Don’t underestimate the fear factor
Overcoming fear of challenge is the first step in managing challenges successfully- without it we are paralysed into inaction.
Most things we do in life are a challenge. From standing up to walk for the first time, learning how to speak to sitting exams to starting out on a career path and then progressing forwards. When we were toddlers we approached challenge without questioning it. Partly from instinct and partly from watching people around us, we would give it a go.
As we mature into adult hood fear can stop us from achieving our true potential. Fear is a really strong emotion and should be recognised as such.
However, to reach further and achieve what we want we have to embrace the concept of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. (Great book) When we do, the emotion is quite often excitement and exhilaration and the reward that much sweeter.
How to overcome fear of the challenges we face
Your first step in overcoming fear is to identify it, recognise it and then put strategies in place that act as defaults to overcoming that fear.
Types of fear
Overcoming Fear of failure
Firstly, you need to understand that in any challenge, be it climbing Mount Everest to closing the biggest customer of your company’s portfolio, failure is a possibility. We can take steps to mitigate that possibility of failure but we will surely fail if the fear of failure stops us from even attempting the challenge.
a). Planning – helps to identify the potential pitfalls of any challenge. Identifying the resources that you need to meet and manage the challenge avoids being stuck up that mountain without warm blankets. Research is part of planning and being prepared. Knowing your potential clients’ strengths and weaknesses; their preferred method of communication, their competitor’s activity- all will help when you are in front of them pitching your company’s solution.
b). Contingency – what’s the worst that could happen? Now it may seem counter-intuitive to ramp up your anxiety about failure by looking at the worst case scenario but it works. Overcoming fear of failure requires you to articulate that failure. It means looking at the monster in the cupboard full face and seeing it is actually just your clothes and the shadows creating the fear. Or, if the monster is real, whacking them over the head with a handy broom works.
Contingency planning means back up strategies and also a level of acceptance. If your planning has been done well, then you have covered most eventualities and if the customer still says NO, then you have done all you could…it was not meant to be. Maybe there are factors outside of your control, a competitor made a better offer, has a better product, but you have learned something.
c). Learn from the failure. You cannot succeed in overcoming fear of failure unless you are prepared to learn lessons from failure.
I love the Edison quote
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Because the 10,001 way that worked brought us light!
Bill Gates said
It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.
We can sometimes get lucky and succeed, and not know why, so cannot replicate that success. Whereas, by understanding and learning from failure we can avoid that path in the future and improve our chances of success.
Which leads me to
Overcoming fear of success
This can be another paralysing fear because success has consequences. Sub consciously we sometimes sabotage our own efforts because we fear the implications of success; less time, more work, change in status, loss of friendship… Occasionally these two fears battle with each other.
For example, when I faced the challenge of recovery and championing better rail safety I experienced conflicting fears. What if I never recovered to have a normal life again, what if the rail bosses just ignored me and the campaign my group was undertaking?
Alternatively, what if I did get better? I would have to face the world, not hide in my convalescence. People would EXPECT me to actually do stuff again, and be successful again. What if the rail companies listened to me? I would have to stand up and talk to people about this, relive my experiences for all to see, I would become known at a national level…. Each success we experience has a knock on effect to more visibility, more awareness and actually a higher status can be scary…because now we have further to fall if we fail in the future.
Overcoming fear takes courage…and sometimes a leap of faith. However, when we face the fear of a challenge and either fail or succeed, we never ever have to wonder in the future, “If only…”
Overcoming fear and taking on a challenge means a life without regrets or wishes and dreams unfulfilled…you never know what you are capable of until you face that fear, attempt the challenge and soar. Go on, what’s the worst that could happen?
Next week I’ll look at “Making challenge manageable”, when the challenge seems so enormous you want to dive back under the bedcovers!