Fear is normal. Fear is common. Fear is human. However, fear is a career success killer. We’re all afraid sometime. Successful people face their fears and act. I’ve learned a few things about fear over the years.
Fear breeds indifference. Indifference breeds self doubt and worry. Often, it’s easier to go with the flow and do nothing than attempt to do something of which you’re afraid. When you say to yourself, “It’s OK, it doesn’t really matter anyway,” ask the next question – “What am I afraid of here?” Identifying your fear is the first step in dealing with it.
Self-doubt is a form of negative self-talk. Our words can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Positive self-talk leads to success. Negative self-talk leads to fear and failure. If you catch yourself saying things like, “I can’t do this; I’ll never be successful; I’ll never get out of this mess,” then you never will. If you say things like, “I can do this; I have what it takes to succeed; I can solve this problem,” then you will.
Worry and excessive caution will paralyze you. Some people spend so much time worrying about the bad things that could or might happen that they never take action and actually do something to prove that good things happen too. Worrying too much can bring you and your life to a screeching halt.
A boat that never leaves the harbor is pretty safe. However, it is not doing what it is meant to be doing. The same is true for people. If you never take a risk, you’ll never know what you are capable of accomplishing.
Here are my tips for doing battle with your fears.
- Identify what you fear. Figure out why you’re afraid. Is it fear of failure? Is it fear of making the wrong decision? Is it fear of a lost opportunity? Are you afraid that you aren’t up to task? Once you identify the reason behind your fear, you are well on the way to overcoming it.
- Admit what you fear. It’s OK to be afraid. You wouldn’t be human if you were never afraid. A common definition of courage is the ability to feel fear and still do what you need to do, regardless. In 1988, I faced a very frightening decision. Should I stay in a comfortable but ultimately unsatisfying job with a large corporation, or should I start my own business? I was afraid of failing. Failing meant that I would lose my savings and have to start over again, looking for a job in another corporation. However, once I identified and admitted my fear, I was able to take the next step – acceptance.
- Accept what you fear. Accepting your fears is important, because it shows that you know you’re human. Once I accepted that I was afraid of failing, I was able to start my business and succeed. In fact, I embraced my fear of failure. It made me work harder; it pushed me to work the long hours and learn the entrepreneurship lessons necessary to be successful as a self-employed coach, consultant and speaker.
- Take action. Action cures fear. It is the most important of these four steps. Do something! The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll find it was the wrong thing to do – and you will have eliminated at least one thing from your list of possible actions.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people follow the career advice in Tweet 46 in Success Tweets. “Four steps for dealing with fear that can sabotage your success: identify it, admit it, accept it, do something about it.” Action is the antidote to fear. In most cases, you’ll make good decisions and your fears won’t be realized. In the cases when you choose poorly, you’ll find that failure isn’t as catastrophic as you imagined. Successful people learn from their failures. By taking action on your fears, you win on both counts. You win if you make a good decision and things work out. You even win if you make a bad decision and things go poorly, because you have an opportunity to learn from your decision and the subsequent problems you faced.