5 Excuses People Make When They Fear Failure — And What They Can Tell Themselves Instead

Dr. Guy Winch on what to do when your mind says "it's not worth it" ... but your heart wants you to keep pushing forward.

Man confused by inner voices yelling at him and cheering him on SHOTPRIME via Canva 

Setting meaningful goals can be scary and anxiety-provoking. Unfortunately, our mind is likely to respond to our fear by providing us with excuses that encourage us to give up before we start, that sabotage our efforts once we do begin, or that send us into an endless cycle of procrastination.

The key is to acknowledge our fears, recognize the challenges, and set correct expectations, yet create an open path to success.


Five common excuses we give when we fear failure — and what we should say to ourselves instead 

1. “This goal will be very difficult to reach."

What your mind tells you: “I’m not capable so there’s no point in trying.”

If you believe you’re incapable, there is indeed no point in trying.


But, if you acknowledge the difficulty, you can begin to strategize, plan, and figure out what you will need to do to overcome the challenges — which will make you more likely to succeed once you do try.

RELATED: The Connection Between Being A Procrastinator And A Perfectionist

2. “I’m afraid to fail."

What your mind tells you: “I don’t want to try.”

It's your goal, so of course you would like to try and succeed. Therefore, if your mind is telling you that you don’t even want to try, know that this is actually false and a response to the fear of failure you feel.

The good news is, acknowledging fear is the first step in overcoming it. Own your fear and then confront it.


 instead of imagining what it will feel like to fail, imagine what it will feel like to succeed

3. “This is going to take a lot of effort and preparation."

What your mind tells you: “It’s not worth it.”

Again, the more meaningful the goal, the more effort it might take. But meaningful goals are also the most rewarding, empowering, and life-changing. So the effort is well worth it.

RELATED: If You Do These 12 Things, You're Addicted To Self-Sabotage


4. “Setting a clear start date makes me anxious."

What your mind tells you: “I’ll get to it when I’m ready.”

One of the most common reasons we fail to meet goals is that we fail to set a clear start date that could hold us accountable and prevent procrastination

Simply setting a start date, and putting it in your calendar to make it "official," can give you the extra kick you need to get going.

5. “If I try really hard and fail, I’ll be devastated."

What your mind tells you: “I’ll give it a try but there’s only so much I can do.”

Fear of failure often manifests in making excuses upfront that can then be used to explain the failure, such as expressing pessimism about your chances of success and using that as an excuse to limit your efforts. The problem is, the excuse mindset then turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. By holding back your efforts, you’ve increased your chances of failure.


So acknowledge the fear, but instead of imagining what it will feel like to fail, imagine what it will feel like to succeed. And go for it!

RELATED: The Simple Trick To Achieve All Your Goals In Approximately One Year

Guy Winch, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts. He shares advice, insights and more content like this in his popular newsletter, The Get Wrong Do Right Newsletter