You want to ask for a raise from your boss but you chicken out. There’s no way she’ll give you one. You want to get on the new project team but put off asking. Pretty soon, the project is launched and you are sitting on the sidelines. You want to run in that 5k but you have never done one before. You are afraid everyone will be laughing at you (or at least judging you). Fear can stop us in our tracks.
I recently read Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden and he espoused, “Do it scared.” Being scared can paralyze you into inaction. I have been paralyzed by fear before and I realized that I did decide that I would do it scared. So Vaden’s words resonated for me. If you wait for the fear to dissipate, well…that could be a long wait. There are some things I am still afraid of. One example that comes to mind is a bridge in Western North Carolina that is called “Mile High Swinging Bridge.” I saw my son and brother walk across that perilously high moving bridge, but my acrophobia hijacked my brain. I just couldn’t do it. I froze. On the other hand, there are many examples of how I did step into fear, and it’s made me a stronger, more confident person.
So here are ways to Do It Scared:
- Reframe it as a challenge. In Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress, she writes that instead of saying you are nervous about the speech you are giving tomorrow, reframe it instead into a positive, like “I’m excited about the speech I’m giving tomorrow.” I actually explained this to my husband after I read the book and he holds me accountable for my language. So if I say, “I’m nervous about this facilitation I’m doing tomorrow.” He’ll say, “Aren’t you excited about the facilitation tomorrow?” This helps me regroup and dampen down the fear.
- Find your why. I have a white board in my office that says “Make a Difference in People’s Lives!” This is my why. So when I’m doing something scary like facilitating or speaking with a group I am not familiar with, I make sure I set my attention to make a difference in their lives. I want at least one person in that room to have a takeaway to improve their life. That’s not as intimidating as “I want everyone in the room to love me.” I am just there to change one person’s life. If there is more? Great. But one person out of that roomful of seventy people having a take away is definitely possible.
- Don’t wait to be comfortable. Vaden wrote, “Do it uncomfortable.” I have fallen for this before. I’ll want to wait until all the conditions are perfect, but perfect never comes. Pretty soon procrastination takes over. I’m waiting on one more data point. One more piece of feedback. When I was standing next to that bridge, I was waiting for the wind to stop. It didn’t. Comfortable never comes so you never take the first step.
- Find an accomplice. The first time I spoke in another state, I brought my husband along. I knew I was going to be nervous because it was a big group, and the facilitation I was doing was new to me. I wanted support, so I brought it with me. I think I might have walked across that bridge if my husband was there to hold my hand. Wind or no wind. Put together a personal board of directors–your team to help guide your life and/or business. I have “Cathy’s Brain Trust”, who help me with topic choices and editing my blog. I feel accountable to them to have a new post every week. Having support helps me face my fears.
- Jump. It’s funny but on that same trip to Grandfather Mountain and that darn bridge, my son and I did a zip line trip. I had never been on a zip line before but it sounded like fun. Of course, I hadn’t really thought it through. Which was probably a good idea. First you sign your life away. Then they start suiting you up with a hard hat, gloves and straps. Next thing you know you are following a group of 8 people up to the platform to take the leap. Maybe I didn’t want to chicken out in front of my son. Maybe I didn’t want to chicken out on myself. I took the leap and it was a blast. Sometimes thinking it through paralyzes you. Jump.
- One day at a time. I usually have a facilitation or speaking gig a few times a month. There was a time where I worried about it for weeks before, especially if there were five different topics scheduled that month. I learned that by looking at it a week ahead and preparing (i.e. review the materials, gather flip charts and PowerPoints, post it notes, etc.), I spend less time worrying about the event. I felt more confident and don’t let the fear of public speaking hijack me. Prepare one day at a time.
This is not to say that every event has been flawless. Sometimes I talk too fast or forget an important piece. But that’s OK. At least I stepped into fear and did it scared. The more I do it, the easier it gets. Oh and that darn bridge? It’s still on my bucket list. What do you need to do scared?