A colleague and I were having coffee last week and she shared with me that she had a very strong fear of making cold calls. We talked a little about it and I discovered that the root of her fear was that she didn’t want to sound foolish or unknowledgeable.
Now, I’ve known this person for a long time and I was surprised because I really respect her as a professional. But when I thought more about it later, I realized that her fears were probably pretty common among other sales professionals. In fact, I realized that it is our fears (real or imagined) that most often hold us back in life. So my friend, this blog is for you and anyone else that wants to be brave enough to recognize that the things you fear can be managed.
Being a top professional in your industry is not easy. It takes work. It takes discipline. It takes courage. Finally, it takes the raw guts to do things that you have never done before. For most people, doing something different can be a fearful experience. Certainly, levels of fear vary by the individual but at the end of the day, we all feel it. So, how do we push past our fears?
Let’s start by first defining fear. Webster’s online dictionary defines fear as “to feel fear in (as in oneself which I think is interesting), to have a reverential awe of (as in the fear God), to be afraid of (as in to fear the worst) and, to be afraid or apprehensive.” Why do people fear? People have fear for a variety of reasons.
One reason people experience fear is discomfort due to uncertainty. Most people that I know can’t foretell the future. We can look at facts and we can look at others who have accomplished things, but the primal functions of our mind works on personal experiences. One experience with rejection can cause some people to think that the same exposure will always result in the same outcome. It doesn’t matter if intellectually you know it is not true. The emotional fear of rejection or hearing the word “no” holds many of us back from doing what we need to do to be successful.
So is fear good or bad? I think that there is such a thing as a healthy dose of fear. What I term “healthy fear” is really called “caution.” It is reasonable to be cautious of things that could physically harm us or our loved ones as an example. But what benefit does fear really have? Is it something that we can really grasp or is it a non physical, emotional state that differs and varies with each individual or group situation? I think that mostly, fear is not a good thing. It imprisons people. Our reaction to it is usually a negative one.
More often than not, fear is something that keeps us from doing or getting what we want. Fear of embarrassment, failure and rejection are some fears that are common for most people. Fear is meant to protect us. Keep us safe. What it does though is exactly what an overprotective parent does; it keeps us from living our life. It keeps us from knowing who we are. It keeps us from the things we want in our lives.
There are a lot of things that we can do to manage fear and use it to our advantage. First of all, I recommend that you don't try to eliminate fear totally; just keep it manageable. Dr. Nicholas Hall has written extensively about fear. He says that “fear is the emotion of the future and that you can only be afraid of things that have not happened or your inability to predict what is going to happen next.”
We often make assumptions that lead to habits so that we can mitigate fears. We make these assumptions because the mind needs a reference point to decide what to do next. One of the things that we can do to create the reference point is to pretend or to act. Dr. Hall suggests writing a script as the way you want to be. To become an actor and literally through physical means practice as if it is that way. Or, if you can’t do it physically then do it mentally. Imagine the way we want things to be.
I say “imagine” instead of visualize because visualization is what occurs from your past experiences. If you have never experienced it before then you must imagine it. When you imagine, a peculiar thing occurs. The mind does not know the difference between imagination and visualization. You can create a real experience from what is imagined in your mind. Practicing something can even assist to alleviate fears that we may still have as the result of something that we “have” already done before. So, imagine a scene without fear. Imagine it with perfect harmony, happiness, success, or whatever floats your boat!
Imagination can be effectively used to mitigate or eliminate the debilitating effects of fear. Another very powerful technique is self talk. Scores of motivational speakers and behavioralists use this technique in their training or treatments. Anthony Robbins is a huge proponent of self talk. Self talk is a very flexible tool and can be used in many ways. I might suggest that you use it to create an internal dialogue with yourself. You can talk out loud if you wish but you might get a few looks!
In summary, don’t try to eliminate fear. You’ll not succeed. Instead, work with it. Practice imagination or self talk and you will be successful in harnessing the power of fear to your advantage.
Amplify Your Results!
Dr. Richard B. Greene, DBA
Peak Performance Coach & Human Potential Expert