Mind & Meaning

Failure Is The First Step To Success


Are you afraid of failing?

  • Does failure make you worry about what others will think of you?
  • Does failure make you anxious about disappointing people whose opinion matters to you?
  • Do you think you will be laughed at and humiliated should you fail at something?
  • Do you get sudden symptoms such as headaches, difficulty breathing, unusually fast heart rate, hot or cold flashes, stomach aches, or sweating every time you think of taking up a new task that could lead to failure?

Most of us will stumble and fall in life. We will face rejections, criticisms, disapproving looks and setbacks, and this will happen when we decide to take on new challenges and goals. Many people who experience fear of failure are reluctant to take this bold step forward because they are worried and anxious of the anticipated negative consequences, all of which are imagined in their head.

Imagine if Thomas Edison had given up on his dream to invent the electric light bulb after failing 10,000 times, or Sir James Dyson had given up his dream of inventing the Dual Cyclone Bagless vacuum after 5,127 failed prototypes. What if Richard Branson had listened to all those people who told him he would not achieve anything without a high school diploma? Many people often miss out on excellent opportunities because they fear the negative consequences associated with the anticipated failure. Their negative self-talk is often along the lines of “What if this doesn’t work out?” or “Who am I kidding? This is going to be a disaster” or even “I will always be a failure. Nothing will change.”

So why do you have a fear of failure? You certainly weren’t born that way. Going back to the time you started to learn to walk, you may have stumbled and fallen many times, and I bet you never had these thoughts:

This is way too difficult

I am certainly not taking another step

What if I bruise and hurt myself?

I can’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life

You stumbled, fell, got up again and stumbled again. But you kept on trying until you were not only walking, but you were running and jumping around. Something happened from the time you were a toddler to the time you became an adult for you to become so fearful of failure. At a very early age, we were often conditioned to believe that good behaviour was rewarded, and bad behaviour punished. When you engaged in behaviours acceptable by others, you were praised, and if you did something that was unacceptable, you were disciplined.

It was also at this time you were influenced to believe that success and failure were at two opposite ends. You either succeeded at something or you failed. Failure was never seen as the first step to learning and success, so when you got an F on your test, your father got mad at you, your mother stopped baking your favourite cookies and your teacher sent you to detention. At this age, you came to understand that failure was associated with negative consequences, and in order to avoid these negative consequences, you attempted to do only things in your comfort zone.


But what if those who raised us told us that failure simply meant that:

  • You were determined to give it a go
  • You learned something along the way
  • You realise what works and does not work
  • You need to make a new decision
  • You have the chance to try something new

If our minds had been shaped to think of failure as the first step towards success, then very few people would be afraid of failure.

So anytime you have fearful thoughts of failing, use the traffic rule ste to manage your thoughts and actions.

 Red Light  This means tell yourself STOP. Stop thinking negatively. Stop having these fearful thoughts.

Orange light: Say a powerful positive statement to yourself.

I can beat this

I know I can overcome this

I am strong and I can do this

I want to go for this challenge

 Green light: GO for the challenge with all the strength and courage you can muster in youself.

This article was researched and compiled by Dr. Sonia Shah

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *