Managing fears of failure: Tips from a UC Mentor

With exams approaching and preparation in full-swing, it’s normal to experience fears of failing. When your studies are important to you, being worried about failing is natural and something that many people experience.

A UC Mentor has shared their thoughts, tips and advice on dealing with those fears to help you stay focused, keep striving and doing your best.

“”Final exams are not very far away, you’re well prepared and even wearing that lucky sweater, but still feel anxious and start imagining all the terrible consequences that could happen if you fail to achieve your goals…”

Does this scenario sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Fear of failure is part of the human nature. In fact, fear is associated with stress, moderating fear could sufficiently motivate you to do better, but too much of it could easily cause problems. Today I would love to share with you how to face failure and minimize the negative impacts based on my personal experiences.

Redefine failure

It is important to be clear about what is your definition of failure. For me, I am a big believer in the power of keep trying as excellence is not being the best but doing your best. For example, in my definition, failure is defined by giving up easily. So the sense of success comes from my inner motivation and the processes of improving. This way will actually make me feel better and achieve more than I expected. So why don’t you try this? Instead of saying “I am not reaching my goals”, try “I may not have achieved my goal, but I am getting closer to it.”

Keep it in mind, failures are never personal, they inform you where you are at and the discrepancies between what you expect to achieve and what you might achieve.

Some people avoid failure, some defeat it

Another simple way to help you to conquer the fear is to face it. The key is to keep positive about the outcome. For example, instead of saying “I don’t want to fail this course” try “I am gonna pass this course”. Psychologically, positive outcomes are associated with more organized approaches to goal pursuit, higher engagement, more self-determination, and less anxiety. Besides, try to figure out which of these potential consequences of failure scare you the most, and ask yourself: How much impact will they have on you? And how well can you handle it? Often reflecting on potential outcomes will help you to realise that even the worst-case scenario won’t be *that* bad!

The art of Mind-set

It is also noteworthy to mention the idea of mind-set. Your mindset determines the way you perceive this world and how you react. A growth mindset will help you to “fail” well and overcome the fear faster. Have a read here: https://uccareers.careercentre.me/elearning/scorm.aspx?CourseId=9FxKgOodAnDoooevUkNeww==  if you want to learn more about it.

Is the fear still bothering you? Maybe it is time to talk about what you are experiencing.

UC is a supportive community – you can reach out to UC Mentors ( https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/get-support/new/mentoring-programmes/), student advisors (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/needtotalk/student-care/), your lecturers and professors to let them know your concerns. They will try their best to help you. It is also a good idea to identify those already in your circle that you trust to express your feelings with, like family and friends.

Plato said life must be lived as play. Don’t be too harsh to yourself. The fear of failure belongs to the anxiety about the unknown, which can only affect you at this present moment. So it is time to stop worrying and start believing, believing in yourself, you are capable and all the efforts will be paid off. Most importantly, failure is not a destination or a personal judgment, but an opportunity for you to improve and succeed.”

For more information around fear of failure, read more> 

Mel Liu, UC Mentor, Final year student, Major in Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Management and Psychology

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