Raise your hand if you’ve ever wrestled with fear at work. Before you shake your head and say “not me,” take a second to think about it. It’s not a question about whether or not you feel like your life is at stake. It’s more about being afraid to speak up or step out of your comfort zone . . . because it means you might fail.
If we’re honest, most of us worry about failure—a lot. In fact, we probably worry about it more than we should. We might even try to ignore it. We show up for work, keep our heads down, and clock our hours. We’re diligent and hardworking—but we hesitate to offer new ideas or rock the boat because we don’t want to be wrong.
Sometimes, fear keeps us from making bad choices, but we cross a dangerous line when we let it slide over into the driver’s seat. We know this, right? We’ve read the verses. We’ve heard the sermons. We know we aren’t supposed to live in fear (2 Timothy 1:7). After all, we’re God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), and He gave us gifts and talents for a reason.
If we want to live the life God has in store for us—not to mention steward our gifts in the workplace—we need to kick fear out of the driver’s seat. It’s time to start taking the idea of Jesus, take the wheel seriously. Here are three steps to help you put the fear of failure in its place.
1. Understand everyone fails
Some people try to avoid making mistakes by living like some kind of robot—but even that doesn't guarantee you’ll never mess up. You will fail sometimes, but don’t take it personally. You’re human. That just means you aren’t perfect.
Think about the pioneers of your career field—or the leaders of successful companies. They didn't get where they are by keeping their heads down. And you can be sure they have some battle scars from going out on a limb. Embrace the fact that everyone makes mistakes and it won't feel like such a big deal to step outside your comfort zone.
2. Take chances anyway
It can be scary to accept that not all of your ideas will be successful, but take chances anyway. If you have an idea that might improve how your department runs, speak up. If you want to move into a leadership position, have a conversation with your boss about what it takes and how to get there.
Zig Ziglar liked to say, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” You never know what might happen unless you try. After all, unbelievably great might be just on the other side of risk.
3. Learn from your mistakes
It’s been said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you never course-correct along the way, you’ll end up stuck in a cycle of mistakes and never get any better. Remember, the greatest gift we get from failure is the chance to grow!
In yoga, if you fall out of your pose, the instructor will say: “Congratulations, you’ve found a new edge.” You've pushed yourself. You’re stretching and getting stronger. That’s progress—the good kind. Making a mistake teaches us things we wouldn’t learn any other way. If you try something new and it doesn’t work, take the time to figure out what went wrong—and try again.
Keep in mind that failing doesn’t make you a failure. When you associate your worth with what you do, you lose sight of who you are. So, never forget that your identity is in God—no matter how many times you fall down and scrape your knees. Give yourself grace and permission to mess up every once in a while. Because failure is part of life. And that’s okay.
After all, it isn’t about the mistakes you make, but how you respond to them.