage drop.
In this case, a more realistic goal would maybe be to make 50 calls this week (ten per day) instead of your usual 30 (six per day). Sound conservative? Maybe. But with a realistic and achievable goal like that one, there’s a good chance that you’ll be motivated to chase after it.
Whether you’re a small business owner or an employee, strive to make your short-term and long-term goals SMART. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.
5. Set Your “Stop-Loss” Before You Begin
One final way to get past your fear of failure is to know exactly how much you’re willing to allow an idea or strategy to flounder before you pull the plug.
Many a story has been told about investors who held on to stocks far too long all because they didn’t want to admit defeat. But the irony is that most investors could limit their losses by simply setting an objective point at which they’ll sell…no matter what.
In the investing world, they call that a “stop-loss.” And it gives investors peace of mind. Yes, you could lose a little money on your investment. But at least you know that you’re maximum loss is defined. In the same way, virtual “stop-losses” could help you get past your fear of failure in business.
Test, Improve, Repeat
Whenever you try out something new, set a time limit for how long you’ll conduct the test. For instance, let’s say you plan to launch a new product. Set a time limit for how long you’re willing to keep in on the menu or on your online store. Then check your accounting reports regularly to see how the new product is performing.
If it’s not doing well, you ax it (or modify it). You didn’t fail. You were simply conducting “market research.” The same principle could be applied to any product, service, strategy, or investment.
When we don’t clearly define how much we’re willing to lose, it’s easy to stay in too long. Acknowledging failure can be your first step towards future success. And when you look at failure that way, it can completely change your feelings towards it…and fear of experiencing it.
Don’t let the fear of failure in business hold you back any longer. Educated yourself well, think through your best-case and worst-case scenarios and set achievable goals. And remember, that even if you do fail today, it could just lead you one step closer to tomorrow’s success.