Responding To The Lizard Brain & Overcoming Your Fear Of Failure

It’s January, and you have a whole new year ahead of you—like a blank sheet of paper waiting to be filled. If you are like most of us, you have goals, dreams and resolutions that you want to make a reality this year. And you also have goals that you would like to achieve, but you don’t even dare to try, because they feel too risky.
Giovanni Dienstmann is an author, meditation teacher, coach, and speaker.
Giovanni Dienstmann is an author, meditation teacher, coach, and speaker.

What stops many people from achieving their big goals, making certain life changes, and living a life more true to who they are, is fear of failure.

What Is Fear Of Failure?

Fear of failure is one of the most common forms of fear, and it holds you back in life. It causes you to procrastinate, to avoid, to play safe, and ultimately to sabotage yourself. 

This fear is normal, but not natural—meaning that you were not born with it. It’s a learned response, the result of how we interpret failure. Understanding this is actually really good news, because it means that we can “un-learn” this response. 

Before we talk about the “how-to”, let’s first see where fear comes from.

Fear And The Lizard Brain

Our brain has three parts or layers, each with a different function:

  • The top layer is the rational brain, responsible for conscious thought. It’s the most evolved and “aware” part of the brain. 

  • The mid layer is the mammalian brain, responsible for feeling and coordination of movement. 

  • The deepest layer is our “reptilian brain”, or “lizard brain”. It’s the most primitive part of our brain. 

The Lizard Brain is the fear and anxiety department of the brain. As such, it has one goal only: to keep you safe. It wants to avoid danger and pain at all costs (even if that means scrapping your dreams). 

Fear of failure is a response from the Lizard Brain to the perspective of pain under the forms of: embarrassment, rejection, disappointment, or loss of money, social relations, credibility, or self-esteem.  

Even though your rational brain may at times want to take an important (and big) step in your life, if your inner lizard feels that this step makes you vulnerable to any type of pain, it will do all it can to stop you. And it’s bloody hard to control that silly lizard! 

So, basically this is the problem: different parts of you want different things. There is inner conflict and you feel that you are not in control of your mind and life. You’re torn in different directions.

How To Overcome Fear Of Failure

So how do we overcome fear of failure? Do we make the conscious brain so strong that it can fully overpower the lizard brain?

That can work, but it’s a very difficult path. It takes a lot of energy. Far easier is to learn how to communicate with the lizard brain more effectively. And we do that by changing the stories we tell ourselves and how we interpret failure.

If you consider not being selected for a job after an interview a form of failure, then the lizard brain will kick in and do its thing. It will try to prevent you from taking any steps in that direction or it will sabotage your efforts, so that “you fail before you fail”. But if you consider that same event simply as feedback—as a form of learning—then, that’s none of the lizard’s business! It’s just learning and growth.

Therefore, one powerful way to overcome fear of failure is to redefine failure. Here are some points to help you with this.

1. See failure as unavoidable

We are not perfect, so we will always make mistakes. It’s impossible to live without making mistakes—unless we don’t try anything meaningful at all (and that is the worst of failures). 

Since failure is unavoidable, don’t try to avoid it. Instead, fail better—which means fail on purpose. Fail on the right things (the things that matter). And, as quickly as you can, learn from it and get back up. 

2. See failure as just feedback

Failure says nothing about who you are or your value as a person. It is simply the result of an action that didn’t hit the intended goal (yet). 

Failure is feedback. It is a learning. And, as so, it’s the teacher of success. Without failure you have no feedback; and without feedback you can’t learn, and therefore can’t grow. 

So, no failures = no successes.

Read more: Explore how to identify triggers for unlimiting beliefs and the different types of negative self-talk.

3. See inaction as real failure

Since failure is unavoidable—and essential for success—then the experience of failure is not the problem. The only problem is fearing failure, which leads to inaction. 

Not taking steps in the direction  of your goals, and not living a life in sync with your deepest values—that is the only failure there is. Everything else is simply a lesson on the way. A step supporting your journey upwards. 

Mindset Work & Meditation

Above you learned three simple ways of changing the story you are telling yourself, about what failure is. They are all connected, and they are all effective. 

However, for them to work for you, in the moment that fear arises, you need the ability to cool down your lizard brain and change what you are paying attention to. This is something that meditation helps you with. 

There are many different types of meditation, each with unique methods and benefits. But one thing that they all have in common is allowing you to cool down the lizard brain—and thus empower you to tell yourself better stories.

Keep on reading or start your journey now by listening to day one of Giovanni Dienstmann’s 10-day course”Overcoming Fear Of Failure” that will give you all the meditation and mindset tools you need to completely overcome your fear of failure and fear of rejection.

Now It Is Your Turn

Fear of failure is quite universal—and quite limiting, too. It exists because our lizard brain wants to protect us from pain. But if we change the stories we are telling ourselves about failure, then it’s possible to break free from this fear. Because then the lizard won’t interpret those events as dangerous anymore. 

If you let fear of failure slow you down (or even stop you), the result is missed opportunities, an average life, and not exploring your unique potential. But if you dare to take a step in the direction of your goals, regardless of fear… and if you learn the many ways of overcoming your fear… then you can live a life that you are truly happy with. 

Meditation exists not only to help you calm down, let go, and have good sleep. Meditation also empowers you to persevere in the path of your calling, and choose freedom over fear—day after day.

Read more: Regretting is a given pain in our human existence, however, when it becomes a virus we need to set ourselves free. Explore how to let go of regret. Discover more from Giovanni Dienstmann.

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