The fear of failure: free yourself from this mental slavery

emotional intelligence
Patrick Sassou ABAH-DAKOU

A few years ago, after spending 14 years in a banking industry where I was working, I felt the time had come to move on and to pursue my life’s dream, which is to become a consultant in the development of human capital, equipping leaders in Africa to become the best version of themselves through training and coaching.

The conviction that my time with that institution was up was so strong but the fear of losing all the advantages or privileges attached to that was very real. After taking some days to reflect on my decision with my family and a few friends, I knew I needed to make one of the most critical decisions in my life, which was whether to leave my job to pursue my dream or to remain in the job.

The picture of the future looked gloomy, but I also knew that the only thing which was holding me back was the fear of the unknown and real possibility of failure. Here are the questions which were loud in my spirit, and which stared me in my face every day I awoke.

  • What if you make the wrong decision?
  • What if you fail or become a disgrace?
  • What will your colleague bankers think about you?
  • What will be your posture be supposing you meet your former colleagues someday?
  • How are you going to take care of your family?

In this article, we will first look at how the power of the fear of failure has the potential to prevent many from becoming the best version of themselves and secondly, how we can free ourselves from that mental slavery.

Failure is defined as our inability to achieve our set targets or goals or missing the target or falling short of what is expected from us. For many people, our ability to stay in our comfort zone is a sure and a guaranteed way not to fail. Doing the same thing repeatedly, following the same patterns or routines gives us a sense of security (which can be a false sense of security) that we are in control and in charge of our lives. However, once we are required to do something new and challenging, we can feel threatened.

My former job paid well and was more structured, so it gave me a great sense of security. It took me a while to realize that I was living below my potential. The real question was:  Would I continue to stay and enjoy my false sense of security, or would I rather plan my exit in order to fulfil my real-life purpose?

Zig Ziglar says, “F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours”. An anonymous quote also says fear can be described as False Evidence Appearing Real.

Is it possible that many people still live in bondage of the fear of failure by refusing to take action? “Fears are like babies; the more you nurse them, the bigger they grow”, remark Bob and Debby Gass. We must be willing to be brutally honest with ourselves and confront our “what ifs”, if we want to break out from the snare of the power of fear.

The fear of failure can literally cripple us by keeping us at the same place and by rendering us powerless, demotivated, jealous and envious (especially as we see other people moving ahead). This can bring a lot of frustration and suck from our ability to keep fighting. It can also inhibit our power of creativity and imagination. These feelings certainly cover different areas of our lives: family, professional, business and others.

Could it be that as you read this article, you know you need to pause, put your life in order and take a certain decision? May I suggest that you rise up and “Eat that Frog.”

Here are four powerful keys to free ourselves from the slavery of fear: courage, excellence, perseverance and gratitude.

  1. Courage

Nelson Mandela affirms, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Growing up, I failed in school and needed to deal with that fear of failure. Therefore, leaving the bank brought back that fear but the powerful weapon of courage helped me to defeat that fear.

As Winston Churchill says, “Fear is a reaction, but courage is a decision”. Our ability to overcome fear brings growth and puts us in a better place in life. It also makes us courageous people who tend to encourage others to do the same or even better.

  1. Excellence

Excellence is defined as the “quality of being outstanding or extremely good”. Find that one thing you are passionate about and distinguish yourself in that field by learning and excelling. How I love this quote of Proverbs, which says “seeth a man who is diligent and (excellent) in whatever he does, he will stand before kings and not before mere men.”

According to Aristotle, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

  1. Perseverance

The third key is perseverance. When things get tough, our ability to focus and refuse discouragement and remain optimistic will distinguish us from others. Winston Churchill once quipped, “I am an optimist. It doesn’t seem too much use being anything else”. Nelson Mandela remarks, “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”

  1. Gratitude

The last key is gratitude. Gratitude has the power to help us focus on the present and give us hope for the future. Melody Beattie puts it so well, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” “Gratitude liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation”, according to John Ortberg and frees us from the fear of failure.

Zig Ziglar is not indifferent to the subject and quotes, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”

In conclusion, looking back, I believe I took one of the best decisions in my life by leaving my former place of work. Today I have the opportunity to train, equip and coach many leaders in Africa and beyond. I am very grateful to be able to make an impact in many lives. How fulfilling and rewarding is it to do what you know you are born to do! The future is just bright.

The fear of failure is real but decide to free yourself from that mental slavery by doing that one thing you are afraid to do. “Eat that frog” – a book by Brian Tracy.

>>>The writer is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) /Certified Business and Leadership Coach, a Certified Emotional Intelligence Coach and International Facilitator and Consultant. He can be reached on [email protected]


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