EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was released before the new restrictions and shutdowns resulting from the recent upswing in COVID numbers.
COVID-19: Facing the Fear of Failure and Overcoming It is both a catchy title and a daunting task, particularly if you don’t want to talk about it. With all of our collective uncertainties, I wanted to address the issue head-on. I hope you find this post helpful and informative.
Have you been out to eat in a sit-down restaurant yet?
A couple of weeks ago, we drove to the Texas Hill Country to visit our grandsons outside of Marble Falls. And we did it, we had lunch! Now before you get concerned, there was appropriate social distancing.
I chatted with the manager, who was relieved to be finally able to reopen. She stated she and the owners have wondered how long they could last by having only take-out services.
This has been a tough season.
On the downside, many churches and businesses will not survive the COVID-19 restrictions.
On the other hand, many different churches and businesses will emerge from these difficult days. Still, they will have a new look and a new way of doing business and ministry.
I know in my own life that I am beginning a new chapter after learning that the agency I was contracted with decided to close several offices, including mine, on June 3rd.
When I heard the news that I was being laid off, I was sad because I would no longer be working with a great team of Employee Assistance Counselors across the U.S. Oddly, I was not hit with any fear about what is next. As an imperfect Christ Follower, I have learned, “He guides my steps…” Psalm 119:133. Another comforting and encouraging verse for me is Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT.
So, how will you face your future? With hope, confidence, and joy or fear, despair, and doubt?
In 2017, I published The No Fear Entrepreneur, a book I wrote after surveying 1500 entrepreneurs and small business owners. My goal was to identify some of the common fears this group faces and then provide them with some faith-friendly, psychologically sound things they could use to push back the fear.
In my conversations with scores of small business owners and ministry leaders in the past several weeks, it seems these same fears lurk in the corners of their minds regarding the future of their chosen profession.
By the way, we will get through this, check out this link to the COVID-19: Four Emotional Phases of Emotional Recovery
With that in mind, here is one of the largest fears that many men and women deal with.
The Fear of Failure
This is an updated blog post from 2017.
One of the most powerful ways we can push back the fear of failure is to read about and observe how others have overcome this game-stopping fear, glean the lessons they learned, and apply them to our lives as appropriate?
• Michael Jordan missed more than half of the shots he took. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
• J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter author’s story is legendary. She wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the first book of the series) as a struggling single welfare mom and had twelve rejections from publishers. Her first book eventually sold for the equivalent of $4,000.00. She says, “Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure, which often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing… Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”Today, based on her book sales and incredible film series, she is worth over 1 billion dollars.
• Winston Churchill. Churchill failed the sixth grade and lost every public election he entered until being elected Prime Minister of Great Britain at age 62. “Success is stumbling from Failure to Failure with no loss of enthusiasm…Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
• Charlize Theron. When Theron was 15, she witnessed her mother shoot her alcoholic father in the act of self-defense. Instead of letting the trauma immobilize her ambition, Theron channeled her energy into making a name. She would eventually become one of the most respected and talented actresses, becoming the first South African actress to win an Academy Award.
• Stephenie Meyer. Before the Twilight series broke sales records, she faced the failure of rejection—multiple times. Meyer wrote fifteen letters to various literary agents and received fourteen rejections. Fortunately, one agent took her on, and eight publishers bid on the right to publish her wildly successful series, which turned into a highly popular movie franchise.
•Vera Wang. Her path to becoming the successful designer she is today was by no means conventional. First, Wang, a competitive skater in her youth, failed to make the 1968 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team. Her loss of a dream prompted her to take a job as an assistant at Vogue in 1971. She was eventually promoted to senior fashion editor within a year—at age 23! After fifteen years with the magazine, Wang was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. But she ended up where she needed to be and has become one of the leading fashion designers of all time.
Joshua, Leader of Ancient Israel. I can imagine what you are thinking right now, “What are you saying, that Joshua was fearful?”
The book of Joshua has been a favorite of mine for years. The Bible never says that Joshua was afraid, but several times God reminds Joshua to be strong and courageous. Just take a look at the first chapter, and you will see that the Lord told Joshua to “Be strong and very courageous.”
Just imagine the daunting task that the Lord placed on Joshua. He was asked to complete the work that Moses had been tasked with, but because of some poor choices, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
What was Joshua’s secret, he was familiar with the faithfulness of God, so he faced the fear and led the Children of Israel into the Promised Land.
None of these people would have made history if they had chosen to be frozen by failure.
I do not know anyone who enjoys failing. For some people, the fear of failing can present such an overwhelming psychological menace that their incentive to avoid failure exceeds their motivation to succeed. This intensely personal and intimidating fear of failure causes them to unintentionally sabotage their chances of success in a wide variety of ways.
Here are some practical things you can begin doing today to face your fear of failure!
Stay focused on your “Why.”
To overcome the fear of failure, set your focus on the goal, dream, or outcome that you want to create or achieve. The more you focus on the end, the less power you will give fear.
Recognize avoidance patterns, self-sabotaging, and push forward. Once you shift your mindset from being a victim to an overcomer who is pursuing your dreams, you move forward. When fear holds you, you tend to either avoid or waste time on the mundane things of life.
“Never, never, never quit!”
This famous line comes from Winston Churchill in the early days of World War II.
Churchill was the Prime Minister of England at the time. In those dark days, England was bombed daily, and civilians were dying throughout the island nation. It was in this context that the following short speech was made on BBC in October of 1941:
Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. ~Winston Churchill
One of the keys to winning at anything you do is to be persistent— to never quit.
“Where there is no vision, people perish.” Taken from Proverbs 29:18, this passage points to the truth that if we have no vision, no path, no idea where we want to go, we will never arrive. To push back fear, you have to be crystal clear about what your goal or dream is.
Trust Your Dream!
If you believe that the Lord has given you a dream or desire to do something, just do it. If He gave you the dream, He would provide the tools to fulfill it. The secret? You have to open the toolbox and get to work.
Break Your Dreams into Bite-Sized Portions.
To succeed at anything from weight loss to increase your personal productivity, you have to figure out what your goal is and what steps to take to make it happen.
Have a long-term view, realizing there will be ups and downs. A can-do attitude helps us never give up on the dreams that God has placed in our hearts. Focus allows us to recharge, reinvest, and reinvent ourselves by melting down our fear.
Share Your Dreams and Your Fears.
In my work as a Crisis Response Specialist, I tell people one of the keys to moving through a traumatic event is to remember that “Pain shared is pain divided; Joy shared is joy multiplied” (LTC David Grossman). When we do this with our trusted friends, we will find the courage, faith, and support to push through the fear and go after our God-sized dream.
Patience, Faith, and Friends are Our Best Allies.
Choose to shift into a “growth mindset.” The author of mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options—a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.
A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes.
A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside you know the potential for growth and development. With the right motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration, you believe you can become better at almost anything. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure personally rather that individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.
As a Christian therapist and coach, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history and that He has a vibrant, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us the truth, hope, and stories of those who went before us and found such a purpose.
You can overcome the fear of failure by understanding those old triggers and turning them from energy-sapping vampires into life-motivating power to help you accomplish your dreams.
May you experience His comfort, grace, and strength as you face your fear of failure.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.2 Timothy1:7 New Living Translation
Feel free to leave a comment. I will respond.