Atychiphobia /əˌtɪkᵻˈfoʊbiə/ is the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure, a type of specific phobia. As with many phobias, atychiphobia often leads to a constricted lifestyle, and is particularly devastating for its effects on a person's willingness to attempt certain activities.
Fear is not really a bad thing, think about it...no, seriously...think about it, think about something that scares you... I'll wait. Got it? Good!
Feel that little tingle in your stomach? A little uneasy, maybe hyper-attentive? Well, that's exactly what fear is supposed to do...so its working! Awesome!
Fear tells our body, and especially our mind, to pay attention.
"Hey, something is about to happen dude!"
And that's a good thing. Its part of what Seth Godin calls our lizard brain, that part of the brain who's sole job is to keep us alive. And let's face facts, it does a pretty good job!
But here is where we get in trouble. Some fears are well founded. For example, there's a lot that could go wrong jumping out of a perfectly fine aircraft. Or sticking your hand in the camp fire to retrieve your smore. Then there is the fear of failure.
What Are You Afraid Of?
When we say we are afraid of failure, what are we really afraid of? Certainly failure for some could be fatal (like our skydiver above) but for the vast majority of us, the consequences aren't nearly so extreme. No, for most of us the fear of failure is really the fear of embarrassment. Yep, I said it...you're letting the fear of embarrassment keep you from your greatest success! Now it seems kind of silly...doesn't it?
Have you ever heard that statistic that more people are afraid of public speaking than are afraid of dying? (If you haven't, no worries...now you have!) Seriously, the likelihood that someone in the room will think you suck so bad that they'd stand up and shoot you or come on stage and beat you up is pretty small...even if you DO suck! So why the fear? Embarrassment!
Now, The GOOD News!
As with most things in life, there is a balancing emotion to go along with fear...courage. Yep, think about this, it is impossible to demonstrate courage in the absence of fear. Isn't that AWESOME!?! Fear is ok, it is natural, it serves a purpose...and we've been given a natural counter-balance in the form of courage. Where fear causes you to withdraw and shrink, courage causes you to expand, stand up straight, and face the fear head on! Yeah, You Go!
Be Afraid of Success!
What! Yep, I said it, be afraid of success! Look, let's take everything we've just learned and put it together. Fear makes us pay attention, but we can exercise courage and find our success anyway. Now, as Francis admonishes us, we have to pay attention to WHAT we succeed in doing!
Have you ever been driving down the street and some, um, "other driver", gets right up on your bumper encouraging you to get out of the way? And isn't it VERY satisfying to pull up next to them at the next traffic light? Well, they succeeded and it got them nowhere.
You can do the same thing...working diligently at finding your success only to find that it doesn't move the ball for you? You CAN do that...but you don't HAVE to!
PS - Here are some episodes from my podcast 7 Minutes in the Morning about this very topic... hope you find them interesting.
Fear, Failure & Success - All In One! - 14 Sep 2015
The Things That Matter - 25 Mar 2016