I believe that every person has the capacity to create the career that they want. I believe that I can create the career that I want. What has held me back in the past, and what I see holding others back is fear.
What I’ve learnt is that fear is not something that can be overcome like a mountain. You don’t climb over it and never face it again. It surfaces again and again. Instead of trying to overcome it, you can learn to have a different relationship with fear and turn it into a driving force that energises your life and your career.
1. Fear Is Here To Stay & That’s Okay
Fear is an indication that you are stepping outside of comfort zone. As long as you’re not putting yourself into a physically or emotionally dangerous situation, fear can actually be a positive and transformative force in your life. If you’re not feeling fear then it’s likely that you’re operating safely within your comfort zones. The presence of fear about your career means you’re facing something that challenges you. You’re learning something new. Doing something you haven’t done before.
2. Fear Is Something You Can Experiment With. Get Curious About Fear.
Once you face fear with curiosity you can start to experiment and learn the different facets of your fear.
Do you feel fear around meetings, meetings with specific people, people more senior, your manager, your peers?
Do you feel fearful when you’re doing something that isn’t using your strengths? Or when you’re worried about looking like an idiot because it’s new to you, you’re not being supported, you’re not fully prepared.
Are you being asked to do something that conflicts with your personal values and who you are, and who you want to be? Are you fearful of losing that identify?
What is the fear trying to tell you that you may be unaware of?
Look at your fear from every angle, get under the skin!
3. Is It Fear Or Is It Excitement? Know The Difference.
Fear is experienced in the body in exactly the same way as excitement.
Sweaty palms. Beating heart. Shortness of breath. All of these physical symptoms of fear are exactly the same as they physical symptoms of excitement. It’s just our perception about whether you’re excited or fearful that differs. That’s why two people on the same rollercoaster can experience the exact same physical response yet one is exhilarated and the other terrified.
When I went to the Improvisation Drop In in Southwark, at one point I seriously considered running out of the room. As each person in the circle took their turn to jump onto the stage and improvise a scene, the terror surged inside me as my moment to “perform” edged closed.
Yet when it arrived I forced myself to jump in despite the terror. I was nervous, I stuttered. I ended up making up a scene about a man who drowned in a vat of custard. Ridiculous yet in retrospect quite funny and I enjoyed myself. Once I got on and did what I’d been anticipating, the fear subsided and I felt elated to have participated.
You can learn more about how our brain experiences fear & excitement in Andy Gibson’s A Mind For Business.
4. What Are You Actually Fearful Of?
Fears are sneaky and have a way of escalating out of all control if they remain stuck in the dark cave of our mind. One fear feeds another and before you know it you’ve got a 100 reasons why you can’t ask for a pay rise, speak to your manager about your workload, ask for that day off.
Write your career fears down right now. Get them on a page. All of them, from the massive to the minutae. Every last one.
Now rate each fear on a “scale of fear” from 1-5, with 5 being the thing(s) you’re most fearful of.
Now order them with least fearful thing at the top of the list.
What’s the one thing you could do to make that fear smaller?
How can you find a way to experiment with this fear to find more about it? What causes it? Where does it come from?
5. Get A Different Perspective
Looking at your fear from different perspectives allows you to get some breathing room, and see the situation or challenge for what it really is.
You’ve probably already imagined what’s the worst that could happen.
Have you ever asked what’s the best that could happen?
For example, if you were to ask for a pay rise, then what’s the best that could happen? You get the pay rise you asked for? You get more than you asked for?
If you were to speak to your manager about how they were going to support your personal development what’s the best that could happen? You are offered opportunities to work on new projects that extend your skills? A place on a training course? A secondment in another part of the business?
Try looking at it from a point in the future.
What will you think about this situation or issue next month? Six months time? A year from now? Notice what happens to the fear as you put distance between you and the issue.
Try looking at it with the lens of the past.
How does the situation or issue compare to other situations that have caused you fear in the past, but no longer do? What did you do to get past that fear to where you are now?
Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.