Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


Last week we explored the science behind why we procrastinate, this week we look at the fears which can make our procrastination worse and examine how we can overcome them.


Almost all psychological causes of procrastination relate to fear, namely fear of success and fear of failure. Below are some examples of how our fears can manifest themselves consciously:


Fear of failure


  • Not knowing where to begin
  • Doubting your ability to do the task
  • Being overwhelmed by the size of the task
  • Being overwhelmed by the complexity of the task
  • Being intimidated by how little time you have to do the task (you feel you will fail anyway so don’t even try / delay working on it because it fills you with dread)


Fear of success


  • You feel too much pressure to continue performing well
  • You associate success with an undesirable personal quality (such as arrogance or pride)
  • You view success as complicating life
  • You view success as having more responsibility
  • You fear having success is temporary
  • You fear success because if you achieved it you would have too much to lose


How to overcome the fear of failure


I have struggled a lot with this one. The ‘aha’ moment came when I realized that by not trying I was making my fear of failure a self fulfilling prophesy. My thinking beforehand had been that if I didn’t try I wasn’t really failing because I could always rationalize that I didn’t really try. But the end result was always the same, the project, task or assignment would remain unfinished and I would have made no progress whatsoever. See below for practical solutions to the most common forms of a fear of failure.