The fear of Failure and Procrastination

We usually procrastinate instead of being productive due to various reasons like having fun being distracted (like playing video games) or just lounging around as the task is too easy (or too difficult).

We start with a big, audacious goal and quickly realize that it is not feasible. Our lack of expertise is also a perfect excuse to slack around, as we fail to break down the task into smaller ones or take the first step.

There is a denial of procrastination, where we are telling ourselves that we are working as we should and there is no problem at all. The valid justifications we make to cover the problem or delay is essentially an excuse.

We make excuses as it is a valid cover to protect our self interest, and we often blame other people and circumstances to cover our own failure. If we could simply stop making excuses and start calling a spade a spade, we would learn a lot from our own behavior.

Recent studies on procrastination seems to suggest that the fear of failure could be a core reason for postponing tasks, as it is hard to:

  1. Amend mistakes.
  2. Lack of expected progress even with the effort being put.
  3. A wasted day having a spillover effect on the next day.
  4. Lack of practice.
  5. Lack of trying again.

We need to detect patterns in our behavior and recognize the cause of any hidden or camouflaged fear.

One can diminish the value of an achievement so that non-accomplishment isn’t a big issue.

One also falls into a self-fulfilling prophecy, that if one isn’t interested in doing a task, that task must not be interesting or important enough in the first place. This leads us to switch our goals, leading to excuses and missed opportunities.

  • We mistakenly think that if something feels difficult and out of our comfort zone, then it is not ‘us’, paving the way for resistance.
  • The task is difficult because we haven’t done it before, and avoiding it only hinders our growth.
  • Inversely, anything looks easy when you know exactly how it’s done.
  • Great achievers fall prey to this line of thinking when they are termed overly ambitious.

We think we have worked all these years and achieved a certain level, and attempting something new and outrageously out of our league will make us into a ‘newbie’, something learning the ropes and making mistakes.

Getting out of our comfort zones may not feel ‘comfy’ but is good for our personal growth and eventual success. Reaching the next level is not easy, but pays off big in the long run.

Life isn’t black and white, but in a shade of grey. Our expectations about doing things perfectly and wanting the results in absolute terms is often unrealistic and hinders our progress.

We need to take the first step and get used to action, without being stressed up about the results. We can improvise and optimize as we go.

Loss aversion is a big reason for fearing to do a project. Making progress sounds great, but correcting mistakes and counting your losses seems like an avoidable activity.

We want things to be perfect, and bad days are not really motivating for us. We need to embrace the imperfections, uncertainty and the so-called bad days and move ahead with our goal.

We usually want to take action as fast as we can, but with important decisions, we tend to wait and research more so that we can check the options and not make any mistakes.

The preparation time we need is often fear-based because we don’t want to mess up and it can look like procrastination.

People can lose time, money, respect, resources among other things when faced with failure, and that leads to fear-based procrastination. We need to keep in mind that mistakes happen, and only with action and errors does one learn something and moves towards growth.

Focus on action and learn to stop worrying about failure, taking it as a learning tool.