6 Tips for Overcoming a Fear of Making Mistakes
As individuals, employees, or team leaders, we are facing challenges that we’ve never encountered before.
It’s a lot to handle. It’s OK to be scared, but it’s not OK to do nothing at all.
“No one can reduce mistakes to zero, but you can learn to harness your drive to prevent them and channel it into better decision-making,” Alice Boyes says in the Harvard Business Review.
She offers six tips to overcome a fear of making mistakes.
Don’t be ashamed of your fear
The culture we live in may “glorify fearlessness,” but fear is a rational reaction to hard situations and it’s there for a reason.
“Your concern about making mistakes is there to remind you that we’re in a challenging situation,” Boyes explains. “A cautious leader has value.”
Use emotional agility skills
Emotional agility keeps you from decision paralysis. First, label your feelings. Then, say them out loud to help diffuse them. Finally, accept reality and act on your values.
“Identify your five most important values related to decision-making in a crisis. Then ask yourself how each of those is relevant to the important choices you face,” Boyes recommends.
Focus on your processes
“We can control systems, not outcomes,” Boyes explains. She then asks you to consider, “What are your systems and processes for avoiding making mistakes?”
The things you are worrying about can be the same things that help you avoid making mistakes.
“When you worry, it should be solutions-focused, not just perseverating on the presence of a threat,” Boyes says. “Direct your worry towards behaviors that will realistically reduce the chances of failure.”
Broaden your thinking
Worry and fear can lead to narrow thinking. That is the opposite of what you want because you need to be able to consider all outcomes.
“It might seem illogical that you could reduce your fear of making a mistake by thinking about other negative outcomes. But this strategy can help kick you into problem-solving mode and lessen the mental grip a particular fear has on you,” Boyes says.
Recognize the value of leisure
Pulling an all-nighter to solve a problem may work once, but you need to focus on ways to make yourself a better decision-maker in the long term.
“We need leisure (and sleep) to step back, integrate the threads of our thinking, see blind spots, and think creatively. Get some silent time,” Boyes recommends.
Detach from the noise
Try not to engage in frenzied behavior like constantly monitoring the news or checking data.
“This can result in information overload. Your mind can become so overwhelmed that you start to feel cloudy or shut down,” Boyes says. “Recognize if you’re doing this and limit over-monitoring or over checking.”