Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

Fear of failure, procrastination and giving up

Fear of failure, procrastination and giving up

In February 2011 I reported (http://www.fearcourse.com/?p=281&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=235)  on some research I had conducted looking at procrastination and the fear of failure. The results are now in. Basically I was asked to look at doctoral completion rates and why some students failed to complete their thesis. In one department in one university the failure to complete had hit a staggering 43%. Not only is this a huge waste but also the cost involved is enormous. 

When I interviewed the students I found that almost very student had played an anticipatory 'video' in their head of the moment, after the viva when their tutor walks out and see from the look on the tutors face that they have failed. 

Having conducted a series of experiments based on the some of the techniques developed for the Fear Course I carried out a split test with two cohorts of doctoral students at Cardiff University.

The control group had no intervention or further contact with myself. The second group, chosen at random, had two live coaching sessions as a group. In the first coaching session I showed them what they were doing, how it was affecting them and why. I then showed them three reappraisal strategies, a re-programming strategy and two suppression or emotion regulation techniques. A month later I returned to the group to see how they were getting on, correct any issues they were having with the techniques and answer any questions.

The last of cohort I have been following defended her dissertation on Friday. Every student in the intervention cohort completed and passed. Just under 70% of the non-intervention cohort completed and passed, or 30% didn't. I think I'll chalk that up as a success!

As I pointed out in my post in 2011, when we engage in playing internal videos of failure three areas of the brain set up a series of interactions. The outcome of this is that one area becomes convinced you have already failed. This then sets up an emotional chain reaction, which in turn results in the feelings and thoughts of failure. As this is usually a familiar sensation we then trigger a behavior pattern, usually of avoidance, displacement (flight) or freezing. In other words we don’t complete the job. And all because we played a scenario in our head of some form of failure!

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