Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present – and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future. ~Audrey Hepburn
Growing up, my culture made me feel that a little worrying was a good thing and that if you are never worried about things, you’re exhibiting a careless and casual attitude.
What I missed in the above theory is the word “little.” As a result, I worried a lot. Was I going to do well in my exams? Do my friends think I am cool to hang out with? Will I get my dream job? Will I be able to achieve my dream income in my business?
Those fears, needless to say, kept me from fully realizing my success in different areas of life.
In my work, I’ve found the fear of failure, fear of the unknown and the fear of not belonging as the three universal fears. I see people every day and at least one of them is stuck due to these three fears.
If you dig deeper, you’ll realize that the fear of not being loved or the fear of not belonging is the root cause of all superficial fears. Let me explain.
The fear of the unknown is actually the fear of failure in itself. Think about it, what happens when you step into the unknown? You fear that you’ll fail.
For most people, failure is a permanent, impossible-to-turnaround phenomenon. Even a toddler knows that’s not true. Notice how they fall down and keep attempting to walk anyway? Imagine if, as a child, you considered failure permanent—you’d still be unable to walk!
And deep down, you fearing not being loved if you fail. Think about it. You’re afraid that your loved ones will abandon you, that you’ll be rejected and that people who love you will stop doing so.
No matter how much you try, fear will always be there. It is a natural part of being human. Of course, a lot of fears that things may not work out are just baseless. Yet, they can pretty much stall you.
A Three-Step Process to Overcome Fear
This three-step process is what I learned first hand from fellow-entrepreneurs around me. Feel free to use it to beat your everyday fears and when you fear that things may not work out.
Apply the three steps to a situation in your life when you’re afraid:
Step 1. Write Your Fear Down
As simple as it sounds, writing down your worst fear in this situation will let you externalize it. A lot of times, we worry because we’re so entangled in the problem.
Have you noticed how getting an outside-perspective helps? This is why so many people go for coaching too. Getting someone else’s help allows you to see different perspectives.
By writing your fear down, you’re also fully acknowledging that it exists. This leads to awareness, which is the first step and 95 percent of your journey.
Step 2. Ask: What’s the Worse that Could Happen?
Now that you’ve documented your fear, you realize it lies outside you, and you have a better grip on it. The next step is to get deeper. Be honest and paint the worst-case scenario. What is the absolute worst outcome that could happen from this situation?
I recall when I was about to speak in front of a audience for the first time. I was nervous and literally hoping that somehow the event would be canceled. I wrote down my fear—”I’ll stuff up”—and asked myself, “OK if I did stuff up completely, in a way I am not able to speak a word at the workshop due to nervousness, what would happen then?”
Soon, I caught how unrealistic this scenario was. Surely, I would babble, mumble, mix up examples, appear unconfident, but wouldn’t completely go quiet, right? So I changed the outcome to a more realistic: “I will appear unconfident.”
There it was. My realistic, worst-case scenario: I would fail to impress my audience by appearing not confident.
Step 3. Ask: Can I Handle It?
This is the last leg of the exercise. Once you acknowledge the worst, you ask yourself if you can handle it. Human beings are incredibly powerful at handling stuff.
Think about all the people in this world who have handled death, bankruptcy, loss, and separation. Perhaps they never realized they could handle it until the time came. In despair, we find strength from an unknown source within. We’re wired beautifully that way.
For me, I could lose those potential clients at the workshop. So what? I could always take feedback and start over. When I looked at it squarely, it wasn’t that bad. I could handle it.
Answering the last question gave me strength to move ahead. When you get real with yourself, you’ll know that you can handle this OK and soon there will be a time when you’ll wonder what were you so afraid of. I promise.