I’m happy to present an excellent guest post written by James Frankton, who writes at Why Am I Lazy. James tells us about the connection between the fear of failure and procrastination. The solution he recommends is simple, yet effective (just the way I like it). Thank you James!1
Do you often find yourself procrastinating because you are worried that you won’t succeed?
Have you ever put off doing something because you were concerned about what others will think if you failed?
If so, then it’s likely that you have a procrastination problem that is caused by the fear of failure.
Keep reading to overcome this fear, and kick procrastination to the curb in the process.
Why Fear Causes Procrastination
You may fear that you are simply going to be unable to complete a task or activity that you need to do.
For example, your boss has assigned you to complete a gargantuan report using Excel – software that you only have limited knowledge of using.
You may also fear the consequences of a perceived failure. In my experience, this often relates to being worried that others will cast negative judgment in the event that you fail at something.
Here’s an example: You’ve wanted to try your hand at learning piano, but you’re worried the instructor you choose will think you are so hopeless that you might as well give up. And don’t even get started on how terrifying the prospect of others hearing you practice will be!
Procrastination piggybacks off your fear of failure as a cathartic means of risk avoidance.
Basically, you are procrastinating in order to avoid facing up to failure or its consequences.
How Can You Overcome The Fear of Failure?
Now comes the important part – how can you overcome that fear of failure?
If you simply fear that you will not be able to succeed at a task, then you need to arm yourself with the tools and resources you need to “get it right” the first time.
When I was at university I often procrastinated on essays and term papers because I genuinely worried that I wouldn’t be able to pass. I didn’t so much care about what my peers thought of my marks – it was the pain of letting myself down which I feared.
So what was the solution?
I started preparing myself to succeed and do well. I developed a game plan for writing every essay, which involved dedicating adequate time to research and planning. I read up on editing and proofreading academic papers, to ensure I didn’t lose any marks for careless mistakes.
The essays I submitted after I cast aside my fear of failing (due to the actions I took to prepare myself) garnered good marks. I was pleased, and felt encouraged to work harder on future projects, as I now knew I had a formula for success.
And what was the moral of the story? If you’re worried that you are going to let yourself down, then make sure you have taken every practicable step to ensure you don’t fail.
But what should you do if you mainly fear the “social impacts” of failure? (i.e. you are worried that others will judge you harshly for any perceived failure).
I’ll always remember a physical education teacher at high school, who told the class before our running test that he didn’t care what our final time was – as long as he could see that we had all put in a 100% effort.
This idea rings true in most social scenarios; provided your colleagues/friends/family/whomever can see you tried your hardest, they are unlikely to react negatively.
In fact, most people will react positively to you if you give something your best effort, even if you weren’t successful in the strictest sense.
Boiling things down to their most basic level, this means that to totally overcome the fear of failure that causes procrastination you need to:
- Prepare adequately for any task you undertake, in order to mitigate the risk of failure.
- Give your best effort, so that if you do stumble at any stage, those around you will be loath to judge you for it.
If that’s not enough to encourage you to take action, then bear in mind the following points:
- Most mistakes can be fixed. You will probably get another chance if something goes wrong.
- If you perpetually procrastinate on a task, you are already in the process of failing – taking action is the only way to reverse this!
- Most tasks or activities can be broken down into smaller chunks. Use this strategy to make things more manageable and easy to attempt (and reduce the risk of failure)
Fearing failure – or the perceived consequences of failure – shouldn’t hold you back from achieving great things in your life.
Now you know effective strategies for beating this fear. It’s time to fight back against procrastination and unleash your inner motivation and productivity.
James Frankton blogs about time management and procrastination at www.whyamilazy.com