This is one of those questions that can reveal a lot about where you are right now and how you’re approaching life. Fear of failure looms large for us all. And it can be pretty pervasive. Although you might think it’s only relevant if you’re taking exams or applying for a job it sneaks into a whole load of other areas too, such as:

  • Not making yourself heard because you don’t want to sound stupid
  • Avoiding trying new things because you might not be ‘good’ at them
  • Letting potential connections pass you by to avoid rejection

Failure could relate to the heart or to your ability to grow. Perhaps you associate it with a burning feeling of shame or a draining sadness. Either way it’s not something you’re actively likely to seek out.

However.. the problem with this is that it’s massively limiting. None of us know if we’re going to fail at something until we do it, for example. So, if we’re settling on an outcome in advance it’s likely that the mind is making some kind of complex calculation that could be drawing on a whole range of different sources, some of them reliable some not. Sources could be: maybe you asked someone out before and they said no. Perhaps you tried to do cross fit last year and got injured. Maybe the last time you reached out for help someone laughed at you.

It’s totally understandable to have these past associations with previous failures and to project them on to current situations. When you add in a natural dose of fear or apprehension, as well as anything you might have picked up from other people – such as someone warning you off because of their own bad experiences – paralysis can be the result.

There are some things that your brain may rightly calculate is a bad idea – sticking your head inside a shark’s mouth or eating 17 extra hot pepperoni pizzas. This is likely largely to be based on accurate calculations that there is a high percentage chance of getting your head bitten off or being sick. But most of life is less clear cut than this and it’s often into that vague space that fear of failure can creep.

So, what would you do next if you knew you couldn’t fail?

If you feel like you’re stuck or your life just isn’t moving as fast as – or in the direction that – you wanted it to then this is a powerful question to ask. Notice what bubbles up for you when you remove the prospect of failure from life. What do you want to do, say, be or try?

There is nothing wrong with experiencing a fear of failure – especially given the events of 2020 – but there’s also no getting away from the fact that it could be keeping you small. You don’t have to commit to a parachute jump or launching a business but why not test out what life might be like if the fear of failure just wasn’t there – start small with a date (Zoom or socially distanced), a new activity, a challenging conversation, an expression of creativity. Sometimes that simple perspective shift can be all you need to show you what life could be like if you stopped letting a fear of failure get in your way.

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