A couple of years ago a great and valued friend of mine in Sydney wrote some editorial for me as a Coach. She titled it ‘Everything you have ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear’.
My Australian friend Claudia is a particular kind of amazing person; she is driven, focused, hard-working, entrepreneurial, successful, inspirational – in addition to being a mother to two very young boys.
I have revisited her words a number of times on behalf of my Coaching clients; both individual and corporate. The main reason? Fear of failure or self-limiting beliefs often holds us back.
As working and personal lives are constantly changing, we have to adjust and set new goals for ourselves and for others. It is inevitable these changes cause us to feel certain fears. We may want to set a new goal, make changes that work better for us, or find solutions to our problems yet the feeling of fear can get in the way.
What is fear?
Strangely, it is a positive emotion just like love, admiration, compassion and happiness. In business, the emotion of fear is caused by a real or (mostly) imaginary threat and this emotional reaction is a defensive reaction that serves to protect us from danger. When fear becomes extreme and unnatural, it blocks and compromises us from functioning effectively.
Fear is expressed in our bodies in a number of obvious and easily recognisable signals: tachycardia (rapid heart rate), sweating, shallow breathing, feeling agitated and tense, usually followed by extreme tiredness. The muscles we use for natural movement become tense in preparation for the adrenalin-fueled ‘fight or flight’ response. The fatigue that follows is the adrenalin leaving our bodies.
Stress in a business environment is caused by too much adrenalin which has nowhere to go (you’re probably not running anywhere or, hopefully, not physically fighting anyone), so it stays in the body and can cause untold damage, both emotionally and physically over the longer term. Recognising the particular triggers for fear will enable the individual to take evasive action.
Fear in business is mostly self-imposed
Over many years in my coaching practice, these are the most common fears I hear:
• Will I succeed?
• Will I maintain my success?
• Do I deserve to be successful?
• Will other people want my job?
• Am I qualified enough?
• Is there a better person waiting to take my job?
• Am I ready?
• What will happen to me if / when I fail?
• Will people support me?
• Supposing I fail – will people laugh at me?
• Supposing I get fired?
• Will I be taken advantage of?
• Will my friends reject me?
• Will my family be envious of my success?
Are you afraid of too much success?
Surely not… yet self-limiting beliefs and fears get in the way at the most inconvenient times, usually as the individual is just about to make a much wanted change in their life.
Overcoming these fears can be mitigated by asking ourselves questions, such as:
• If I don’t try, how will I feel about myself?
• When I grow old, will I have any regrets about not taking this opportunity?
• What am I exactly fearful of? Does it come from me or someone else’s opinion of me?
• What kind of role model will I be to my children, friends and work associates?
• What will be the consequences to my self-esteem if I don’t take this opportunity?
• What kind of person am I developing into?
• Will lost-opportunity regret be more painful than trying?
Something to note:
Bravery has nothing to do with how much fear we feel. It is all about how we handle it.
Coping Strategies for overcoming fear:
• Identifying our fear
Write the answer down. Where did this fear come from? Is this a well-founded fear? When and how did it start in my life? Is any of this rational or purely imaginative?
• Also, change your self-limiting story
What am I telling myself? Make those negatives into positives. Oprah Winfrey was told the story that she would never be successful because she was a poor, coloured woman. She was fired from her first job as a TV presenter. She chose to change her story for success because she is a poor, coloured woman – she engendered empathy, had a way of reporting because of everything she is. How can you change your story?
• Make your fear of not taking action bigger than your fear of taking action.
Fairly obvious, this one. Don’t regret inaction later!
• Past successful experiences.
You can go a long way back with this one. Julia, my eleven year-old friend from school was terrified of swimming lessons. She would sit on the side of the pool watching us all at various stages of swimming / sinking, yet went on to become a qualified scuba diver and instructor. Perhaps, think about how you coped last time to make a fear successful. What skills were required that you possess? What strategy did you use? Did anyone help you? What did you specifically do? What motivated you to overcome your fear?
• Find a role model.
Who do you know that has achieved what you would like to achieve? Keep yourself inspired by finding someone further up the career / success / personal ladder who inspires you.
18-07 works with individuals and organisations – helping people achieve their goals faster