Getting to the other side of fear feels good.
Liberating. Accomplished. Like the warmth of the sun on your face when the clouds finally part after a storm.
I don’t want you to try to get rid of your fears, to be ashamed of them, or try to make them stop. It is important to feel them, learn from them, move forward, and not let your fears prevent you from growing.
Pushing past our fears builds trust in ourselves and our abilities, helping us stretch further to our next edge, where we are even further away from our comfort zone. Then, our newly built trust helps us grow through that too.
Fear is natural response. It’s our body’s way of letting us know that we are trying something beyond what we already have mastered. We are heading into the unknown. That could be a good thing, or not. We just don’t know yet. Uncertainty can trigger fear.
Sometimes fear warns us of something to avoid, or that we need to proceed with increased caution.
Sometimes our fear is factually justified, sometimes it isn’t, either way, get curious about it and investigate.
We don’t need to tackle everything is scary to be successful, thank goodness, but fear may show us an opportunity to stretch, or how to break free from old patterns and discover better ways to accomplish the results we seek.
We learn to live with fear, to listen to it, and make changes so that we can succeed anyway. Traffic congestion doesn’t go away, but it doesn’t stop us from getting to our destination. Fear can be like that. It may show up unexpectedly, it may delay you, but it need not stop you.
Overcoming fear and anxiety doesn’t mean we won’t feel these uncomfortable emotions the next time we stretch, but we can face them more confidently, and, hopefully, more skillfully over time.
Every successful and accomplished professional has faced doubt, fear, and worry.
Every single one.
These are not signs of weakness. These emotions are an invitation to push your boundaries; they are signs of creating opportunity. They are a call for you to investigate your feelings to find out more.
Ask yourself some of the following questions to help you weigh your options and determine the level of risk and reward you are actually considering.
What Could Go Right?
Spend some time thinking about the bright side.
You’ve probably heard of the devil’s advocate… that little voice inside your head that tells you everything that could go wrong, or looks for all of the flaws in an idea.
The devil’s advocate points out things you want to avoid. We give lots of attention to that perspective when we talk about worst-case scenarios, but what about the other side?
I like to call this the “angel’s advocate” point of view: all the surprisingly beneficial results that could come from doing whatever scary thing we are considering.
Turn your attention to the positives, and ask:
- What could go right?
- What advantages and possibilities could come from following this line of action?
Find a balance. We wants to spend as much time fantasizing about the potential, the opportunity—the upside—as we do about the dangers, risks, and possible downside.
Identifying the benefits of a potential action creates more willingness, inspiration, and new options to help us find a way to move forward past our fears.
Write down the positives that you come up with.
Seeing them materialize on the page in front of you helps solidify the positive nature in your mind.
What Do You Stand For?
People often get very excited about what they’re against, and what they are afraid of, but an equally important—if not more important—question is, What are you for?
Determine what’s important to you by asking:
- What do you believe in?
- What do you want to see more of in the world?
What you are for—a purpose, commitment, or vision—will help you do what you need to do, regardless of fear, doubt, and insecurity.
Identifying what you are for motivates more willingness than focusing on what you are against.
Before we have the confidence to trust in ourselves, we can trust in a mission that calls for our best. We can trust that when we put our effort forward to achieve that intention, we are making a difference, however imperfectly.
When we learn how to trust in our values, we can ease up on trying to motivate ourselves by threats and fears, and start moving toward our highest callings.
What’s the Worst?
It also helps to look squarely and objectively at the worst-case scenario in order to understand the actual risk you may be exposed to. Fears are sometimes based off of real threats, and at other times they are merely dark imaginings.
To help sort out which you are facing, you may want to quantify your assessment:
- How bad is it, really?
- How likely is it to happen?
Use percentages or a scale of 1-10. It helps create a perspective you can use to make your decisions.
After you examine the worst-case scenario, compare the level of risk to your level of fear. Does it match?
This helps you know where to focus. You can reduce the risk to create a less stressful path moving forward, or you can courageously “face your fears and do it anyway.”
But before you decide, give equal time to the bright side so that you can see the advantages of moving forward, as well as the dangers.
Jessica Hartung is a partner, coach, and guide for those leveling-up their personal professional leadership, their teams, and their communities to a better future.
Jessica has a passion for inspiring and preparing people to grow from their work to improve their lives. In 1998, she founded Integrated Work, a consulting firm that brings top-notch professional development to mission-driven leaders, while being a learning laboratory for innovative work practices.
Jessica provides self-directed professional development tools to leaders at all levels striving to create positive impact.