It’s hard to admit when the things we’re doing aren’t going as well as planned. Most of us tend to take it personally, like the failure somehow reflects poorly on our worth as human beings. So we begin to fear failure, and we convince ourselves that the work is only worth doing if we can do it right the first time.

But the problem is that this kind of thinking leads to paralysis. It’s almost impossible to make a decision when we’re overthinking the outcomes of each of our choices. It’s almost impossible to work productively and effectively when we’re worried we’re doing the work wrong.

Fear leads to perfectionism, and perfectionism is an insidious disease. So how do we cure it?

We should start by reminding ourselves that failure is a powerful learning tool. It very clearly shows us where we went wrong, and from there we can take steps to correct our errors. Trial-and-error is a necessary process for innovation.

We need to keep in mind that fear of failure will only lead to mediocrity. Failure goes hand-in-hand with risk.  If we don’t take chances, we can’t innovate – without innovation, we cannot progress.

Perhaps most important, failure gives us the tools we need to face difficult situations in the future. Many employers say they’re leery of leaders who haven’t failed, because it means their ability to handle failure has not yet been tested. Only by failing can we grow.

Do you find yourself fearing failure? What steps do you take to overcome that fear? Let us know in the comments.

Amy Allen
Amy Allen is a staff writer with Canadian Government Executive magazine. You can connect with her at