Fear of failure is the worst enemy of success. It introduces us to a world of self-doubt and excessive analysis that is stifling and paralyzing. As a result, we start to avoid or postpone making decisions in order to avoid failure. By being indecisive, however, we are actually deciding not to succeed.
On the other hand, the courage to make decisions and the humility to learn from their consequences are the alloy that makes success possible. Success is the result of walking forward even if we have to zigzag along the way. Action—not inaction—will always be the foundation of every success story.
As we can see, the path of indecisiveness is very different from that of decision making. In order to help my clients distinguish between the two, I describe each path as a distinct four-stage sequence. Let us explore each path in detail.
The Path of Indecisiveness
- Fear of failure. Fear of failure is like a thick fog that blinds our judgment. The path to success becomes fussy and we lose confidence in ourselves. As a result, we start to doubt our higher purpose (mission) and goals (vision), thus losing all motivation.
- Paralysis by analysis. When we lack self-confidence, we try to avoid criticism by all means. We start to seek perfection out of fear and not conviction. As a result, we overanalyzing every alternative, saturate ourselves with excess information, and ask questions that only introduce more self-doubt. This is a viscous cycle called “paralysis by analysis,” by which we become blind to the evident benefits of the options we are considering.
- Apprehensive action. If, for any reason, we feel the necessary pressure to make a decision, we will do so apprehensively, thus becoming negatively predisposed to fail.
- Shame and conceit. As a result of our lack of self-confidence, we tend to experience failure with shame (reaffirming our fear of failure) and success with conceit (overcompensating for our fear of failure in an unhealthy way.) In neither case, however, will we learn from our actions.
The Path of Decision Making
- Self-confidence. If we acknowledge that mistakes are an inextricable part of the equation of success, our fear of failure will diminish. We will understand that making mistakes does not mean we have failed. This will give us focus and motivation. Our mission and vision will become clearer and we will start to believe we can realize them.
- Relevant information. Self-confidence, focus, and motivation are instrumental in differentiating between relevant information and irrelevant information, thus ridding ourselves of paralysis by analysis. This is how we translate complexity into clarity, simplicity, and actionable choices.
- Action with resolve. By acting with resolve, we become positively predisposed to succeed.
- Humility and dignity. Grounded in self-confidence, we can experience our achievements with humility and our mistakes with dignity, thus being able to learn from both, making success inevitable in the long term.
As we can see, the key difference between both paths lies in the first step, self-confidence vs. fear of failure. Success is the art and science of making decisions and learning from them; not of avoiding decisions.
What do you think?
Do you tend to hesitate excessively regarding a specific type of decisions (professional, family, romantic, etc.)? If so, why? Is fear of failure something you experience often? If so, what actions do you take to mitigate it? How can the 11 laws of systems thinking help people make effective, timely decisions? How can the 7 keys to success help indecisive people strengthen their resolve? What role do knowledge and consciousness play in decision making?