Overcome Your Fear of Mistakes
Heidi Zwart
fear of mistakes

How do you feel when you make a mistake? Do you use it as a learning opportunity or do you stop trying out of fear you might fail again? As hard as it may be, when you learn to overcome your fear of mistakes, you unlock the potential for your greatest success. 

Fear of mistakes is one of the biggest barriers to reaching your goals. If we’re honest, we’ve all experienced the limitation that fear places on our potential. Think back to a mistake you’d rather not repeat. Did you try again? Or did you give up? To overcome your fear of mistakes, it’s important to think differently about how mistakes can lead to transformation instead of failure. 

Limit Catastrophic Thinking

Have you ever read the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?” This fun children’s book perfectly illustrates catastrophic thinking. The author recounts all of the possible, and often ridiculous, chain of events that happen simply by giving a mouse a cookie. Likewise, catastrophic thinking takes us down a path like this. We see one mistake as a series of events that leads to a landslide of other problems, most of which will never happen. Overcoming your fear of mistakes means catching yourself when you go down this path and recognizing how unlikely it is to unfold the way you imagine. 

Play it Forward

While this might seem contradictory to catastrophic thinking, it’s more like step two of the process. Imagine the worst possible scenario. How bad is it? What’s the worst that could happen if, in fact, it does transpire? A fascinating study at Penn State revealed that 91% of the time, what people worried about didn’t come true. And when it did, one-third of the time it was better than expected. For one in four participants, nothing bad happened at all. Bottomline? The odds are in your favor. This should be good news for you if you want to overcome your fear of mistakes!

Have a Plan B

Decide what you’ll do, in advance, if your plans go wrong. Behavior science tells us that people who decide in advance how they will respond in a certain situation are more likely to follow-through on their predetermined plan. Pessimism isn’t the goal here. Planning is. Having a “what if…” scenario in mind will help you overcome your fear of mistakes. You will be more flexible and responsive when Plan A doesn’t work out. Know if you’re the kind of person who likes to wing it or if the unexpected throws you for a loop. Chances are, you’ll be more successful if you plan. 

Be Positive

Positive psychology helps us focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong. This doesn’t mean burying our heads in the sand and ignoring problems. It’s a mindset shift that helps us think about your potential with a positive point of view. With this internal shift toward believing you have ability and skill comes new belief and confidence in yourself. You see your strengths instead of your weaknesses and you use them to move forward. You learn to overcome your fear of mistakes by seeing them as opportunities to unlock a different strength or apply it differently the next time. You learn resilience. 

To overcome your fear of mistakes you will need to limit catastrophic thinking, play it forward, have a Plan B, and be positive. The journey is filled with opportunity and potential when you make these mindset shifts. 

The BetterYou app uses behavior science to improve digital health and make it stick.

Want to learn how?