Fear and anxiety dominate my days if I allow it, but we have to keep working and striving. How can we succeed despite fears, panic, and anxiety?
Learning from the things that scare us
Don’t worry, I’m not going to dwell too much on what happened, I feel I have been melodramatic enough – but I do want to share more about what I learned from it.
Long story made shorter, I felt I was going to drown, and that scared the heck out of me!
After this traumatic event was over and I dried off, I had to make a choice. Do I get out and never go back in the water, or do I go back the next day?
I chose to go back, but only after a VERY restless night where I analyzed every horrific far-fetched scenario you can imagine. If I didn’t go back then I would have gone from having one scary experience to having a shiny new phobia to unbox.
Great birthday present!
Fear versus Rationality
Was I actually going to drown? Probably not.
In fact, the fear was making the situation worse!
With fears, it is not about reality. Perception is actually the controlling factor.
At the time it felt like I was drowning. In those cases perception IS reality. I couldn’t take a step back and objectively work out that in all likelihood my instructor was trained.
Yes, he reminded me a little too much of Shaggy from Scooby Doo, but I am sure I am not the first to have my equipment malfunction on his watch.
The more scared I got, the more danger I was in.
To begin with, I was pretty calm. I tapped the bottom of my little boat three times as instructed. When nobody came over to help I continued to tug on the cord which (in theory) would make me pop right out of the Kayak and float to the surface.
No amount of tugging on that cord would release me from the boat’s grip. Then I really started panicking when I realized I was going to need to draw a breath real soon.
Drowning is a bit specific, how is it like being in business? Well, it turns out it’s not too far removed from when a particularly nasty and influential individual nearly caused me to stop building my programming training business.
In reality, he was only influential with a specific group of people who were never going to be my customers anyway, but my perception was that if he publicly attacked me then nobody would ever buy my training ever again.
Feeling out of control of the situation and imagining far-fetched scenarios, giving into the fear and the emotion, nearly pushed me into making bad decisions.
What This Means For You
While this scenario is dramatic (melodramatic?) it is not too different from other scary situations you or I have been in if we look past the potential watery grave.
We often can feel confident right up until things change and the uncertainty and our lack of control over a situation go too far out of our comfort zone and our experience level.
Rather than react in the moment, and let fear dictate our next actions, we should instead seek to grow our comfort zones and experiences so we are better able to handle situations that come up.
I have dubbed this as “moving the fear line” as a play on a popular online marketing phrase.
Business is often uncertain
In business, we are going to be faced with situations over which we have little control and that scares us.
A lot of what I work on with coaching clients is about mindset, personal constraints, and their fears. For sure I have to work on these things myself.
- Putting ourselves “out there” in public.
- Selling and self-promotion.
- Criticism and trolls.
- Fear of failure.
- Fear of success.
- Financial fears.
- … And more.
What can we do to reduce our anxiety?
We have to take some action if we are not going to give in to these fears.
- We can either let the fear dictate our actions or make a different choice.
- We can try to be objective and see where the perception ends and where the reality starts.
- We can aim to understand what the actual worst case and likely scenarios really are.
- We can face our fears and go ahead and do stuff anyway.
What really might happen?
- My first job was working for a hospital. I worked with people who literally made life-and-death situations but my own work had not nearly the same significance.
- From birth, my daughter has faced several health issues and has had her life saved multiple times. That was never in our control.
- My Dad was an officer in the fire and rescue service, he had to run into burning buildings when other people were running out of them and send his friends and colleagues into danger too.
What do we risk in business? Some money, time, and reputation?
Not quite the same, is it?
You know what really helps me?
I have always, and continue, to put myself in situations that scare me. Both business situations (such as public speaking which terrifies me) and leisure situations, such as this below!
Why? Because that is how we put things in perspective. It’s how we stretch our comfort zone. That is how we gain experience, and that is how we grow as people, as well as in business.
If I hadn’t been through scary situations and come through the other side, I don’t think we would have had the courage to move country (twice) and leave our comfort zones entirely behind.
What we learn is what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
I am not talking about taking unnecessary risks or living on adrenalin. But do shake yourself out of any rut you find yourself in, don’t live your life running on rails. Surround yourself with people who challenge you.
After all, if you only do what you have always done, you will only get what you have always got.
What do you think? How do you face your fears and stretch yourself? Please share your thoughts and experiences …