Overcome the Fear of Failure to Achieve Career Gold with these Strategies from Olympians

July 21, 2016


It’s been said that elite Olympic athletes garner the gold because they have the courage to fail. Successful people understand this; they know no one succeeds without having fallen on their face a few times. For Olympic athletes, fear of failure motivates them to work harder, train longer and look for any and every edge. Here are some of the ways admins can take a page from their book. 

When we fear failure, we’re apt to:

  • Avoid trying new things or taking on challenging projects;
  • Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate;
  • Feel stressed out and unable to cope;
  • Overwhelm ourselves with negative self-talk (“I’m not good enough to speak in front of a group.” “Everyone else is smarter than me.”);
  • Take on only tasks we’re sure we’ll succeed at;
  • Hold back on giving our all.

Yet a lot of good comes from failure—it’s how we all learn, grow, and refrain from repeating past mistakes.

The best way to overcome the fear of failure is to face it head-on. Here are eight key habits Olympic athletes use to succeed. Admins can, too!

  1. Accept that you might fail then do the thing you’re afraid of anyway.
  2. If you do fail, try, try again.
  3. Put aside time to think about your fears—and how you might overcome them; that is to say, improve your confidence by having a "Plan B,” a “Plan C,” and even a “Plan D.”
  4. When you feel enormous pressure to succeed, focus all your energy on the present moment and the task at hand.
  5. See a failure as a learning experience, with valuable insights into what not to do the next time around.
  1. Think positive and make all your self-talk about succeeding.
  2. Set small goals. An Olympian might strive for a slight change in body position. An admin might introduce him/herself to a stranger at a networking event with the goal of exchanging business cards, rather than of garnering a piece of business.  
  3. Seek support. You may be surprised to find that coworkers have similar fears and will offer you advice and encouragement.  

Everyone is afraid to fail, at least some of the time. Facing our fears, then acting despite them, allows us to have a better shot at achieving gold in our work and our careers!

American Society of Administrative Professionals

Producer of

APCEA Summit  EA Ignite