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Find out why nothing is debilitating as fear of failure

Find out why nothing is debilitating as fear of failureImage Credit: Supplied

The chances are that it isn't failure that is holding you back... but the fear of it. Often, we are conditioned to fear failure, as if the lack of it is a guarantee of success. The reality is that being risk-averse can effectively remove you from a world of opportunity that is an essential requisite for advancement in life.

• Do you ever put off doing something because you are unsure of the result?

• Do you avoid situations where you need to justify a concept in front of people you don't know?

• Do you steer clear of rooms full of strangers although you know networking is important?

• Do you have ideas that could potentially improve turnover or profit, or reduce overhead expenses or wastage but are dissuaded from doing so for fear of rejection by those at a senior level?

• Have you ever tolerated bullying or intimidation in your department because of the difficulty of implicating others?

• Would you refuse an invitation to sit on a panel to take questions at a conference, in case you might have difficulty in answering an awkward question from the floor?

• Have you had a potentially great money-making idea in your head for the past five years but have never asked for a third-party opinion on its viability because of lack of confidence?

• Are you now very far away from the position you thought, five years ago, that you would be in today?

If you have answered 'yes' to two or more of these questions, then you are not alone. Everyone hates to fail but for some, failure presents such a psychological threat that their motivation to avoid it exceeds their motivation to succeed. That fear can sabotage their chances of success in many different ways.

All of us experience situations that do not turn out as we planned, but these are not failures. Failure is an attitude, not an end result. When something does not work out as you hoped, this is not a failure but rather an opportunity to learn, to adapt and to make positive changes based on that experience.

Are you afraid to fail? Failure hurts but it serves as a road for learning. When failure hurts, it makes you stronger. Setbacks, in reality, are not the problem, it is how you perceive and manage them that is the secret.

Making excuses: People who fail are often those who make excuses. You may think that something is unfair. Maybe you didn't get that promotion you expected and you think you were treated unfairly. You can either feel sorry for yourself or use this situation as one from which you can learn.

You give up easily: Your ambition means going through a series of challenges — some easy and some not but if you give up too early, you may spend the rest of your life in regret.

Unrealistic expectations: You may think that a personal target is achievable when it is not, and the challenge is to accept your limitations. That is not a weakness but a strength. Take one step at a time and make sure that what you want to do is realistic within the time frame specified.

Take the first challenge; meet it to achieve success and then you will be in a position to go onto the next one, and the one after that.

Successful individuals are achievers in life because they have learnt to expect problems, to acknowledge and then manage them. They know that the biggest error they can make is to go through life being afraid of challenges that are inevitable for everyone.

Think of your future and ask yourself, ''How much further might I be towards the next step in my career if I could manage to control my fear of failure?''

We all need to believe in ourselves and to focus on our goals and not on that which others might want, or say. Never be afraid to fail; expect challenges; set realistic personal targets and expectations — and never give up, because you can make it happen.

In the words of Henry Ford: ''Failure is simply an opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently''.

Key points

* Every successful person you know has had failures.

* Being risk-averse is a personal attitude.

* If you want to get ahead, face risk.

Get tips on the art of tolerance and acceptance

Source: Carole Spiers, Special to

The writer is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her book, Show Stress Who's Boss!, is available in all good bookshops