You blame the lack of resources for no substantial progress on your goal… the lack of enough time… the environment and the people around you… your many responsibilities… but the truth is – you’re afraid.
You have so many paralyzing thoughts around your goal… you are thinking:
“But what if… [this happens] or [that happens]”
“What if it doesn’t work out the way I’m hoping it would?”
I’ve already shared with you the 3-step system for breaking ANY fear on your path to achievement and getting on with your goal despite your fear of failure.
We also learned that the best way to overcome any fear is to start by discovering the underlying reason for it. Now, allow me to reveal the 6 most common (but subtle) reasons for your fear of failure whenever you make up your mind to do something nerve-wracking that you’ve either done before and it still gives you anxiety OR it’s something new, scary, and bigger than you’ve ever done before!
Today, my only job is to help you recognize all the different heads of the monster of fear (yes, there can be many reasons for your fear of failure as we will explore today) and bring out the warrior inside you to slash each of these ugly heads.
This post is full of mindset shifts and action steps to help you overcome your fear of failure whatever the cause.
Let me now reveal the 7 common fears that make up the components of the nemesis we call “Fear of Failure”. Shall we get started? I’m imagining a resounding yes.
1) “Is it even worth it?”
Why do I have to pursue this dream of mine? Why do I have to pursue any dreams at all? Why can’t I stay happily in my comfort zone forever?
This may seem like a very benign thought but don’t underestimate it – it will stop you from even dreaming big in the first place.
Until you beat this fear, you will never discover your true potential, let alone live a life up to your full potential.
You will come up with a million reasons to find peace and comfort in your limited efforts in life, using the simpler principles of Islam as the umbrella to find cover under, ignoring the more advanced teachings of Islam for the top performers thinking those are not for you. Thinking “you could never do that.” (see fear # 3)
This reclusion to mediocrity can just be an excuse to escape from the fear of failure, or the fear of success, or that of change. Here’s how to implement the AMA framework (Acceptance. Mindset shift, Action step) on this fear:
A – Acceptance: Accept that this fear is stopping you from taking even the first step towards your true potential, which is instilling the desire to achieve something bigger in life that you are truly capable of achieving.
Something you can only know if you tried.
“And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse in the land and seek the bounties of Allah and be grateful to Allah so that you may be successful” (Surah Al-Jumuah, 10)
M- Mindset shift: If you keep believing that this is the right way to live, then why are you dissatisfied deep down, knowing you can do much more? We cannot achieve true liberating happiness and fulfillment until we don’t start living up to our true potential, even if it is just aiming to achieve Ihsan (excellence) in our daily doings. (see fear # 2)
“Allah is the One who created you in a state of weakness, then He created strength after weakness, then created weakness and old age after strength. He creates what He wills, and He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful.” (Quran 30:54)
Allah has reserved that high level of fulfillment just for high performers who live up to the potential Allah has stored within them from the time of conception.
A – Action step: Take out a personal diary or journal you have been writing in, (or just sit and recall if you didn’t keep a diary) and note down any dream goals you wrote in your wish list in the past (even if it was a long time ago, in your childhood or teenage years) and excitedly wanted to pursue one day. I’m sure you must have had quite a few, even the most deflated of all people now can recall some aborted dreams.
If we all had dreams at the beginning of our lives, what changed as we all grew up? I’ll tell you what. Fear crept into our souls. Back then, being bold and courageous seemed way easier since we weren’t aware of the harsh realities of life and didn’t have the satellite vision that oversees all the possible outcomes of pursuing our dream goals.
It’s time you restart the latent process of dreaming big and enter the ground of high achievers who don’t settle for anything less than that which pushes them outside their comfort zone and makes use of their full potential.
2) “Do I have to aim excellence in my goal? Can’t I just settle with mediocrity?”
…Maybe I’ll just achieve the outcome I’m hoping for by playing small and safe.
After you tackle fear #1, this limiting fear will be waiting next in line, ready to knock down all the meager bits of courage you might have managed to muster up by now.
Well, worry not my cherry plums! (I just realized that’s not even a real fruit, it just sounded cute so I brushed it in). Let’s break this one too.
If you’ve read any of these articles below, you’ll be in a better position to beat this fear:
Why, as Muslim professionals, We Can’t Settle for Anything Less than Excellence!
2 Easy Ways to Create More Fulfillment in Your Life
In any case, the following ayahs should provide enough evidence against this limiting belief:
“…And do good, for Allah certainly loves the good-doers the muhsineen – those who do their deeds with Ihsan or excellence.).” (02:195)
Allah Says in the Quran: “And Allah gave them a reward in this world and the excellent reward of the Hereafter. For Allah loves the muhsineen (the good-doers)” (3:148)
“Verily! As for those who believe and do righteous deeds, certainly! We will not allow the reward of anyone who does his (righteous) deeds in the most perfect manner. [Surah 18: Al-Kahf, Ayah: 30]”
A – Acceptance: This is a straightforward verdict. If truly this is what replays through your mind as you start moving towards your goal — the idea that you can achieve big outcomes by playing small and safe — then brace yourselves for the reality check that this is never going to happen.
You can not achieve the big bold outcomes by playing too safe. Risk management and doing things with balance is NOT the same as playing “safe and small”.
All the high achievers can testify to the fact that you must wear the coat of courage if you want to achieve anything significant in life. (see fear #4)
Courage and risk-taking are a must-have in the toolkit of all high performers. The only difference for Muslims is that they take courage and strength from their faith.
M- Mindset shift: There is no person on the planet who has played it small and safe and managed to achieve anything worthwhile.
Take the example of our own beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was the most hardworking and courageous man who made the greatest sacrifices to achieve his goals.
He SAW and his devoted followers never resorted to playing small, timid, and safe. They went all out – mind, heart, body, and soul – into achieving what they set out to achieve. And that is the teaching of our Deen.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah SAW said, “The strong believer is more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, but there is goodness in both of them. Be eager for what benefits you, seek help from Allah, and do not be frustrated. If something befalls you, then do not say: If only I had done something else. Rather say: Allah has decreed what he wills. Verily, the phrase ‘if only’ opens the way for the work of Satan.” [Sahih Muslim]
A- Action step: Edge yourself into your process of working on your goal, bit by bit. Start with a clear outcome in your mind, a solid plan to reach that outcome, then break the plan down into mini action steps.
Courage doesn’t necessarily mean you have to jump head-first into your goal and risk it all. Not to sound morbid but you can literally break your neck that way.
There will be many parts of your dream goal that will be scarier than the others. If you don’t feel bold enough to take the daring but necessary step, break that daunting step up into mini-steps and you’ll see that finishing one mini-step at a time will be much easier.
With time, you can pick up the pace and build up the courage to take multiple mini-steps in one go, or maybe even the whole step.
3) “Having dream goals and playing big is for more talented, more intelligent, more educated, more ambitious or more spiritual people.”
…”Some people just have a great vision by default and are just better equipped to achieve big goals”
“Other people have a more ambitious personality, are more talented and better skilled than me for this goal, What’s the point then?”
You think you are not worthy of achieving your dream goals?
When we don’t have the confidence to do something big, and we see others around us going after and achieving their dreams, we start to assume that it is because they have just been blessed with the right sort of ambitious personality that confers upon them endless showers of confidence and magically enables them to achieve their dreams.
A – Acceptance: This fear is a very debilitating blow to self-esteem and can be crippling. Realize that you cannot give your best output to your goals if this fear keeps popping up in your mind every time you start to take action on them.
Understand that yes, even though some people catch on early in their life and somehow have a knack for doing big things easily, you are no less than any of them because the Quran gives a clear-cut formula to every single person for achieving anything.
“And that man will only have what he endeavored towards. And that his effort is going to be seen. Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense. And that to your Lord is the finality.” [Surah Najm:39-42]
Simply put, it’s the efforts that matter. Ambition brings nothing to the table if it is not followed by effort.
M- Mindset shift: Accept wholeheartedly that worth is not something you can credit yourself with. Ironically, we are not worthy of this one thing: assigning ourselves our worth. That is the job of our Creator, Allah Az-Zawajal. And he is the Most Generous with His creation.
Read this carefully:
Who decides who is worthy? Allah says he looks at your actions and intentions. And that judgment criteria doesn’t just apply to spiritual acts of Ibadah. It applies to everything you want to do within the limits of Allah. Allah has sketched a boundary wall by defining very clear limits for everyone in our Deen.
“These are the limits of Allah, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah – it is those who are the wrongdoers.” [Qur’an 2-229]
These are the limits of Allah, which He makes clear to a people who know.” [Qur’an 2-230]
These are the limits [set by] Allah, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous.” [Qur’an 2-187]
Allah does not tell us to limit ourselves within those limits.
Within those limits, EVERYTHING IS PERMISSIBLE.
In other words, you can do ANYTHING with the right good intentions (intentions aligned with Akhirah) and in the right way (keeping in line with the teachings of our Prophet in the Sunnah), and barakah and the blessings of Allah will become affiliated with that goal like iron drawn to a magnet. That goal will have become a worthy goal in the eyes of Allah. Nothing more stays important after you get the validation from Allah.
Amongst a sea of my mediocre quotes, the one thing that I’m very happy with is giving genesis to the quote that has given me so much strength and forced me out of my self-limiting shells and it is:
Truth is – we limit ourselves. We limit ourselves by placing self-limiting labels, “I’m not spiritual enough to do that”, “I’m not knowledgeable enough to do this”, “I’m not smart or skilled enough to do that”. This becomes a problem when you want to pursue something badly but these labels snuck you in a cold blanket of fear.
Instead of putting self-limiting labels, try this simple activity: write these words in your notebook or on a lovely piece of paper and paste it on your wall so that you may see it daily and hammer it in your mind.
“I am Limitless within the Limits of Allah.”
Allah has created each of us with SO much potential but we shy away from honing it and owning it because of subtle fears like this one.
A – Action step: Look around you at the examples of the great achievers in history or even in your own times. Listen to what they have to say regarding themselves. They weren’t all exceptionally talented or privileged, but they all had one belief in common: “I can do it.”
Whenever my students say to me, “I’m not —- enough to do that”, I stop them right there, I refuse to encourage any self-limiting fear or belief.
The way I see it, there’s only two options when you feel like you’re not good enough for something but deep down, (even if you won’t admit it to yourself) you really want to do it.
Option 1: Either spend some time learning the skills that you’ll need in order to achieve your dream goal.
Option 2: Or delegate those parts of your goal that although you could do yourself if you spent some time learning the skills, your energy would be better spent in some other part of your goal.
4) “I don’t have the confidence to go for this goal.”
If you now believe that you are equally or more capable than other people of achieving your dream goals, waiting to jump at you next is the snarling face of the lack of confidence.
It is very easy to slip into this coma of low confidence levels, and it is something that can shake even the most composed of all people.
A – Acceptance: Realize that anyone can be rattled up by the lack of confidence at any point in their endeavor, and nobody can claim to be completely immune to feeling dips in confidence.
Fear of failure can come and take away your confidence at ANY time as you work on your goal.
M – Mindset shift: Confidence is a badge of honor that people who look like they are happy with who they are and not afraid of failing wear proudly.
But confidence is not something that if you’re not born with, you have lost all opportunity to gain it.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not an in-built system that some people are blessed with, rather it is a sequel that naturally follows the flag-bearer courage. It is courage before confidence, my friends.
Confidence is a skill that can be built over time.
A – Action step: Now that we’ve established that true confidence (which is a reflection of how you think about yourself) takes time, in the meantime, what should you do if you don’t feel confident enough to go after your goal?
How can you execute the scary part of your goal that’s making you anxious?
You look for courage. What do you know, it may even fall out of your pocket right when you need it.
On a more serious note, our faith is the endless well of courage that everyone has access to. Inspire yourself by reading the bold courageous stories of the Prophet SAW and his companions.
Take strength from the verses of the Quran that encourage Muslims to leave matters that are creating anxiety and fears upon Allah.
“If Allah helps you, there is none to overcome you. And if He abandons you, then, who is there to help you after that? In Allah the believers should place their trust.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:160).
“…And when my guidance comes to you,and whoever follows my guidance, they will have no fear, nor will they grieve.” (Surah Al Baqarah, Verse 38)
Instead of thinking that you can only achieve the daunting thing once you build confidence, know that there’s no way around it except to wear the coat of courage. Once you act boldly and are courageous enough to take action on your goal, confidence will follow and it will feel surreal. You will look back and say, “I can’t believe I did this!”
5) “What if my dream goal is not Ibadah-related and is not for Akhirah… what if my goal is for this Dunya?”
A – Acceptance: There’s this limiting belief that harbors in the Muslim community, “Choosing Akhirah over Dunya means having no Dunya goals” or “living by the rule Deen over Dunya”.
This limiting belief has a tendency to depress Muslims even. Realize that Allah does NOT want you to live a hermit’s life, where worship and charity is all there is to living. That is not the way of life Islam advocates for.
M – Mindset shift: Having goals that are dunya-oriented is not a bad thing.
Let’s start with a correction: It’s not “Deen over Dunya”, it is “Dunya is a part of Deen”
Having goals that will bring you more money, happiness, respect, and prestige is NOT haram.
We can pursue ANY and ALL of those things but… what we CAN’T do is lose ourselves in the pursuit of those things.
“O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah. And whoever does that – then those are the losers.” [Quran Surah 63: Ayah 9]
A – Action Step: If your goals are dunya-oriented, one way to make them Akhirah-aligned and infuse the element of spirituality in them is by using those blessings (money, prestige, happiness, etc.) to give back more fi sabi lillah.
“O you who believe! If you help Allah, He will help you and make firm your feet.” (Surah Muhammad 47:7)
“And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.” [Quran, 3: 104]
Another way to ensure you are not giving up on your values as a Muslim while working on your dunya goals is by creating a healthy balance between everything. This will require resetting of priorities, getting organized and doing things in a more systematic way rather than going at your goals whenever you ‘feel like it’. You can use the free ‘Balance Deen with Work’ starter kit.
The third way to make your dunya goals Akhirah-aligned is by doing your work in an excellent way with honesty and sincerity… no shortcuts or gimmicks… The barakah is in doing even the most basic of things in a way that’s closest to the Sunnah.
When you do that, you not only convert your work into Ibadah, you also become an example for people around you and gain ongoing ajar for guiding people towards good.
6) “I feel guilty thinking about pursuing my goals.”
This feeling of guilt may be because of a couple of limiting beliefs.
- “My family discourages me and does not support me in my vision/ goals.” OR
- “If I go after my dream goals, I’ll have to encounter more haram and my Iman may be at stake (as in becoming well-known, having more money, more prestige, etc. might get to my head and I might lose my way). Isn’t it better to just play safe and stay small?”
This is where I will heave a mighty sigh and put down my pen (or cursor for that matter) and take a moment of silence for the sad reality of the era we are living in. It is a time of terrible fitnah, there is no doubt about that.
Let’s tackle each of these.
“My family discourages me and does not support me in my vision/ goals.”
Another thing is I feel that in the Muslim cultures and societies, there’s this mindset where a person is judged for daring to dream big and even thinking of achieving big things in Dunya because somehow that equates to being a bad Muslim who gave up Akhirah for Dunya? Wrong. Learn what is a proper balance of Deen, Dunya according to the Sunnah of our Prophet SAW before adding fuel to these limiting beliefs.
“Seek the home of the Hereafter by that which Allah has given you, but do not forget your share of the world.” (Surat Al-Qasas 28:77)
The true essence of ‘giving up Dunya for Akhirah’ is on a beginner level – to give up haram for halal, and on a more advanced level – to give up more of your time, money and resources for giving back to the Muslim community for the sake of Allah with no ask in return, fi sabi lillah, and for spreading Islam.
Muslim families tend to guilt-trip high achievers and ambitious Muslims by discouraging them to dream big and to focus only on serving the family for true salvation.
When striving to achieve something big, we may also start to feel guilty for taking our time to carve our own path. We want everyone around us to achieve a similar happiness as well, which is an unrealistic wish since the timeline for everyone’s accomplishments differs vastly.
This leads to an unhealthy imbalance in the expectations that surround us, and can even lead to more serious problems such as depression, anxiety, resentment and toxicity in the family.
Although we can’t dare to deny the roles and responsibilities each Muslim has to play in their family and social circle, everything must be done with balance. That’s the entire teaching of Deen, to do things with moderation.
“You have a duty to your Lord, you have a duty to your body, and you have a duty to your family, so you should give each one its rights.” (Sahih Bukhari)
“If I go after my dream goal, I’ll have to encounter more haram and my Iman may be at stake.”
Truth is – our emaan is always already at stake (no thanks to Shaytan). Whether you choose to stay in your comfort zone or go after your big dream goals.
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A time of patience will come to people in which adhering to one’s religion is like grasping a hot coal.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī)
A – Acceptance: But this is a legitimate fear, and the only fear which I will say is not only justified but necessary as well. Because it will constantly keep you in check and is a direct extension of Taqwa as long as it’s not crippling or keeping you stuck.
However, we must not let it become so excessive that it engulfs us and renders us incapable of doing anything.
M- Mindset shift: There is no denying that the opportunities to do haram have increased so much that it appears that everything around us is haram and thus off-bounds for us. However, this is a form of research bias, a core concept as a source of error for research scientists.
Simply put, it is not that Islam allows a very small variety of things as halal, rather, due to the exponential increase in occurrence and availability of haram, it falsely appears as though haram options are more than halal ones in Islam.
A – Action step: Allow me to reiterate: “You are limitless within the limits of Allah.”
Indeed, once we realize that the bounds of Allah exist merely to protect us from harm, what remains within these bounds then is the exhilarating freedom to do whatever we want. And that is most encouraging. “You are limitless within the limits of Allah.”
Believe this with full conviction.
I promise you, it will create an Identity shift inside you!
The best way to not lose yourself to any dunya related matter and compromise your Imaan is to hold on tightly to your anchor habits. Anchor habits keep you grounded to Faith and your focus on Akhirah at all times. These include praying on time, having a strong relationship with the Quran, keeping your dua and Azkaar game strong and renewing/ flossing your intentions regularly.
“And he who submits himself completely to Allah, and is a doer of good, he has surely grasped a strong handle. And with Allah rests the end of all affairs.” (Surah Luqman 31:22)
Another way to keep a strong hold onto your imaan is by surrounding yourself with righteous people.
Abu Hurairah (ra) reported: I heard the Prophet (saw) saying, “Man follows his friend’s religion, you should be careful who you take for friends”. [At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud]
Personally, I have experienced all of these fears as I’ve worked on my dream goals. Now it’s your turn – tell me in the comments below ONE fear that was broken for you today! I read every single comment.
MashAllah barakallahu feek, this is what held me back for so long.. Now i am on my journey of thinking more of my self. My knowledge is worthy of sharing.. My lack of self. Has held me back for many years…JazakAllahu khyrn for the reminder.