Many people have an irrational fear lurking deep within them that limits their ability succeed. Whether it’s fear of public speaking, confrontation or the ability to ask for the sale, they let that fear limit their ability to achieve their goals. I’ve experienced some of the same fears and have learned to overcome them. The amazing thing I’ve learned about it is that overcoming fear is so much easier than living with it. The key steps I’ve learn about overcoming fears are:
Recognize the fear – Some people live in denial about their anxiety. They may claim that they are fine with public speaking and that they have done it many times. But when opportunities arise to speak, they suggest others who may have more knowledge of the subject matter. I’ve seen them even chide the others for being afraid if they resist. The first step to overcoming a fear is to recognize it and admit that you must take action to overcome it.
Convince yourself that you can overcome the fear – I remember performing in concerts when I was in the high school choir. We would perform songs as a full choir, some ensembles and then a few students were chosen to sing solos. I was fine when we sang as a full choir or ensemble, where I could share the stage with others and they could hide any mistakes I might make. But when I was selected for a solo, I was nervous. It’s not as if I thought my parents or my friends’ parents would throw rotten tomatoes if I missed a note, but I would get serious butterflies leading up to the performance. At one concert, I turned to a friend who was also scheduled to sing a solo and asked him if he was nervous.
“No” he said, “I’m looking forward to it. I love to sing and I enjoy performing for others”
That gave me a new perspective on it. Instead of going into it with a mindset of fear, I approached it as an opportunity to share what I enjoyed with others. Whatever fear you may be harboring, if you teach yourself to enjoy it and look forward to it, it will significantly reduce the anxiety you feel.
Confront the fear – Most people deal with fear by not dealing with it. They spend amazing amounts of energy figuring out ways not to confront their fear. When I was in college, despite what I learned in high school about singing in front of an audience, I still had a fear of public speaking. Once for a group project assignment, we were tasked with giving a final presentation of our findings to several teachers and the department head. No one in the group was excited about giving the presentation, so I volunteered. I didn’t have anything to lose.
I prepared well and studied the presentation several times. When the time for the presentation came, although I was nervous at the beginning, I eventually relaxed and ended up doing a pretty good job. I learned that if I just jump in and attack it, it’s not as bad as it seems.
Over the years, I’ve felt the same butterflies at times. It’s usually either because I wasn’t as familiar with the subject matter, or there was an important person in the audience. I’ve found that if I prepare as much as possible and tackle it with the attitude that I’m stronger than the fear, that I can get through it fine and feel better about myself when it’s over.
Regardless of your age or experience level I’m convinced that you can overcome any fear that is inhibiting your career advancement. Mark Twain once said “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” You may always have that fear lurking inside. But you can always overcome it.
What are you afraid of?
About the author: Lew Sauder is the author of Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (www.Consulting101Book.com) He has been a consultant with top-tier and boutique consulting firms for seventeen years.