The fear of making mistakes and failing can express itself in all sorts of ways. I know it feels like you're the only one who is feeling this, but that's just not the case.
You might have fears around launching something new. You might be afraid of getting more focused in your niche. You might have fears around choosing not to keep working with clients that don't align or on the other hand, you might be feeling like your brand colors were a mistake or you shouldn't wait to hire team members and that's a mistake.
Fear of Failure in Business is Normal
The fear of making mistakes or the fear of failing is what we're talking about here in this post and it's important for you to know that it’s completely normal and it happens to all entrepreneurs at some point in their journey. If you find yourself googling things like “common entrepreneurial mistakes” to try to save yourself from making any, although I applaud your forward-thinking, it’s not likely to work!
Mistakes are part of owning your own business, and so are small and big failures.
Worrying about making decisions that might turn out to be mistakes or failures is normal. And so, you want to be prepared for what to do when these fears come up and you're feeling fixated on the potential for failure or mistakes instead of moving forward.
Step One: Overcoming Fear in Business by Feeling Your Fear
First it's important to train yourself to process your fear by actually feeling it. Because what you think is feeling your fear might actually be thinking your fear.
This came up for me recently as I was planning my podcast launch. I was feeling fear around things like “Am I putting in all this work for no one to listen to it?” and “What if no one cares what I have to say?”
This fear comes from an earlier time in my business journey when I launched a product called self-care kits in my yoga business. I had signed up for a booth at a yoga festival and brought 80 boxes of inventory with me. But at the end of the day I had sold zero of those boxes.
Even though everyone kept walking by and saying, “Oh, this is such a great idea and I love your branding and your website is so beautiful” no one bought any. As far as entrepreneur mistakes go, paying for a booth and an inventory of 80 and making none of it back, is pretty major!
That experience led to a recurring fear that people will appreciate my ideas but not enough to make a purchase, and fear that I will put in a lot of work and not have it pay off.
So as an example that's not from my own business, I'll have you imagine for a second that you are a friendship coach. You have the idea of starting a group program. Maybe you've been hosting events up to this point and you feel kind of confident about those. But you haven't translated that confidence into other ideas that you have.
Maybe you're afraid that people know you for events and that it might be a mistake to expand so soon. Or you're thinking maybe it's a mistake to do this new group program at this time. Maybe it's going to confuse my audience. What if no one's interested in the group program? What if I fail? Maybe I'll feel embarrassed or I'm going to feel really down.
In this scenario, your first step here in overcoming this fear in business, whether you’re a friendship coach or whatever it is that you do, it's going to be acknowledging what you're actually afraid of. Acknowledging that you're even afraid at all. Even when it's hard, it has to be done in order to overcome the feeling of fear and regain the ability to take action.
Your next step is going to be feeling those feelings and letting them be present for you without judging. A good thing here to do is to notice where that fear is coming up in your body. Are you clenching your jaw? Are you having a bit of a headache? Are you tense in your body?
Gradually you start to, as you get those signals from your body, you quiet your thoughts so that your feelings can get louder.
You start to just let those be and start to nurture yourself just a little bit more. Planning some extra self care, some extra rest, a little bit more fun. And you're going to practice responding to that fear with nurturing, instead of responding to that fear with thinking thoughts that just lead to more fear.
And what happens when you do that is you start to heal that pattern. You start to train your mind and your body to expect nurturing when those kinds of feelings come up and not spiralling into more fears and more thoughts, okay?
Step Two: Expand Your Thinking on Entrepreneur Mistakes + Fear of Failure
Flip your mindset to allow for a wider range of possibilities other than just failure and success. Black and white thinking can really limit you in life and in business. And it's just not true that, you know, there's failure on one side and there’s success on the other.
Just like gender exists on a spectrum and sexual orientation exists on a spectrum, so does failure and success. It's just more broad.
There's all sorts of possibilities in between those two. The reality is that the definition of success and failure that you're operating with right now it may not even show the whole picture.
Trust that there is a grey area around what you've imagined for yourself and it's broader than you initially thought, because what is actually a failure or mistake or a success is very much in control, because it's a matter of your perception.
So, for example, here, let's say you're an embodiment guide and you're afraid to start on an email list because you don't think you're a good writer and you're convinced that you're going to fail because of that and that's making you feel afraid.
I want to tell you that if you can't imagine success for yourself at all, you need to run more scenarios. You need to look beyond the mainstream metrics of success, like having hundreds of people on your list or, you know, you hear people say like they sold out their launch without even announcing it on social media and so on.
Imagine instead what could happen for you all along the range of success and failure, like from failure all the way to success and everything in between, because there's more there, I promise, there's more there than just it's going to flop or it's going to take off and be a huge success.
There's possibilities for you that go beyond what you've already imagined as success. There's possibilities all the way in between throughout that range. So take some time to really feel into those, just generate possibilities.
Maybe you want to journal this or you might want to talk it out or, you know, send a voice memo to yourself. But there's more there than just it works and it didn't work at all.
Look for evidence in your own business and from other entrepreneurs to expand your thinking on what constitutes a mistake or failure or success. This is a key mindset switch to overcoming fear in business.
Step Three: Reframe Entrepreneurial Mistakes and Failures into Learning Opportunities
Often the reason fears come up for us is because we've experienced something similar at some point in the past. When we're starting something new, our brain brings back an example of another time we started something new, even if it's completely different.
It might be saying, remember that time when you tried that and it didn't work? Remember that? Let's not do that again. So your brain is trying to keep you safe from repeating that experience that you labeled “mistake” or “failure”.
But, your inner voice isn't always very nice. The good news is, you can retrain it to be more helpful by reframing your past experiences into learning opportunities.
I'll work through this here with you. I'm going to use my trade show booth as an example. So to reframe my mistakes and my failures as learning opportunities, I have to take a wider view. I have to open my perspective. I have to think about what it is that I've learned from that since then, what information that gave me to be able to handle things better next time or even to know what direction to go in next.
For example, things that I learned were things like switching to a product-based business will not fix anything if I don't work on my foundations, because that's what I was doing at the time. I was moving from services only into products because I thought, “oh, only product-based business owners are successful. The only way I'm going to be successful is if I have products” which when I unpacked 80 boxes and repacked 80 boxes at the end of the day, obviously was not the whole story.
The benefit of reframing that experience is that now when I am confronting fear of failure again, I'm able to look back and say, okay, even if something does go wrong, even if it is a mistake or it is a failure, I will be able to reframe this as a learning opportunity.
Even if you make a mistake, being committed to learning from it means that even if you fail, you’ll have more information to do better next time.
You get to take that into everything else that you do as a business owner and that is powerful.
Step Four: Dialogue With Yourself To Prevent Future Entrepreneur Mistakes
Dialoguing with yourself on paper as a journalling experience or in your mind as part of a meditation are both tangible ways to practice the first three steps from this post and finally overcome that fear of failure in your business.
Learning how to dialogue with yourself in a productive way is something that's going to serve you every time fear of failure and mistakes comes up.
Dialogue questions you can use to help you feel your fear -
What is my experience of this fear of failure and making mistakes?
What are the sensations and feelings of fear that I have in my business right now?
Am I thinking or am I feeling my fear?
How can I nurture myself when I feel fear instead of putting the blame on myself?
Dialogue questions you can use to help you expand your thinking around fear and mistakes -
How many different possibilities can I imagine that are greater than failure or success, mistake or not?
What is the best possible outcome that I can picture for myself?
Dialogue questions you can use to help you reframe your past mistakes and failures -
What did I learn from my past experience that can help me in the present?
What lessons can I find from my past experience and what have I learned since then?
If what I’m about to take action on does turn out to be a mistake or failure, what will I learn this time?
Learning how to work through feelings of fear is an ongoing process in business.
As you feel your fear, expand your thinking with possibilities, reframe your past mistakes and failures, and dialogue with yourself about how you feel, you will be able to move forward more easily each time.
Improving your mood and improving your perception will help you learn what your fear is trying to communicate to you and how you can use that positively, rather than letting it keep you stuck.
When you learn to nurture yourself when fear of failure and making mistakes comes up, you now have all of these ideas in your toolkit to help you move forward with confidence and ease.
To access a meditation version of this dialogue practice, join the free Clearie Club to get the audio you can use anytime.
Or, listen to the full podcast episode to hear my take on handling fear in business and experience the in-episode version of the meditation.