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How to Overcome Your Biggest Enemy in Life: Fear

How to Overcome Your Biggest Enemy in Life: Fear

Have you ever heard someone say “Me? I’m rubbish at mathematics!” or “It’s no good asking me I’ve always struggled with grammar”? These are two perfect examples of the chosen thoughts we allow to hang out in our minds that dismember our goals and our results.

So many of us enable the wrong thoughts in our minds and our brain is only too happy to deliver exactly what we ask for. The damage is caused when we don’t realise we’ve been asking for the wrong things.

You see, our brain is a clever old bunch of cells. It’s highly likely you’ve heard of the exercise where you are asked to not think of a pink elephant… and weirdly there in your head is a pink elephant! Or of Pavlov’s dogs, who could be encouraged to salivate just on hearing a bell ring. Even now I could say to you “Don’t imagine a lemon being cut in half and the juice being squeezed down your throat”, and you’d start to realise “Hey I’m producing more saliva”. How is that possible?

Because our brains WILL deliver what we ask for.

When it comes to performance we have to choose our words carefully. If you appreciate the above and accept that we are easily suggestible creatures, then by nature it stands to reason that I can give you some top tips and tools to help you perform better just based on what words you are choosing to think.

You see, if words can impact what your body does it can also impact the results you achieve, and the standard to which you perform at.

How Fear Screws You Up

How is it that one person can relish the opportunity to stand on a stage in front of 5000 people, and another would rather have their spleen burst before it was their turn? (And trust me as someone who used to have a very physical fear of public speaking and who now adores it and coaches people out of that fear, I really know what that fear is like.) If we allow such a fear to fester and hang out in our minds then guess what that can do to your performance?

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Let’s stick with the public speaking fear since it is still one of the top fears in the world. We are still more scared of speaking than dying. Crazy right?

You are asked to speak to a large audience and the opportunity has the potential to rocket your career. If you fear public speaking then the overriding thoughts are around the fear… instead of the ideal results you want to get.

For instance, instead of thinking:

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for and it’s going to rocket my success”

You are more likely to be thinking:

“Oh no the biggest opportunity of my life and I’m going to screw it up.”

Now remember our brain likes to keep us happy. So, if you are thinking the first positive thought guess what you are likely to get? And what about the second one?

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“That’s all very well and good Mandie but it’s a fear. It’s real, it’s tangible. It shuts my throat, makes me shake, sweat and I struggle to remember my name let alone an entire speech!” you say.

And from many years’ experience of helping people overcome those fears I know that this is exactly what fear relies on. It relies on you accepting the feelings, and accepting the physicality of it. It relies on you accepting those negative emotions and really experiencing them on a level that causes you to never question them. And that is the key.

To increase your performance success, you have to question your thoughts. Not all fears are obvious. Some can hide out in your subconscious for years and it’s only when you work on them that you become aware of a fear that has been impacting on your success.

Everyone Has Fears, Even Those Who Look So Tough

Don’t believe me?

Only recently I had someone who I’ve admired for a long time on an international level say to me that it was not until they read chapter 3 of my book that they realised something had been impacting their success for years. That something was the action of picking up the phone. How can picking up the phone kill your performance?

Let’s break it down by thinking about what happens if you choose your actions according to your thoughts. So, if you think picking up the phone is going to interrupt someone’s day, make them less likely to say “Yes” and want to hear what you have got to say, are you likely to revert to an email?

On the other hand, what if you accept that you are a valuable person who has every right to speak to someone on the phone because you have something useful to say that could be very relevant and interesting? What are the chances you will pick up the phone?

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So how do you revert to positive thinking and override the fears that damage your performance?

4 Tips to Override Your Fears

Adjust Your Assumptions

What assumptions are you making and are they good or bad for you? For instance, if you assume that mistakes are opportunities to learn, then you will go for it with all your heart. You will trust that even failure has its benefits and use them effectively to power up your performance. On the other hand, if you believe that failure is dangerous and damages your reputation and success then you are likely to shy away from the opportunities that can risk failure. With fear, you have to think like the superhero in a movie. Be prepared to step into situations that you fear with trust that you can do this. You don’t see superhero’s look at the big evil 20-foot bad guy and think “Mmm I don’t think I will protect mankind today, he looks a bit scary.”

Remember No One Really Cares

A big reason that fear can impact your performance and thus success is because we imagine what people are thinking. Ironically, it’s not usually true. We assume that everyone is thinking about us, and yet they are much more likely to be thinking about themselves — “what’s for tea”, “what they are going to get their Mom for her birthday” or “why did I wear these shoes, they’re far too tight”. However, remember that fear relies on negativity holding us in place and so if you just learn to accept that everyone is thinking their own thoughts and are as obsessed with them as you are yours, you can stop allowing incorrect thoughts into your head. And as one business friend said to me once “Mandie, you have no right to the thoughts in other people’s heads.”

Shift Your Focus

Fear loves us to repeat patterns. So, if you have thoughts in your head that say “this won’t work”, or “I’m scared of the end results” — then your brain will do all it can to prove you right.

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Therefore, if you can have a stronger new direction to focus your attention on the fear will reduce and eventually dissipate. For instance, let’s go back to the fear of public speaking (You can replace this fear with one of your own!) If you fear public speaking and focus on what you fear, that is what you will get. On the other hand, if you have a clear goal in sight then that is what you are more likely to get. That means you need to work out what you want. What do you want? What is the goal? Where do you want this to lead? By answering these questions with your true passions and desires your brain has a positive direction to aim for, and not the fear routed patterns of the past.

Don’t Be Afraid of Looking Stupid

Closely connected to the fear of what people think is the fear that you will make a fool of yourself. Thus, if you fear what people think and/or making mistakes and getting it wrong then fear again gets to overpower you. Think about a time you’ve felt stupid for saying or doing something. What happened next? Then answer, “How did that make you feel?” and then from that ask yourself “Did that result in a feeling or an action?” and then answer, “what happened next?” In this way, you can start to build up a picture of the automatic path way connected to this fear. How you fall into old patterns that have not served you powerfully, and allowed fear to hold its power of you. (And yes, this process can be used on any fear, I call this a negative spiral.) Once you build a picture of what is happening in your old state you can learn to see what thoughts and feelings create what actions. For instance, if you stood up for yourself and spoke up and that led to you feeling inferior, did that then lead to you not taking on the project that was offered to you, because you feared getting it wrong? Understanding the thoughts that create the actions means that you then decide to create a new thought, and that will lead to new actions. But again, this really needs a powerful focus and goal to help you achieve.

Ultimately fear is allowed to impact our performance because we’ve learnt to trust fear. Fear is useful in that it keeps us safe, however there aren’t too many woolly mammoths on the streets anymore. So when fear is given too much power it damages our success. Learn to challenge and stop assuming. And most importantly trust that you can do this, you can give yourself all the proof of your successes to tell you this. And I will leave you with this thought: Why do we assume what if we are awesome at something then everyone else can do that too? While if we can’t do something we are idiots because everyone else can do it?

You see, fear really does wish to damage your success. So, it’s time to challenge it.

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

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Last Updated on March 15, 2019

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

What Makes a Leader Fail?

A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

What Is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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“… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

1. Courage

The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

4. Likability

Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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5. Vulnerability

Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

6. Authenticity

Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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“A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

9. A Passion for Continual Learning

Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

The Bottom Line

No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

More Resources About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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