With personal and professional development, we are all afraid of something. Whether it’s making a new friend or asking for a promotion, there are certain goals we’re afraid to go after. Typically, the bigger the goal, the scarier it is.
Fear is ingrained in us as a survival technique and it’s what keeps us alive. But what happens when your fear prevents you from living your best life?! What do you do when your fear holds you back from achieving your goals and success?
Whenever I’m overwhelmed with fear, whether it’s about making a life-changing decision or being confronted with a personal issue, my instincts encourages me to curl into bed and sleep it off. Of course, it’s not productive because nothing is resolved so how exactly do we overcome our fears?
I asked a few people in my network on some of the strategies they use to overcome their fears, both personally and professionally. Here’s what they shared:
Change your perspective.
When you’re afraid, it’s easy to anticipate all the things that could go wrong! It’s a defense mechanism as your mind anticipates the worst that could happen. Psychologically, this helps to avoid shock and devastation. By focusing on what could go right, instead of what could go wrong, you’re able to alleviate the fear and focus on the benefits.
Maddy shared how she forces herself to think of all her past successes, which helps lessen her fear. Anna, on the other hand, sees it as a challenge for her to overcome. By recognizing fear is an opportunity for growth and learning, it helps ease the tension and fosters patience to learn how to conquer your fears. Tiffany shared her strategy involves comparing how would it feel after she’s overcome the fear to the fear itself. This comparison allows her to weigh out the two, typically favoring the desirable outcome.
Understand your fears, then work through it.
Want to really know your fears? Try out Tim Ferris’s Fear Setting Exercise, a popular recommendation from Shannon ONeill, a Confidence Coach, and Julia Wojnar, Speaking Strategist! Sweta also proposes asking yourself a question to understand your fears. “Think about where the fear is coming from. What are you afraid of? Is the task too big? Is this your first time doing something like this? Are you afraid of people’s opinions? Who are these people? Thinking through this can not only help you develop strategies to get past the fear but also put you in a place to be more successful because you’ve thought through how to handle some of the worse case situations.”
Irina identifies fear as an emotion, which she transforms to energy, powering her actions. She shares, “when I work with fear, I acknowledge it (writing down everything that comes up as an answer to ‘What am I afraid of?’, regardless how silly it might sound. Also, I notice my body reactions. It’s either tightness in my chest or stomach. I welcome this discomfort and bring out my fear to light so that I can see what it is telling me? The purpose of fear is to keep you safe. Knowing this, I listen to its voice, acknowledge it, and decide whether fear’s voice makes any sense. Typically it doesn’t. It is just a part of you that’s been programmed for so many years and gets activated whenever you’re in your stretch zone. Awareness of all this helps me to move from fear into courage or love and then pursue my goals from this place.” She also recommends The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to Do Instead” by Kristen Ulmer.
Claudia Consolati, PhD, a Public Speaking Coach recommends engaging with your fear. “Have a chat with your fear … She means well and wants to protect you, but she is not serving you anymore. Approve of her and then do it.” Jessica recognizes it’s ok to be afraid, but does not allow her fears to prevent herself from taking on opportunities that could benefit her. She allows her fear to identify which opportunities she should take advantage of and which ones to say no to. Stephanie Ball, Goal Achievement Specialist suggest to “spend some time discovering where the fear is coming from, and what it really means. Is it attached to a specific goal? Has this feeling come up for you before? Look for the patterns. If you do find that it’s attached to a specific outcome, then it’s time to look even deeper. Ask yourself how would you feel if you didn’t meet your goal, AND how would you feel if you did. You might find some surprising answers.”
Understanding your fears also includes understanding the risks you take and living with them. Leanne Wong, New York-based Career and Leadership Coach shares, “know that when you step up, into something BIG, it’s like looking off a cliff about to jump, hoping your parachute will open. It won’t, at first. You’ll [fall, experience regret, and may even receive a few scares along the way] and then.. suddenly it will open and you’ll start soaring. Everything you endured would have been worth it, the big [scary] audacious goals in life don’t come without a few war scars.”
Fear of failure is greater than the fear itself.
Once you’ve changed your perspective on how you look at your fears, weigh it to see if it’s worth facing. Jen shares “The fear never goes away. But we take action when fear of the known becomes greater than fear of the unknown.” Cathy Zhang, Product Lead, describes her mantra, “In about 80 years, you will die. You won’t have the time or energy or ability to pursue what you really care about. The fear you feel is a sign that this will help you LEARN and GROW, even if you don’t succeed. If you don’t try, you’ve de facto failed… haven’t you?” Amber told me, “My biggest fear is a fear of failure so the only way to conquer it is to work on it until I succeed.”
Empower yourself to face your fear.
Of course, as you work to face your fears, there are a few things you can do to better equip yourself. Heather McTurnan, Data Analyst, practices risk management when reflecting on her fears. After looking at the best and worst case scenarios, she works to find a middle ground. What is the most realistic outcome? This is the part where she identifies are “usually pretty positive, attainable, and gratifying”. She then follows with contingency plans and takes a leap of faith. She shares, “I want my regrets to be minimal”, and takes the chances to make the best decision for herself.
Jeanne Hilary, Creative Director and Founder of Bicycleutopia, also believes in empowering herself to face her fears. When it comes to large business goals, she suggests breaking down it down into smaller goals, a size where you feel comfortable and confident. Tackling each small goal one by one until you reach your goal. She emphasizes the importance of being organized and discipline to break down large goals into digestible pieces, eventually, the fear “becomes irrelevant to achieving the goal, even if the fear is still there”. Elena agrees with breaking down the goals and “focus on the things that are in your control and think of it as a game, sometimes you make mistakes and sometimes you win, it’s a process you’ll get there, and it’s all fine as long as you are having fun and you are playing. After all, what’s the point of living a life in regret?”
Vanessa Rodda, a School Principal utilizes a competency framework by first, locating herself in the framework, allow herself to be in that space and develop the belief that she has the “capacity and the drive to eventually move through the stages.”
Finally, just do it anyway.
Laura W encourages to “just say yes to everything that scares you. Prepare and do it. I found that my own anxiety about doing things I needed to do made me shy away from things. Just saying yes forced me to face that fear and find a way through it. It changed everything.” She recommends, “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimes. Laura E recommends “The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower–and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion by Phil Stutz”
What do you think of these tips? Was it helpful? Would love to hear how you work for you. Please share in the comments below so others can learn too!!
Inspired by all the great people in my network who helped me with this article!
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