There are three things that often hinder us from accomplishing our goals: procrastination, lack of follow through, and lack of self confidence. Each of these barriers is linked by a common thread – fear. Fearing failure, we delay taking any action at all, preferring the safety in ‘keeping still’ and maintaining the status quo. Intellectually we know that we are stunting our growth, but emotionally, we just cannot bring ourselves to take the leap.
There are some things that you can do to break the fear barrier, and get on with the business of living the life you really want to live:
Choose to Look at Fear in a Different Way
Learn to see the thing you fear as an opportunity, rather than a risk of failure. Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, who was just named the youngest female self-made billionaire by Forbes Magazine, is a fascinating case study in the power of perseverance. What struck me most about her journey is what she said about her father’s method of encouraging his children:
” My Father used to ask my brother and I what we had failed at recently, and then congratulate us. He did complete reverse psychology on us. Failure was something we sought out, and not a scary thing. I think many people are debilitated by the fear of failure, so he gave us a real gift.”
Can you imagine how much further we could all go if we could use our failures as the measuring stick for our success?
Commit to Facing Your Fear
Simply making a commitment to change can give you the guts to actually do it. During a recent conversation with a stay at home mother, I was surprised when she responded to my, “How are you?” with, “Well, I’m sitting here deciding whether I want to be depressed today.” She was clearly dissatisfied with her life, but paralyzed by her fear of making a change. A once highly successful sales manager, she has been at home with her family for the past few years. She was bored silly, and wanted something different for her life, but she continued to convince herself of all kinds of reasons why she could not embark on a new career that she could be passionate about, or even return to work on a reduced schedule. During our ensuing discussion, she was touched by my own revelation about having discovered the importance of living, rather than merely existing. She decided there and then that it was time to take a leap of faith and change her life. That same month, she approached a colleague for part time work in his firm, and she got it, and is now much more optimistic about life. Like her, by simply deciding to change, you can become open to exploring possibilities that your fear had previously blocked you from contemplating.
Tell at least one person you trust about your commitment. Knowing that someone supportive knows about your fear and your intent to overcome it, can be a huge comfort. Not only can they lend a sympathetic ear, but they can also help you develop strategies for conquering your fears. If you are open to it, they can also hold you accountable for taking steps to overcome your fear. In my own case, I have found my accountability partners to be invaluable in helping me to move beyond my own self-imposed barriers.
Start Taking Action and Don’t Stop
Start by taking one step, no matter how small, down the road toward facing your fear. The important thing is not to stop there – keep your feet moving in your desired direction until you have reached your goal. A good friend of mine has been talking for years about how much she hates her job, with its high stress level and unending travel. But for the 10 years I have known her, she has languished in that job. At the end of last year, she committed to taking baby steps toward change. She made a list of what she wanted in life, defined the type of work that fit into that vision, spoke with people in the new profession, started interviewing, and simultaneously informed her boss that she wanted to be transferred to a new area. While her boss did end up making the transition happen, her change in outlook began not when she got her new position, but when she took her earliest steps toward change. Sometimes, forward movement is all that is required to break the cycle of fear.
Don’t let the life you should be living pass you by because you are too afraid to take a chance. Block out the naysayers, including the ones in your own head, and slay your fears, one at a time. If you need extra motivation, buy a Holstee Manifesto poster and look at it every day – it always helps me when I need to stare my own fears in the face.
“The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more” – - Erica Jong
Have you allowed fear to prevent you from accomplishing a goal or making a change? If you have successfully overcome a fear, how did you do it?