According to the Oxford Dictionary, failure is defined as the “lack of success; the omission of expected/required action; the action or state of not functioning.” Atychiphobia is the fear of failure. In 2015, a survey by the social network, Linkagoal, revealed that the fear of failure affected 31% of the 1,083 adult respondents.
The Fear of Failure
When we observe young children, they are not afraid to fail. Otherwise, none of us would have learned to sit up, eat with a utensil, or walk. When we look at school-aged children, they try over and over again to learn how to ride a bike or any difficult task they want to master.
So, when do we learn to fear failure? A blog in Psych Central suggests that, by age 18, we have been very effectively trained to fear failure due to our paper grading system. Then, why are some adults not controlled by their fear of failure while others are crippled to try anything new?
A Different Perspective of Failure
There are a lot of famous people who did not allow their failures stop them from reaching their goals. My favorite one is Thomas Edison. He failed over 10,000 times trying to invent a commercially-viable electric bulb.
When asked if he ever felt like a failure after so many attempts, he said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Reading his story makes me ask: How does one develop this kind of outlook on failure?
For those of us who are parents, we can train our children not to fear failure by accepting and celebrating their mistakes. We need to emphasize effort instead of their final grade. The most important lesson is to teach them to separate their actions from who they are.
When they face failure, they should know that it is just one episode and not allow their failure to define them. They should sense our love no matter what their actions are. Children who grow up in this kind of environment have a better chance of being healthy adults who do not allow their fear of failure to control their lives.
As adults, we can change our mindset to view failure differently. No one likes failure. It usually brings disappointment and a bruised ego. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid failure.
“It’s impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.” —J.K Rowling
How we view our failure is more important than the failure itself. We should never allow our failure to discourage, demoralize, or distract us from our destiny.
Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always try one more time.”
The Benefits of Failure
When we understand failure is inevitable and our failure does not define us, we learn that failure does not always have to be a bad thing. Sometimes, failure takes us to places we want to go. It can help us achieve our goals.
Here are some other benefits of failure:
- Failure teaches us lessons.
- Failure keeps us hungry and humble.
- Failure helps us overcome fear.
- Failure recommits us to our goals.
- Failure inspires creative solutions.
- Failure strengthens our support system.
- Failure makes us more valuable mentors.
To learn more about failure and how we can overcome our fear to fulfill our purpose, check out Chasing Failure by Ryan Leak as he seeks to answer the question: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”