Facing failure in life is inevitable, yet many people fear it and try to avoid it, ending up trapped in a worrisome cycle (Leahy, 2009). This fear of failure, also called atychiphobia, can end up having serious consequences.
To some, the prospect of failing presents such a significant psychological threat to their motivation that they may end up unconsciously sabotaging their chances of success (Winch, 2013). In addition, “the fear of failure continues to delay both societal and interpersonal progress, stopping many from ‘going for it’ in life.” (Garcy, 2017) Failure can be immobilizing, feeding into perfectionism, anxiety over potential negative judgment by others, and procrastination (Knaus, 2014).
Failing isn’t a pleasant experience, but fearing it makes us reluctant to try new things and get involved in challenging projects (Mindtools.com, n.d.). In fact, studies have found that one of the biggest regrets people report is that they let their fear prevent them from taking risks and pursuing their aspirations (Smallstarter.com, n.d.). Life coaching is an important tool that can help individuals experiencing fear of failure take control of their lives. Here are some effective strategies for teaching clients to overcome their fear of failure.
Taking Small Risks Can Be Helpful When Fear of Failure Is Associated With Shame
One reason clients may be experiencing significant fear of failure is because they associate failure with shame (Garcy, 2017). This phenomenon can be more common in individuals who encountered parental shaming as children and therefore experience anxiety as a result. In fact, experts affirm that a fear of shame feeds into a fear of failure because it gets to the core of a person’s self-esteem (Winch, 2013).
In this instance, clients may hide their failures to avoid shame, which can often exacerbate feelings of shame and failure (Garcy, 2017). Life coaches can help clients overcome these barriers by using a method called shame-attacking, a type of systematic desensitization to shame (Garcy, 2017). The approach involves encouraging clients to take small risks and then to share both the wins and the losses instead of keeping any potential shame locked up inside.
Breaking Down Large Goals Into Small Steps Can Make Challenges Seem Less Daunting
Once you become a life coach, another approach you can use has to do with the way an individual frames their goals. Setting goals is important in combating fear of failure, as Wikman et al. (2014) found in their study on the effects of goal-setting among young athletes. Their findings revealed that “in the goal-setting group, fear of failure decreased significantly from baseline to end of intervention”
However, one large goal can seem very daunting and can therefore instigate a large amount of fear. Such an obstacle is an example of something that could set off a cycle of perfectionism, procrastination, and anxiety because a large goal can seem very difficult to achieve (Winch, 2013). In fact, this may cause some to even shy away from setting goals in the first place (Mindtools.com, n.d.; Schwantes, 2016). Most often, though, large goals can be broken up into smaller ones, which are easier to approach (Mintools.com, n.d.). Viewing each small step with their associated smaller chances of failure can make starting a new challenge seem less formidable.
Professionals With Life Coach Certification Can Help Their Clients Reframe Their Thinking
Along with changing the way goals are made and perceived, many life coaches recommend a reframing of thought. For example, life coaches can recommend a way of thinking called “growth mindset,” in which clients learn to view failure as necessary for learning and achievement (Ryan, 2013). In this way, mistakes may be seen as something to reflect upon and learn from before trying again (Whitmore, 2015).
Such a reframing of thinking doesn’t only apply to the mindset, but also to testing the validity of one’s owns thoughts in relation to their fears (Knaus, 2014), and to using coping statements to help with positive self-reinforcement (Leahy, 2009; Garcy, 2017). Those who hold life coach certification are equipped with the tools to help their clients both reframe their thinking in various ways and also to identify any potential sources from which a fear of failure may stem.
Throughout your career, you can remind clients that without failure, there also isn’t greatness. In fact, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky had a shooting percentage of 17.57%, meaning that 82.43% of the time he missed (Hereford, n.d.).
Do you want to help empower clients into achieving their potential?
Rhodes Wellness College offers a full-time and a part-time life coach certificate, both worth exploring!
Garcy, P.D. (2017). How to Take Charge of Your Fear of Failure. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fearless-you/201701/how-take-charge-your-fear-failure.
Hereford, Z. (n.d.) Overcoming the Fear of Failure. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.essentiallifeskills.net/overcoming-fear-of-failure.html.
Knaus, W.J. (2014). Helping Clients Overcome Anxiety, Fear, Procrastination and More. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.newharbinger.com/blog/helping-clients-overcome-anxiety-fear-procrastination-and-more.
Leahy, R.L. (2009). Fifth Week: Overcome Your Worry by Overcoming Your Fear of Failure. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anxiety-files/200901/fifth-week-overcome-your-worry-overcoming-your-fear-failure.
Mindtools.com (n.d.). Overcoming Fear of Failure. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/fear-of-failure.htm.
Ryan B. (2013). 5 Ways To Conquer Your Fear of Failure. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/glassheel/2013/04/23/5-ways-to-conquer-your-fear-of-failure/#2e7b329243cc. Schwantes, M. (2016). 5 Simple Solutions to Stop Your Fear of Failure. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/5-simple-solutions-to-forever-end-your-fear-of-failure.html.
Smallstarter.com (n.d.). This Study Reveals The 5 Biggest Regrets People Have Before They Die. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from http://www.smallstarter.com/get-inspired/study-reveals-5-biggest-regrets-people-have-before-die/.
Whitmore, J. (2015). 5 Ways to Keep Fear of Failure From Holding You Back. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245106.
Wikman, J.M. et al. (2014). Effects of goal setting on fear of failure in young elite athletes. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, [online] Vol. 12 (3), p. 185-205. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1612197X.2014.881070?src=recsys&journalCode=rijs20.
Winch, G. (2013). 10 Signs That You Might Have Fear of Failure. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201306/10-signs-you-might-have-fear-failure.