The Dread of Failure

You have been burned before and are afraid to be burned again

© September 2015, By Prashant S. Shah


How to Overcome

Here is an approach that you can use to overcome your fear of failure. The aim is to prepare you for something new or different and possibly lead you to the place of better opportunity.

You begin by ADMITTING that things didn’t go your way. It could be due to some faults in you or in somebody else, or just in the circumstance. The reason however is not so important.

The failure has left you feeling angry or hurt. You may blame yourself by saying: “I’m just no good; I messed up; I made a fool of myself; or I don’t deserve anything better.” It only indicates that you are not strong right now. However, to move on, it will be sufficient to acknowledge that you are vulnerable. So, if it hurts, let it hurt. If you must cry to let out the frustration, cry. Whatever it is you are feeling, feel it; but don’t leave this experience behind without taking your LESSON from it.

To learn from the experience, take a good hard look at what really happened and acknowledge both the good and the bad that has come out of it. Then, answer these two questions: What part did I do really well? And what part of the work did I like the most? The answers will identify your areas of STRENGTH: What you do best and what you enjoy doing. What you do the next time must build on your strengths.

Your self-worth will also be lacking, and so you have become hesitant. To overcome this hurdle you have to reassert your self-worth. You do that by trying something new and making it worthwhile. You can start the process by identifying what you need to CHANGE: Do you need to change your path? Do you need to learn something new? Or do you need to be more determined to keep moving forward? When you identify the answer you come out of the experience of failure knowing yourself better. Hence, it is a success; and you can build on this success in the same was as you allowed the failures to make you reluctant.

To increase your success, simply do more of what succeeds and less of what fails. However, a problem arises when what you really want doesn’t succeed and what you don’t like to do succeeds! People who work with a sense of mission or purpose often get stuck at this point. So what should you do? Then you have to make some difficult choices.

Comments on observations by our readers

  1. SAKET: A person with low confidence or self-worth would lack the emotional energy to gather the strength that is necessary to make a fresh start. Hence, the basic problem is not what such a person should do, but how can they can gather the necessary strength to do what they really want.

The methods are commonly known: Celebrate little successes to fan your enthusiasm; write positive affirmations daily; dream of success and believe it is going to happen; cultivate optimism (see opportunity in difficulty rather than difficulty in opportunity); the list is long and I’m sure you can add to it.

  1. CHIKU: This is a great piece, but here is a question: “If the expectation has not been met and the person is psychologically reacting to this fact, should the person temper their expectations?”

The event and our inner response or self-talk on it are two very different things. When we do something, we should try to enjoy the activity, the work, and take care to discard our ego’s reactions to the outcomes.

  1. VIVEK: Many great men have risen up after repeated failures. There is the example of Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Abdul Kalam. However, people make the mistake of trying to imitate some someone else’s success formula. Personally, I feel more often success is the result of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right mindset.

Yes, success is more often a coincidence that happens. To be recognised you have to fulfil some genuine need of the time and then appeal to a critical mass of people who can set off your avalanche of success. However, there will always be an unexpected turn to events. Hence, success cannot be planned nor is it a true measure of the value of your work.

Looking Deeper

Generally speaking, we can take two different views to life – the Traditional or the Eastern view and the Modern or the Western view. They are as follows:

In the TRADITIONAL view, you are responsible for your actions, but the outcome or results will depend on many other factors: They can be the results of your past actions; they may be what you need to mature your inner life; or they can be a part of a greater scheme of things. Hence, the focus here is not on improving your chances of success, but on maturing. The events and happenings of life serve as opportunities to organise your consciousness at a higher level. Hence, your task is to do what is necessary or proper and to overcome your craving for personal success or reward.

In the MODERN view, you regard personal shortcomings and failures in life as outcomes of a faulty mindset or bad management. Hence, you focus on making changes in your mindset and management style to somehow generate success. Here you practice techniques like positive thinking, affirmations, creative visualisation, psycho-cybernetics, tactics and strategies.

Both these views have their proper place. When you play a game, you have to try to win. Otherwise the game is not on. Your deeper purpose may be to develop some personal or interpersonal skill, or to simply enjoy the thrill. However, you cannot participate in the game without trying to win or succeed.

In the same way, you learn the ‘lessons of life’ while you try to succeed. The only difference between the modern and traditional view is that you consider winning or achieving as only a part of the game and not as the true purpose of playing. Hence, you look upon a failure not only as an opportunity to correct the mistake, but also an opportunity to mature spiritually.

Published by

Prashant Shah

He was educated in science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) and University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC, USA). During his student days he learnt Mysticism from Shri Nyaya Sharma, a Master of Shiva Tantra Yoga. He offers Spiritual Guidance through Darshana Centre, a School of Yoga-Mysticism at Baroda, India. He learnt Homoeopathy from Post Graduate Homoeopathic Association, Bombay, has healing hands and uses Pranic Healing. He learnt entrepreneurial skills through EKS, an Advanced Management Diploma Program offered by ‘Mewes Systems’ of Frankfurt, Germany. He uses EKS and Vedic Astrology to do Counselling. He conducts ‘spiritual awareness workshops’ regularly in USA and from time to time in India. He is an Author of many self-help and spiritual books and a Speaker on related subjects. He writes and speaks clearly, in simple language, and from personal experience. He has written the books: The Crisis of Modern Humanity (1976); Essence of Hindu Astrology (1987); and his more recent publications are The Art of Awakening the Soul (2011), Healing without Drugs (2014), Solving the Problems of Life (2015), The Biochemic Prescriber (2016), and How to Restore your Health Naturally (2017). These are available from the Amazon and Kindle online bookstores.

4 thoughts on “The Dread of Failure”

  1. I like Thomas Edison’s approach to failure. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I always try to view my setbacks in this way. Notice I don’t have failures, just setbacks. And each setback contains a lesson. If I had none, then how would I learn?

    You can get some completely free help in achieving your goals, motivating yourself, and simply becoming more successful at http:\\

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for your response.
      Sometimes trying harder or persisting is only continuing to do the things that don’t work. If you are looking in the wrong places, you may never improve on it. Do read our article on ‘quantum learning’
      It is not only a learning issue, but you may have to improve on the ‘level’ of the learning.
      Sincerely, Prashant

  2. Instead of harbouring dread of failure, correctly responding to the call of situation is utmost important for spiritual growth. This response must be as per inner guidance. Outer success invariably remains unpredictable even for the most experienced hands. Those who work strategically and yet selflessly, gain maximum work satisfaction, inner peace and happiness. For such limited no of individuals, dread of failure does not even exist as they have already risen well above people with ordinary mindsets who value outer success, publicity and social recognition topmost. Those who refuse to try further due to fear of failing again will never progress in life. Changing mindset is master key.

    1. Yes, trying to continuously respond to the call of the moment or the truth is the best spiritual approach. However, changing our mindset is much easier said than done. Further, making the changes can go through many stages. Hence, for some time you have to find some practical ways to deal with the dread of failure.

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