If anything can add to your stress level, it’s fear of failure. If you think about it, though, this fear is pretty normal and even useful, because without it you will likely be unprepared, reckless, sloppy, and unfocused when confronted with a challenge. The problem, however, is that the fear can become excessive and lead to avoidance of challenges; or, worse yet, denial can set in, which almost guarantees you will indeed fail.
When you’re all bent out of shape from fearing that you will fail, the best coping strategy is to accept the fear, and alter your thinking to recast your fear as a sign that you are cautious and vigilant, and want to gets the odds of success in your favor before taking on the challenge. In other words, modify your fear of failure into productive risk assessment.
Here’s the point. Suppose you are torn about looking for a new job. You hesitate because you figure you’ll never find the perfect job and will fail in your job search. Then you get down on yourself for being such a pessimist, a self-critical comment that just increases your stress. So, what can you do?
Organize your thinking and actions around the strategy of determining if you can increase your likelihood of success of finding a job that fits you. Develop an action plan: assess your strengths; thoroughly investigate a company before applying for a position; determine if you can integrate your strengths into the company profile; if so, prepare for the interview.
During the “get to the moon” initiative of the ‘60s, NASA exemplified these principles with the phrase, “Failure is not an option.” It’s a nice phrase, but the reality of failure was always present, and often occurred. In reality, “Failure is not an option,” translated into, “We’re going to do everything we can to minimize the odds of failure. When failure does occur, we will correct the flaws that caused the failure, and move on.” And that’s the approach you must take when confronting a challenge. Don’t let fear of failure overwhelm you; attack it with a well-thought-out plan of action.