Fear of failure
Have you ever wanted to reach a goal, but didn’t reach all the way to the end because of fear? Fear is one of the main reasons holding us back from achieving the goals and dreams of our lives. What if we invest our thoughts and actions into something that won’t work out?
Fear of success
Sometimes we even get afraid of what might happen if we were to succeed. Who do we become once we are the person who actually accomplished those things? We might want to be in our comfort zones for too long. At least we know what we’ve got, but not what we will get, right?
Wrong. I strongly believe that this saying is for people who feel fear in their lives for some reason. To believe that we do know what we have but not what we get, is the same thing as saying that we don’t want to face our fear of what might happen if we fail OR if we succeed.
If you want to wait your job and start your own business, that might be a big step for you. Of course you know what have but not what you are going to get, but this shouldn’t stop you from getting closer to your goal to start your business. Of course it’s scary to quit cold turkey.
Fear of something that’s actually scary
Last year I was lucky to listen to a super inspiring speech with ultra runner Kristina Paltén. Her goal was to run through Iran, and she told us how she overcame her fear. She wanted to run through this country, all by herself, and she was afraid of a lot of things before she had even started to pack her things. Everyone told her that this was just a bad idea the from beginning to the end. Why would she do this in the first place, they asked her.
Her answer? Because she didn’t want to live in a world where she would have to be afraid, and her running would help her to overcome this. That was the reason.
She had her reasons to be afraid. For real. Not this stupid “what if they don’t like me at the party” kind of afraid. Real fear of real bad things that might happen to a woman running by herself through Iran. She might get raped or even killed. She might collapse due to the heat (50° Celsius during daytime.)
But she did it anyway.
Her speech was so inspiring, and the thing that stuck to me the most was how determined she was to succeed with this, because this would mean that it could be done. If she were to succeed, that would prove to the world that it was possible for a woman to run alone through Iran.
What happened? She was greeted with nothing but love and trust during her run. Kind people would stop her and give her food and shelter along her way. And for every step she would be more and more convinced of the compassion and trust in people and feel less fear during her run.
Overcoming fear with a simple method
But how did Kristina manage to do this? During her speech, she shared with us her method of overcoming the fears she had before going on this trip. She knew she had to overcome them before she could even think about traveling, in order to feel safe and secure.
So this is the method I want to share with you today (with some slight modifications since I’m not so fond of spreadsheets :))
Just because it’s a simple method, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. It requires a lot of work from you if you want to succeed. But it can be done if you put time and effort into thinking this through thoroughly.
The spreadsheet method of overcoming your fear
Open a spreadsheet on your computer and write down every fear you have that has anything to do with the given situation.
I will give you an example. Say you want to quit your day job and start your own business eventually, but you’re afraid that you aren’t going to make it on your own. This is not a life threatening fear, but it’s still there. Maybe you start to procrastinate a bit. Why the rush? You can do this whenever you want, right? Of course you can, as long as the decision is not based on fear. Because if it is, it’s never going to happen.
Now write down the fears you can come up with that are connected to the fact that you want to quit your job. Just brainstorm. Everything that comes to your mind. Small issues as well as big existential questions. Everything that has to do with the situation. For example I would write:
- I’m not going to make it on my own
- I love my colleagues and I’m not willing to let them go yet.
- What will people say?
- I’m not going to make the money I need
- People don’t want what I have to offer
- What if I never could make it? What if no one wants me?
Put some effort into this. Write down everything from the worst case scenario to small inconveniences.
When you have your list, read it through and pick the one that you think is the worst to overcome. Start with that one, and the rest will be much easier for you. If you want you can color code the fears from “the worst possible scenario” to “things I’d rather avoid”.
Get to the bottom of the fear and unarm the fears one by one
From the example above I would choose the last one as the worst case scenario. “What if no one wants me?” is a fear that has so much to do with other fears as well, not just with quitting your job. If you feel some kind of existential fear that has to do with your self esteem, you need to deal with that first.
This is not an easy task. Sometimes it can take months before you are ready to truly face a fear.
A method I highly recommend is to write. This can unlock so much if you are willing to give it a try. It might not always be pleasant, but you can discover so much about yourself and shed some light upon issues that you didn’t even know existed. A fear almost always has its roots in something else, something that involves self esteem or the lack thereof. So it’s important that you get to the bottom of this.
The example above contains the item “I’m not willing to let my colleagues go yet”. A way to unarm this fear would be to write:
- Talk with the colleagues and tell them how you feel
- Schedule time to get to meet them
- Come visit
- Invite them to a party
- Accept the fact that it’s not going to be exactly as it was and that’s ok
So it turns out you don’t have to let them go. It’s just not going to be exactly as it was. So maybe THAT is what the fear is really about: that you are not willing to change just yet. And that is a whole other issue than that of letting your colleagues go.
Now it’s time for the second part of the spreadsheet method which is to unarm every fear with arguments, rational or not. Rational arguments can solve some of the fears, but not always all of them. Oftentimes we have a tendency to think that everything should be solved logically and rationally. But fears are not often that logical and rational. You know this intellectually, but you are still afraid. It could be a phobia for example, which is based on irrational feelings.
I have a fear of flight, and when I get on a plane I can solve some of my panicky feelings by thinking “ok, the flight attendants seem to be cool. As long as they are cool, I’m going to be cool”. I can use breathing techniques to calm me down. I have also prepared by learning how to do in an emergency situation. All rational and logical. And I know it is safe to travel by plane. Statistically.
But when those irrational thoughts come creeping in, that doesn’t help much. It can be a good idea to be prepared with some weird answers as well.
One time when I was on a plane my fear that we were going to crash started to paralyze me more and more. I also knew that there were some pastors and priests on the plane. I’m not a christian myself, but the only argument that I could think of in that situation was this: “Ok, this plane is full of people that believe in god. IF god exists, no way he/she is going to let these people die in an plane crash. So therefore I will be safe as well.” And that actually calmed me! So irrational arguments can help you as well 🙂
Kristina, who I talked about earlier, was afraid that she would get raped or even killed during her stay in Iran. So she thought of all the possible ways she could prepare to defend herself. Even if some of her fears were really something she had all the right to be afraid of, she discovered that many of the items on her list were not even an issue.