Feel the fear...

When it comes to your career, what's the thing that you fear most? Failure? Not being accepted? Being overlooked? Being talked about? Each of those can apply to your personal life too, and the fear felt in your career can have a detrimental effect on your personal life and vice versa.  Fear is an emotion and a very powerful one considering its ability to over-ride the rational part of a brain, which is the side that tells us we are capable and we are worthy.

I have been affected by all of the above at some point in my career, more than once.  In fact, some of these pop up when I write something for this blog or when I think of the upcoming Assist Conference where I'll be speaking about work/life balance with some amazingly talented women.

Are these fears magnified when one is feeling anxious or stressed? I'll be writing a post on stress v anxiety soon; a lot of the time fear is just one of these two in disguise.  Is there anything that can be done to face the fears, or at least help us learn to embrace failure? I certainly hope so!

If you have taken part in the personal branding course that I was very privileged to be interviewed for (or at least watched the interview), then you'll know that, for me, the epitome of personal branding is Richard Branson; a man who seems to be fearless and not concerned with embarrassment or failure.  In a recent Virgin.com blog post Richard Branson wrote that "some people are better at coping with failure than others", but suggests that all of us can work at learning how to be more risk-tolerant.  Great news for all, but how?!  Richard suggests that not failing is just no fun.  If you're afraid to fail then you won't take a risk and never do something new.  Failure is "one of our greatest learning tools".  So, when caught in the grip of fear, focus on the experience and what you could be learning from it.

There is one group of people who seem to be able to master their emotions - the elite forces.  Marines, Navy SEALs, whoever you consider the elite, need to manage their emotions for survival.  If we ignore some psychological references to many of these elite-types being natural-born psychopaths,  there are some things that we can learn from them.

1. Acknowledge that fear exists; it's natural.
2. Breathe deeply to (try to) remain calm and figure out exactly what you are feeling.
3. Get feedback from those you trust, and actually hear it.  We don't have all the answers and sometimes we cannot see the wood for the trees.  Confiding in someone you trust to get a different angle, or have them play Devil's Advocate, can be a great help.
4. Come up with a plan.  Plan A is what we stumble into.  Come up with Plan B, even if only to distract your mind for a little while.
5. Focus on the positives, which is something I try to do in all situations anyway.  If you can find a way to think positively the negatives start to seem insignificant.

I like to play "what if?".  For instance, I am feeling fearful because I have been asked to step in a resolve a spiralling situation and what if I don't succeed?  But "what if" I do?  What if the person who asked me to step in has done so because they have heard I have been successful in doing something similar in the past, although such a success will be completely absent from my mind at such an important time and only remembered later... or, "what if" I pause for a moment and think of something else to distract my mind of all these errant thoughts!

If we are fearful, it's a reflection from failing in the past.  So take a moment to pause, see if what you're feeling is justified; nine times out ten it really isn't.

Have faith in yourself and keep doing the great work that you are more than capable of doing.