Why the fear of failure can be good for business

- April 4, 2019 3 MIN READ

Business is scary. The risk, the uncertainty and even the reward. Every day as a business owner is different, more difficult and just downright surprising. It is expected that we should be fearful as business owners; but is this a bad thing? Or does fear have an essential place in the mind of the successful businessperson?

What Is Fear?

Every decision you make in your life can be described as being based on either the emotion of fear or the emotion of desire. However, psychologists have found that fear is a far more effective motivator than plain desire. Fear is a very primitive emotion, triggering our ‘fight or flight’ response. When this is triggered, we either get angry and ready ourselves to push back or we run away. The same is true in business.

Research shows that 85% of our behaviour is motivated by what we expect to happen—the anticipated consequences. The psychological concept of ‘expectancy theory’ maintains that people are motivated to act in a particular way based on what they anticipate to occur in the future. As business owners, we are no different because we are driven by ‘what comes next’ more than any other factor or influence.

Fear of failure is often thought to be the single greatest obstacle in business; but is that true? Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.’ Through awareness of our own fears, we are able to deal with the largest motivating factor in our lives.

What Do You Fear?

The most common fears that we experience which often sabotage all hope for success are the fears of loss, failure, poverty, and embarrassment. But these fears can actually work toward your benefit, once you understand them.

The fear of failure makes customers diligent. It makes them ‘shop’ for the best deal, by  researching you and your competitors. This should put you on alert to ensure you stay on top of your game. By understanding what your customers fear and knowing that fear drives you to be competitive, you can greatly improve your business mindset.

The fear of poverty, or losing our jobs, can overpower our desire for financial gain. Australians sometimes forget that a job is a privilege, not a right. Once you remember this, it makes sense of our fear. We need to keep training, keep practising and keep getting better at what we do, and we can only do that if we first justify our fear.

The fear of embarrassment, or ridicule, actually drives you to study, to research and to become an expert in your field. Again, once you recognise your drive, you can join the top 1% of salespeople who earn up to 64 times what the bottom 80% earns combined. Fear is only detrimental when you don’t understand how it affects you.

How Can You Use Fear to Benefit Your Business?

Earl Nightingale once wrote that ‘attitude’ is the most important word in our language. Your attitude is the way you approach any situation or problem and it determines whether your experience is either positive or negative.

Under the influence of a bad attitude, fear can ruin you. It can cause you to do nothing rather than take risks, to be overprotective or to fly far under the radar so that you have no hope of success. Studies indicate that 84% of people feel they are underperforming and this is because they let their fears confuse and restrict them.

Yet, when approached with a positive attitude, fear is a powerful weapon for any businessperson. Instead of letting the fear of making a mistake paralyse us, it can ensure that our work is of a higher quality. Fear drives us to be well-prepared, thorough, studious, passionate and compliant.

Fear is your friend. Stop running from it. Embrace it and let it drive you towards success.

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