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Want to Be Successful? Stop Thinking About Failure Here's how to avoid sabotaging yourself and your business.

By Thomas Edwards, Jr. Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

"If you want to be successful, why are you wasting time thinking about how much you don't want to fail?" It was a simple question that changed how I approached business and life. Fear of failure is very powerful, but what's more powerful is fear of success.

When I support my clients in their ability to achieve more in life, I ask them what's going through their mind that's preventing them from going after it, whether it's talking to that attractive person, sending that email to a potential investor or even going to the gym. Among their responses is often, "Well, I don't know what to say" or "What if she doesn't like what I have to say?" People bombard themselves with "what ifs."

I get it, all these scenarios could possibly happen, but the truth is they haven't yet. Nevertheless, the uncertainty around these "what ifs" takes away your courage and confidence to go and make that move, even knowing it could level up your business and life.

Let me explain why this happens and what you can do about it.

Related: 8 Mindset Shifts Entrepreneurs Must Make

Failure is designed to protect us from an emotional death

You don't want to fail. You also don't want to die. This may sound extreme, but your brain and feelings can't tell the difference between the two. You don't want to make mistakes, be embarrassed and ashamed. So you do everything you possibly can to seek the most information possible and create scenarios that ensure what you're attempting to do is virtually fail-proof.

Here's what's also happening: While you do your due diligence, you also look for reasons you shouldn't take this chance. You may not realize this, but the moment you enter a room, open your email or even wake up, your mind will look for any excuse to justify why you shouldn't approach and talk to someone you're attracted to, talk to that investor about your company or go to the gym to work out.

Your mind says: "The gym is too far." "I have to wake up early." "I can't wake up that early." "I'm already too tired."
"She's talking with her friends, and I don't want to interrupt her." "That investor doesn't want to give me money."

While you are preparing yourself to avoid failure, making up things and going through all the scenarios you can possibly conceive, you're spending zero energy preparing for what would happen if you succeed.

Simulated failure feels like real failure

You put your mind through every scenario where failure is possible to the point where it feels real. You're simulating these experiences so frequently, it feels real, even though nothing has actually happened. After a while, your mind tricks you into believing you have all this "experience" around failure, when you've never actually experienced it — just thousands of simulations of it. Consequently, it feels like you're building experience around planning, avoiding and navigating around failure.

This results in your mind having no concept of what success feels like, how to handle it and how you can grow it. In other words, success is so unknown, it's scary — maybe scarier than failure. Your mind can't comprehend what success could be like because you never put your mind through those scenarios.

How to avoid sabotaging your success

Now imagine you've been spending all that time and energy focusing on failure without having considered the other "what ifs…." What if you sent that email asking for an investor meeting, and not only got it, but secured the investment too? What if you went over and talked to that attractive person, and they were so receptive and excited, it felt like they were waiting for you to do it? What if you went to the gym, got on that treadmill, and it felt pretty easy?

If you don't prepare your mind for what would happen if you were successful, it's no surprise that when it happens, you have no idea what to do. When my clients achieve a certain level of success they didn't expect or prepare for, oftentimes, they lose it.

When you're so afraid of failure, you put all your energy around avoiding it. I especially see it when clients are researching more information instead of applying what they already know. That "final" bit of information isn't out there, but yet you search for it, praying it makes your path to achievement painless, which we know isn't possible.

Think about success the same way you thought about failure

What if you planned and prepared for success? That's what you want, anyway. Your energy and focus tends to become reality, so if you're putting all your energy towards avoiding failure, chances are you're subconsciously manifesting it. If that's true, putting all your energy toward success may create a different scenario.

For most of our lives, we have have spent so much time and energy trying to avoid failure. Reversing it by planning for success, the very thing that you want, focuses your energy on it. When it does come, you're not surprised or overwhelmed. Instead, it becomes a part of your plan.

Related: Cultivating the Mindset of a Successful Entrepreneur

The only difference is fear of failure is something your mind believes you've experienced enough to become familiar with it. With this, you now have a chance to create a similar, more powerful relationship with your fear of success, something new and unknown to you — for now.

This shift can be life changing by limiting your focus about failure and the "what ifs" and instead turning your focus toward what to do when you are successful. Even using that language makes success become more inevitable. My clients have learned to prepare, plan, respond, leverage and build more of it. Now you can too.

Thomas Edwards, Jr.

Entrepreneur and Social Skills Strategist

Thomas Edwards, Jr. is founder of Confidence Unchained and a social skills strategist who helps professionals all over the country maximize their lives and perform at their peak. You can learn more about him and what he does here.

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