Recently, I wrote a blog post called On Becoming Fearless about how fears will inevitability crop up when you are taking your life to the next level (i.e. quitting your job to work on your business full-time) and I wanted to expand on that post and talk about how to overcome those fears.
The moment before I try anything new in my life, there’s always the fear of the unknown surrounding it. This cloud of fear can be denser at certain times than others. When I quit my high-paying engineering job years ago to start my own business, I was literally shaking when I walked to my boss’s office to turn in my resignation. My brain was charting out one compelling argument after another to keep me in the safety zone: What if my new business fails? What if I can’t get another job? What if I’m making a mistake?
But, as you know, fears will not only arise during big life transitions, but they’ll also crop up for situations as small as attending a networking event, learning a new skill or even writing a blog post. I remember when I first wrote an email newsletter that alarms were going off in my brain telling me I was treading new and fearful territory. (What if no one likes it? What if there are spelling errors? What if, what if, what if…) Or when I went to my first Toastmasters meeting to improve my speaking skills—I was so nervous that I had to verbally coach myself to get out of the car and walk in the door. Fortunately, both of those situations turn out well, but at the time, I didn’t know what the outcome would be.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that no matter what new situation I face, fear is always there. It might have a different voice each time, but it’s just the same old fear trying to protect me from unforeseen dangers. I’ve learned to accept that fear is no longer a road block in my life, but it’s a companion in this journey. The key is to know how to recognize it, understand it and make the leap beyond it towards the life that’s awaiting you on the other side.
When fears crop up for you—whether it’s with your business, relationships, transitions, or anything else—use the following questions to analyze the fear and move forward.
Step #1: Ask yourself: What is the worst case scenario?
I like to ask this question to my health coaching clients a lot. When you’re adopting a new healthier lifestyle and trying new foods, what is the worst case scenario? If you try kale a few times and you don’t like it, what’s the absolute worst that can happen? If you take a Zumba class and it didn’t jive with your personality, so what? If you burn the dish you’re cooking or your partner doesn’t like your new quinoa recipe, what is the long-term negative impact? So when you’re faced with a fear, ask yourself what is the worst case scenario and think about it for approximately 30 seconds. Then, if you’re willing to take the risk (big or small), make the decision to move forward and do it. Typically, the worst case scenario doesn’t play out in real life very often anyway.
Step #2: Ask yourself: Will moving past this fear make me a better person?
The purpose of your life is to grow, expand, learn and be happy while doing it. Fear is programmed into us to keep us safe from getting attacked by a sabertooth tiger (or other life-threatening scenario), but it’s not suppose to prevent us from fully expressing ourselves and our gifts. When I wanted to start my own business and there was a whole database of fears being created in my mind, I had to ask myself if moving past these fears will make me a better person. And the answer was yes. All types of situations in your life are going to be riddled with fears, but in the end, if they will make you a better person, it’s time to feel the fear, but do it anyway.
Step #3: Ask yourself: How will I feel when I reach the other side?
When you want to do something new or challenging, start with the end in mind. For me, I try to exercise in some form every single day, but there are days when I reeeeally don’t feel like it. It’s those days when I’m so tired that I would rather do anything than even get up and walk around the block. So I ask myself: how will I feel after I exercise? The answer is always “better”, “good” or “great”. So I focus on the end result and how good I’ll feel as motivation to put my tennis shoes on and get out the door. Once I get going, I always feel better. And this is the same whether I need to knock out a difficult business task or conduct an interview or write a blog post…I keep the end in mind. When you’re faced with fears, difficulties, time limits or problems, think about how you will feel when you move past those feelings and reach the other side. Then base your decision on the end result, not on the immediate obstacles.