This week I had quite a bit of conversations around fear in my business. It’s the thing that surreptitiously invites itself in on the front porch of your mind early every morning.
It manifests itself in many ways. It’s that voice that tells you that you are not inspirational enough to be a great leader. It’s the queasy feeling you get in the pits of your stomach when you think about asking your boss for a raise. It’s that dash of self-doubt and hesitation that you experience when you think about your big sales targets for next month.
One thing is pretty clear about fear: it is the biggest killer of dreams.
It holds you captive for minutes, weeks, months – and in most cases - years. It stops you solid in your tracks. It causes you to slouch on the coach – and eat pizza after pizza. It makes you stand still in time and watch painfully as your dreams slip from your reach….
However, fear in itself, is not inherently bad.
In fact, it can be a great thing to experience fear. Yep – you heard me right. ** I can see all those eyes rolling around how fear can be a good thing**
Fear is born out of a place of love.
It is there to serve one key purpose – to protect and keep us safe.
As human beings, our fear protects us from three key universal things – that are all centered around some kind of pain:
The fear of loss
It keeps us rooted in what we know and what feels familiar to us. If you go on a diet to become 20 pounds lighter, who would want to give up a delicious burger on a Friday night? EXACTLY. That is the fear that is talking.
The fear of process
Letting go of the control we have over the lives that we know is hard. You think about starting your dream restaurant business and immediately your head starts spinning. You start seeing all the hurdles and hoops that you will have to jump through to be compliant with state regulations. You see your 6:00 am workout at the gym quickly disappearing…
The fear of the outcome
You are afraid of what will happen. What if you show your true compassionate and funny self to your finance direct reports and then they no longer respect your authority as the CFO? What if the investors really like your business idea and wants to move quickly, would you be able to keep up with what they are looking for? You fear being rejected, failing – or funnily – being a success.
However, you can start seeing fear as an opportunity. Its true purpose is to flag to us that we are being protected from a place of love. The question to ask yourself is: what am I being protected from? What is this fear trying to tell me about what I love about myself or others around me?
Once you start asking yourself these questions, follow these four steps to let your fear be a source of action for you:
Acknowledge and Understand the role the fear is playing
In this case, acknowledge and label the fear for what it Is – fear – an uncomfortable emotion that is ONLY a small part of you (not the cookie monster that takes all your cookies). Then dig into why it is showing up right now. What is it trying to tell you? Is it for example, telling you that security is important you as you consider starting your own business and you’ve been hesitating on making a move?
Identify and Evaluate the worst-case scenario
It makes sense to ‘stress’ test your worst-case scenario. Go deep with it by exploring what are the absolute worst things that could happen. Explore the likelihood of that ‘worst-case’ scenario happening – and what can you do to prevent it from happening. And if it does happen, what is a recovery plan that you can put in place? That gives you a plan of action and some sense of clarity and control to move forward.
Look for the hidden diamonds in your actions
While you might feel fearful about doing something, there are benefits for you. Starting looking at the benefits in what you feel afraid of doing. So perhaps you dread going out networking because of the risk of being rejected – on the flip side - you will get to meet amazing people, you will land that 6-figure job you crave much faster and you get to build a strong network of people you can always tap into.
Make the feeling of fear work for you
Now once you are clear on the benefits of what you are about to do – and the worst-case scenarios – you can let your fear serve a purpose. Each time you feel fearful around what you are about to do, let it serve as a trigger for a more powerful and uplifting behavior. Let’s say you start feeling a hint of panic around your upcoming presentation to the board, let the fear remind you:
Take two big, deep breaths, so that you can go to your calm and in-control place.
Access the mental visualization you created of you delivering a powerful presentation.
Fear does not have to be a dream killer. It can help you manifest your goals faster. It is important to first understand the purpose of the fear itself, what is the worst that could happen and what is the absolute best thing that can happen. Spend time digging into the fear and then assign it a new role, so that it works for as opposed to against you. It keeps you motivated and focused on what you want to achieve and you are ready for whatever roadblocks might get in the way.