Overcome your fear of failure by embracing uncertainty

Knowing what you want is only one piece of the puzzle. Moving in that direction is another matter. in my Coaching practice, I’ve heard people share their reasons for not taking action towards what they want. They believe that they are afraid of failure.

But, when we check with ourselves what failure looks like, it’s usually not that scary. Are we really afraid of saying no to someone? Are we really afraid of what people will think or say about us?

It turns out that fear of failure isn’t a problem – it’s uncertainty.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Before we can even know what failure looks like in any given situation, we must be familiar with, and eventually become comfortable with, the idea that we won’t know everything in advance. We won’t know all the steps between 1 and 100 and we simply can’t be assured that things will work out the way we envision.

So instead of facing uncertainty, we keep researching, buying programs online, imagining, or perhaps talking to people about what we want or whether it’s our goal. These sneaky, passive activities may feel necessary, but they quickly become a way to hide. Eventually, you need to move into a more active, admittedly precarious phase of doing the actual work.

Make progress towards the goal.

To make this change, we have to make further progress a goal in itself. For example, you commit yourself to complete 10 tasks. You measure your success based only on whether those 10s were done – not results. You only learn by trying. After you’ve done 10 things, you’ll be better equipped to know what to do next.

You also need built-in accountability systems. For me, it’s telling a colleague what I plan to do. I make a specific commitment with a due date. Because I like to be known for having my say, I’ll do anything to give. You may have other strategies that work for you. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage.

Decide the value of the experience for yourself.

Even when feeling uncertain, you can boost your sense of self-confidence by deciding ahead of time what this experience will mean for you–no matter what the consequences. You may decide that the lessons learned are valuable and will inform your next steps. You can also decide ahead of time that you will keep moving. You decide when to adjust and plan again, and you decide when to leave.

Contrary to popular belief, we avoid taking action not because we fear failure but because we don’t know how to manage uncertainty. Once we understand and accept that failure isn’t really that dangerous, it’s better than uncertainty. Because when you fail, it means you followed him and tried to do something. From there, it’s just a learning experience. We have a definitive answer and new information on where to go from there.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.