Dealing with Fears—Confront and grow
As I sat in the audience listening to the facilitator from the Center for Creative Leadership, Jeri Lou Johnson, little did I know that one sentence was about to change my point of view on life.
On this grey and dreary day Jeri Lou gave a marvelous presentation. She had many valuable things to say. But there was one line — one absolute gem — that stands out. Here’s what she said:
“If you want to learn who you are, you must be willing to be uncomfortable.”
I’ll never forget those words. And Jerri was right on the money. To achieve your goals and realize your potential, you must be willing to be uncomfortable, take risks — to do things that you’re afraid to do. That’s how you develop your potential!
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet, what do most people do when they face a frightening situation or new activity? They back away from the fear. They don’t take action. I know… because that’s what I did for many years of my life. And I can tell you without hesitation that it’s a losing strategy.Show me a successful person and I’ll show you someone who confronts his or her fears and takes action!
Examining Our Fears
Have you ever been afraid or anxious before trying a new or challenging activity? Has that fear ever stopped you from taking action? I’m sure you’ve been paralyzed by fear at one time or another in your life. I know I have. That’s simply part of being human. Of course, every person has a different fear threshold. What frightens one person to death might have little impact on someone else. For example, to some, speaking in public or starting a new business is scary. Others might be fearful about asking someone for directions… or for a date. Regardless of how trivial or silly you believe your fears may be, this lesson applies to you.
When I talk about fear, I’m not referring to physical risks that might injure you or endanger your health, such as diving off cliffs in Acapulco or bungee jumping. I’m scared of those things, too — and I have no plans to do either of them. What I’m talking about here are those challenges that stand in the way of your personal and professional growth. These are the things that scare you — but which you know are necessary if you’re going to get what you want in life.
The Comfort Zone
When you’re gripped by fear and anxiety, it’s usually because you’re stepping out of your comfort zone.Let’s take some time to discuss this important concept — and how it relates to your success and the development of your potential.
Each of us has a comfort zone, a zone of behavior that is familiar to us and where we feel comfortable and safe. Think of your comfort zone as the inside of a circle.
The activities and situations that lie inside the circle are non-threatening and familiar. They’re routine, part of your everyday life — the things you can do with no sweat. In this category are tasks such as speaking to your friends or co-workers or filling out the daily paperwork at your job.
When faced with something outside your comfort zone, you suddenly feel nervous. Your palms become sweaty and your heart pounds. You begin to wonder,
“Will I be able to handle it?
“Will others laugh at me?
“What will my friends and relatives say?”
Does it mean I am weak if I can’t handle this on my own?
Take out a blank piece of paper or one use of your journal pages. Draw one large circle of fear , then another smaller one inside the outer circle and then finally draw a core circle. As you look at the circles, label the core with a “C” and next one with a “B” and the outer circle with a “A”. What does the “C” represent for you? In other words, what fear or unresolved conflict is holding you back from reaching the next level “B”of success or the level “A” fulfillment in your life?
Is it fear of approaching new prospects?
Is it fear about changing careers?
Is it fear about learning new skills?
Is it fear of going back to school?
Is it fear of telling other people what’s on your mind?
Is it fear of public speaking?
Whatever that “C” represents for you, just be honest and admit it. My guess is that thousands, if not millions, of people have the very same fear you have!
The Ultimate Solution: Just Do It
Ralph Waldo Emerson offered some simple advice, which, if followed, can transform your life. He said, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” I know this advice makes good sense, but some people are just too afraid to act. Remember my prior words about the steep price you pay when you let your fears dominate you.
In the end, running away from your fears is a losing strategy. It will only bring you frustration and unhappiness. I can tell you that from personal experience.
There’s nothing wrong with having some fears. Successful people have fears. The difference is that successful people take action and move forward despite being afraid. It’s not always easy, I’ll grant that. But you’ll always feel better about yourself when you face your fears.