On Wednesday I, together with a packed Michael Fowler Centre, enjoyed an evening with Nigella Lawson. While the questions put to Nigella were focused on her career and food, in answering them, she frequently touched on aspects of personal development and well-being such as:

  • the importance of connection in our lives and how food and cooking facilitiates bonding and connection
  • how our limiting beliefs can stop us from achieving our full potential
  • overcoming the fear of failure. Nigella spoke about the fact that we can’t grow and achieve our potential unless we’re prepared to step outside our comfort zone and overcome our fear of failure.


“Fear of failing yourself and your loved ones by cooking and serving mediocre food can keep you from experimenting, which keeps you from growing as a cook.” ~ Nigella Lawson

Nigella’s comments on the fear of failure particularly resonated with me as earlier in the week I’d had a conversation with someone on that very subject. 

If you have an area of life that is being stifled by a fear of failure, this blog is for you.

Why no one likes to fail

We all have a set of essential emotional needs that we want to satisfy. Those needs include the need for:

  • Achievement
  • Status
  • Attention

Engaging in an activity that we believe risks harming one or more of these needs is bound to give rise to fear on some level, because we don’t want to fail (achievement), or be the centre of unwelcome attention (attention), or be judged negatively as a person (status).

For this reason the fear of failure can be crippling and leave us stuck inside our comfort zone for years, or even a lifetime, because we are too scared to try anything new, pursue opportunities or take any risks.

The paradox is that if we don’t take some risks because we are afraid of failing, then we have failed anyway. 

Overcoming a fear of failure

One powerful and effective way to overcome a fear of failure is to adopt the right kind of empowering mind-set.


We filter our experiences through our mind-sets - what we believe. It follows then, that we are much more likely to lead a happy and successful life, if we filter our experiences through positive beliefs such as, “Every mistake is an opportunity to learn,” rather than through negative beliefs like “I am a failure.”

Here’s a selection of mind-sets that I find beneficial in keeping the fear of failure at bay.

"I accept failure as an inevitable part of life."

'Calm seas don't make good sailors.' ~Anon

Failure is an unavoidable component of a life that contains some risk, adventure and growth. By accepting the inevitability of failure we can defuse much of the fear it holds. The reality is no one ever made progress without mistakes, knock-backs and failures. So rather than focus on 'failure' or 'success' we should simply get on with enjoying the journey of discovery and seeing how far we can extend our comfort zone. Not everything will work out, it's impossible to know in advance, but that shouldn't stop the journey. The longer we stay tucked up in our comfort zone the more unwilling we can become to step outside of it.

"Every mistake is an opportunity to learn."

Labelling experiences as mistakes or failures often prevents people from engaging in those experiences again. Successful people label their experiences, whether good or bad, as opportunities to learn. Rather than being derailed by a bad experience, successful people are curious about what can be learned from the experience and have generally have had more "failures" than the average person. 

Making lots of mistakes is all part of the learning process. It’s said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice in a subject to become an expert.  How many mistakes do you think someone who has practiced for 10,000 hours might have made in order to become that expert?

Did you know that Edison failed 10,000 times before he was successful at producing a working light bulb? Thankfully he didn’t stop after his first attempt! When asked about all his many failed attempts, he said: “I’ve not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work!

"I love feedback; feedback is the food of champions."

“If you're worried about what people think here's the good and bad news - the good news is that they think of you a lot less than you think - and the bad news is - well the same.” ~ Carol Ann Rice

Specific and timely feedback lets you know how or what you need to adjust to achieve success in the future. It’s important to remember that feedback is only someone else’s opinion it’s not necessarily fact. So don’t take the feedback personally.

Those that take feedback constructively can learn from their experiences while those who take feedback as a personal affront are less likely to move ahead and develop.

"I’m prepared to fail now in order to achieve success later."

"Try again. Fail again. Fail better" ~ Samuel Beckett

This mind-set reflects that success is rarely achieved overnight. It often takes years of trial and error and dedication. We need to be prepared to be in for the ‘long-game.’

J K Rowling was turned down by dozens of publishers before someone at Bloomsbury took her, and Harry Potter, on. The rest, as they say, is history.

"I do not define myself by my successes and failures."

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” ~ Henry C Link.

Successful people do not label themselves as ‘failures’ and they don’t beat themselves up over perceived failures. They don't make the failure all about them: they keep the failure external. They understand that when it comes to success there are many variables they are not responsible for and cannot fully control. They are proud of themselves because they gave it a go.

"It’s onward and upward for me!"

Successful people don't get paralysed by failure. They don't give up. They don't let failure become an excuse to procrastinate and stall. They don’t dwell on what went wrong or why. They seek specific, timely feedback, reflect on their experience; and use what they’ve learned to develop a new plan and then they move on. In doing so they maintain forward momentum.

Just imagine if J K Rowling had thrown her first novel into the bin after her umpteenth rejection letter arrived in the post…… a world without Harry Potter!! Now that is fear inducing!

What Next?

Fears are one of the main areas I assist clients in overcoming. If you have an area of your life where a fear of failure is holding you back and preventing you moving forward, contact me today on 021 056 8389 , email tony@tycoaching.nz or use the Book Now button below. 

Wishing you a happy, calm and successful week!
Go well

REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."


Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress, overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of solution focused coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology and clinical hypnosis.