The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fear is my excuse for so many things. Fear is what stopped me from starting this blog six months earlier. I knew that this was my passion, and that I wanted to find a way to share my thoughts and help as many people as possible. I knew that the best way to do this was to start by writing and speaking. I knew I had to share my personal stories as well as the things I’ve learnt, but it took me six months to even start writing because I was so afraid.
I feared the response from my readers, that what I have to offer will actually be of no use to others, that I wouldn’t live up to my expectations of myself, that no-one would care about what I have to say. I feared what my friends and family would think, that those who know me best would think that I have no right to be talking about these things when I struggle so much with it myself. I feared that my colleagues—many of whom have more skills in these areas than me—may look down upon me or ridicule me.
I realised that I have taken the safe and sensible pathways my whole life. Fear has stopped me from being bold enough to take the paths I would dearly love to follow. Fear has stopped me from putting myself out there and being willing to make a fool of myself.
I eventually built up the courage to just go for it. After all, what do I really have to lose? Everything I could lose, I could build back up. I have much more to lose by never trying.
All of us have experienced fear at some point. Sometimes it’s useful fear, like when a tiger escapes from the zoo next door, or an intruder is in your house. But most times, the fear we feel is nothing but unproductive. Sometimes it signals that something has the potential for a bad outcome, and warrants careful thought. But we need to follow through on that, make the careful analysis, and push through the fear if we decide it’s best to move forward. I often feel sad watching people maintain the status quo because they fear change. They stay in a job they hate, perpetuate unhealthy workplace environments, or avoid conflict. It’s easier in the moment to take these safe routes. But is it worth it in the end? I doubt it.
Do you want to overcome your fears, and take the leap? Here’s one way to go about it.
- Identify your fear, being very specific. We can’t even begin to take action until we know precisely what it is we are trying to overcome. For example, “I’m afraid of public speaking” isn’t specific enough. Why are you afraid of public speaking? Are you afraid of making a fool of yourself? Are you afraid your stutter will be present? Are you afraid of what people will think of what you are saying? Are you afraid of being the centre of attention? Why?
- What exactly are you trying to achieve? Is overcoming this fear actually going to get you there? What specific outcome do you want to come from this?
- What is the worst that could happen? Really take the time to describe this in detail. The absolute worst case scenario. What is the actual likelihood of it occurring?
- What is the best outcome? If you overcome your fear and do what it is you would love to do, what will this do for you and for your life? How likely is it that this will occur?
- Weigh up these last two points. Being careful to take into account not only the best and worst case scenarios, but also how likely each is to occur. Is it worth it for you to proceed? Does it align with your priorities and values, and your long term plans?
- If you’re still not sure, sharing your thoughts with someone you trust may help bring clarity.
- If you’re still not quite sure, take a leap and just go for it! We can never have all the information, or know what the future holds. Sometimes we just have to have the courage to try something, without knowing what the outcome will be.
- Make a plan to move forward. Make a very specific plan. Break it down into small, achievable steps. Give yourself mini-deadlines. Find someone to be accountable to.
- Every day, make a step towards your goal. It doesn’t matter how small it is, just that it is a step forward.
Don’t let fear stop you from doing something that will make you happier or the world a better place. Use this worksheet to take you through the process of making a step forward. I would love to hear about what fears are holding you back, and if you make any progress toward overcoming them! As always, you can contact me via e-mail or on Facebook.