So many of us are driven by fear of the unknown that we confine ourselves to our comfort zones. But what are these fears and why do we let them control our lives?

My favorite singer/songwriter, John Lennon, once said: “It’s fear of the unknown. The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that–it’s all illusion. Unknown is what it is. Accept that it’s unknown and it’s plain sailing. Everything is unknown–then you’re ahead of the game. That’s what it is. Right?

Uncertainty about a risk scares us. Take for example, the SARS virus. When it first emerged, we knew very little about the virus; does it spread slowly or quickly, was there a high risk of death, were all people equally susceptible to contracting it? However, as we learned more about the virus, most of us became less afraid it, despite the virus itself hadn’t changed.

This fear deserves the top spot because it rules over all our actions and decisions. We all do, and don’t do, things in order to avoid failure. Failure can be a lot of things; realizing you don’t live your life the way you wanted to, not succeeding in your plans, finding yourself helpless, or in the worst cases even hitting rock-bottom.Failure is a very ambiguous and subjective term because failure is not on the same level and perspective to everyone, what counts as failure to one might not be even halfway there to another. To some, failure is actually a way to learn lessons and try again, so it is not really an end, but a tool for future reference. The main fear of failing comes with the disappointment that follows, that feeling that despite your effort, nothing seemed to go as you wished it did, and it causes a feeling such that you might not even want to try again. That is why this is the worst fear of all, the fear or failure is very often used as an excuse to procrastinate, or not do anything to make situations better – “why bother?” and “I’m just not good enough”.

It’s important to realize that in everything we do, there’s always a chance that we’ll fail. Facing that chance, and embracing it, is not only courageous – it also gives us a fuller, more rewarding life.

Here are a few helpful tips to reduce your fear of failure:

  1. Analyze all potential outcomes – Many people experience fear of failure because they fear the unknown. Remove that fear by considering all of the potential outcomes of your decision.
  2. Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful way to build self-confidence and neutralize self-sabotage. My favorite book of all time – The Power of Positive Thinking, by Vincent Norman Peale is a mustread.
  3. In some cases, the worst case scenario may be genuinely disastrous, and it may be perfectly rational to fear failure. In other cases, however, this worst case may actually not be that bad, and recognizing this can help.
  4. Have a contingency plan – If you’re afraid of failing at something, having a “Plan B” in place can help you feel more confident about moving forward.

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