J.P. Hicks, Contributing Writer
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” –Marianne Williamson
Losing a job or setting out to be an entrepreneur can be scary. How will I sustain myself? What if my business fails?
Fear of the unknown or fear of failure are typically the most detrimental to the success of the self-employed.
Humans are the only creatures on earth that fear events that haven’t happened yet. When observing nature, you’ll see all animals going about their business of survival without fear of failure, or even predators. It’s only when danger stares them directly in the face in the moment do they get fearful and put up their best defense.
We, humans, on the other hand, can find all sorts of things to fear with absolutely no real danger standing in front of us. Indeed, a single thought can paralyze us in fear. But are all those thoughts real?
Fear of the unknown is a complete illusion because the unknown is nonexistent until you meet it head on. And during that encounter you must simply meet it with your best defense. Animals have three mechanisms for dealing with challenges (threats): flight, fight, or play dead.
Entrepreneurs usually only have one option if they hope to be successful, fighting. Although, sometimes flight is necessary for self-preservation in certain circumstances.
The beauty of stepping into the unknown and conquering it is that the experience is now a “known”, a lesson, or a new skill that arms you to fight off future challenges. And, as you continue to walk through more unknown doors and come away unscathed, you’ll realize there was never anything to fear in the first place.
Fear of failure is a little more difficult to overcome. Many of us have been conditioned to be dependent, or to be followers. Perhaps it’s human nature to find the easiest and safest way to live, but I suspect that since so many fear failing there is great pressure to walk the same path as everyone else.
So when you decide to pursue your own path, there will be many naysayers telling you that it can’t be done or that you’re going to fail. This presents a constant reminder of our innate fears of failure. You must refuse to be a victim of other’s fears as well as your own fears.
When I quit my job nearly seven years ago, I had no concrete plans for making money. All I knew is that I had to get out of the rat race. Everyone around me thought I was crazy for giving up a comfortable lifestyle to jump into the unknown. Yet, perhaps naively, I had no fear of the unknown, or failure.
In fact, I was looking forward excitedly to what the future held whatever that would be. It wasn’t until my savings had dwindled down to a dangerously low level before fear kicked in. It suddenly hit me that if I didn’t produce, my family would starve. That fear to survive made the unknown and the potential of failure seem minor. It was like an alarm that said it was time to get to work and dedicate myself to something.
“Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence.Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.” — Norman Vincent Peale.
So fear of utter survival in my case acted as a motivator. It propelled me to action, to pour myself into my new business and the results were nearly immediate and substantial. Along the way I rowed through unknowns and challenges like an oar through water. I never had the luxury or the time to fear possible failure. Failure meant that we weren’t going to survive and I refused to contemplate it.
Fear can also be healthy and help us to plan ahead and avoid potential danger or obstacles in the future. Fear prevents us from continuing to do something that brought about a negative response the first time we tried it. If we’re smart enough to recognize it, anyway.
The key then becomes to be able to recognize genuine danger from perceived dangers. Once we are able to do that we will overcome one the greatest obstacles to achieving success in our endeavors.
If you’ve lost your job or are building your own business, don’t be paralyzed by false fears. Learn to recognize which fears are real and which ones are illusory. Finally, use the genuine fears as motivators to work harder toward your goals and you will be successful.
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