A Week’s Worth of Journaling Prompts: Fear of Failure


Our journaling prompts this week are about a kind of fear we all share — the one that can stop us before we even begin learning a new skill or starting a new venture, the one that seethes beneath the surface of every creative act, the one that began in us way back when we were little children.

We might be reluctant to take a risk unless success (however we measure it) is assured.We might think of it as a fear of making mistakes, of not achieving, or of simply making a “fool” of ourselves in some way. And if we give in to it, this fear can hold us back from doing the very things we long to do: write, paint, get that new job, or meet that special person.

It is the fear of failure.

  1. Define what it means for you to succeed at something. Describe the opposite of that (failure). Where do you think you got these ideas about success and failure?
  2. When was the first time you remember experiencing failure? What happened? Who was involved and why did it feel like failure? Did someone tell you that you had failed? Were you derided or made fun of in any way? Did you try again, or did you give up, and how did you feel afterward?
  3. Do a word association exercise with the word “failure.” To do this, write the word failure at the top of the page, then write the first word that comes into your mind. Continue writing words as they come into your mind — without censoring in any way — until your mind is quiet. Look over the list of words. What do you notice? How do you feel as you read them? Now perform the same exercise with the word “success.” Again, what do you notice and how do you feel as you read the words? Write for ten minutes about this topic.
  4. Describe a time when you were so afraid of failure that you decided not to attempt something new. Then describe a time when you were afraid of failure, but you attempted whatever it was you had in mind anyway. What were the results each time, and what made the difference for you the second time, that you decided to go ahead with the effort?
  5. Is failure a subjective or objective term? Explain.
  6. Do you know anyone who has let a fear of failure hold him (or her) back? If so, describe this person in detail — his talents, gifts, personality, and what you perceive as his potential. If you don’t know anyone like that, make him or her up and describe what you imagine that person would be like.
  7. If a person continues to try to achieve something, even after they have not achieved that something the first or second or even third time around, is their lack of achievement failure? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts and/or responses to this topic by leaving a comment. You might also be interested in the related Blogtalk article about What it Means to be Secure.

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Image by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

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