Ask any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you that one of the most critical success factors is the ability to lean into your fear. What does that even mean, though?
Certainly there are as many definitions of what it means to be successful as there are people who actually give thought to it. Why? Because success is very subjective. What it means to you could be entirely different from what it means to me.
Couple that with the definition of fear, which is also pretty darn subjective, right? I mean, we humans fear all kinds of things: fear of flying, fear of people, and, heck, even fear itself… as well as nearly everything else under the sun.
Somehow when we put these two words together, they take on minds and bodies of their own. There’s even a fear of success! Crazy, right??
I’ve read, by the way, that fear is taught, not inherent… for the most part. “They” (whomever the “powers that be” are in the scientific realms that study this stuff) say that we’re only born with two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.
Personally, this makes sense to me because you spend roughly nine months incubating in a safe, warm, cramped, muffled environment only to find yourself released one day into a seemingly loud, cold, and very big place that’s completely foreign to you. If I had to guess, I’d say the “loud” thing is due to the fact that, while in the womb, everything you hear – from the sound of your own mother’s heartbeat and voice to the roar of thunder to the slam of a door – is muffled by distance, liquid, etc. And that fear of falling thing (which I find to be akin to the fear of flying – If you fly, you could fall, right? That could be a long way down.) comes into play because, again, you’re incubated in a relatively small compartment where you’re sealed on all sides, yet get to move however you want with no risk of ever falling. So, when you’re born, everything you knew to be safe is gone – hence fear.
Bottom line: If fear is taught… it can be un-taught, don’t you think?
Alright. Now let’s begin to apply this to becoming a “successmaker”.
Since we all pretty much have definite thoughts and reactions to success and fear, yet they’re almost polar opposites, and each cancels out or prevents the other from catching traction in your life, how do we use this knowledge to our advantage? You lean into your fear – provided your quest is to be successful. If it’s not, well, you needn’t do anything except allow your fears to control your life. For the rest of us…
1. Spend some time first figuring out what defines success to you. Be clear and specific about it. Is it money or acquiring money (because, ironically, that’s NOT the case for everybody – even some people who have lots of money)? Is it to be the best mom or dad you can be? Is it to achieve a sense of fulfillment with your Creator and find peace in that relationship? There’s something. Figure it out, and write it down.
2. Spend some time figuring out what you fear most. This may take a bit more time because humans are funny creatures who tend to mask their fears with other emotions or justifications. Your fear of commitment may stem from a feeling of abandonment way back in your early childhood. I’m just sayin’.
For instance, I have a significant hydrophobia (or fear of water). This doesn’t mean, like, bath water, but, like big bodies of water – pools, lakes, rivers, oceans, etc. I can tell you with 100% certainty that this fear was learned as a result of a sunny summer afternoon with my sister at the pool – who thought it’d be “cute” to take her little sister who couldn’t tread water down to the diving area and “drop her off”. So see, this experience as a young child ruined swimming and water sports for me from that point on.
Write yours down.
3. Here’s where the painful and most productive work takes place. CHOOSE which is stronger: your will and desire to succeed or the fear of “whatever” you feel. (Some people even have a fear of people, believe it or not! That’s a real thing, apparently.) If you decide the fear is stronger, do nothing. Stop reading. Stop this short exercise. Put down your pen and paper, laptop, or other device. You need not expend one more ounce of energy to achieve your end result and defined level of success. If your desire for success is stronger, however, read on.
Still with me? AWESOME! I’m still here, too. Lol
4. Make a decision right now to “lean into your fear”. This means: consciously plan a way to meet your fear head-on, work through it, and overcome it. Now, odds are, you’re gonna have to engage in so-called fearful activities a few times; just stick with it.
Taking my fear of water issue, for example…
When my son was fairly young, he LOVED water. He was probably part fish.
I saw this early on and decided to open opportunities to explore this love – despite my own fears. To this, though, safety and precautions had to be implemented, right? So, off to the YMCA we go… at 6 months of age… until he was about 8 or 9. Swimming lessons. I knew that if we were at a pool or something (because I wasn’t about to allow MY fear to ruin HIS love) and he found himself in trouble, beyond a shadow of a doubt – fear or not, outcome good or bad – I’d go in after him. Now, maybe I’d surprise myself (like other heroic stories) and “miraculously” save us both, but I wanted to stack the odds as much in our favor as possible.
As he grew, though, he wanted ME to engage in swimming and water sports with him – even to the point that HE determined he’d “teach” me to swim… just so we could enjoy this time together! My heart ached.
So, I “leaned into my fear”, took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and scheduled some private swimming lessons for myself. I didn’t tell him about them but went while he was in school and such. (Telling him would ruin the surprise.) Then, one day a few months later when he asked me to get into the pool with him, I said, “Okay.” He was so surprised and excited. I’ll never forget that day… his expression…
Don’t misunderstand. I’m NOT a world-class swimmer, and I still do NOT like big bodies of water. (Let’s say I have a deep respect for them and what can happen in them; that sounds good.) I AM a bit contradictory about it now, though, because the idea of a cruise actually sounds appealing to me (I’ve not quite been able to secede to the “pleasure over potential pain” in this activity yet.). I did go para-sailing with my son once (tandem, just me and him), and actually found that I like that a lot – as long as I never hit the water. Lol And, various water sports look like a bunch of fun to me, like jet skis and stuff. (I only boat on shallow-water river type excursions and when my bonus dad is driving because everybody else – seemingly – thinks, again, that it’s “cute” to scare the girl who’s already terrified. I’ve learned, so I just don’t do it.)
Lucky for me… my fear of water doesn’t prevent me from achieving my definition of success. If my definition involved becoming a marine biologist or something like that, there could be a much greater issue. Get it?
So, where the proverbial “rubber meets the road” is the spot where your definition and desire for becoming a “successmaker” clashes with your fear. THAT is where you lean into it.
Let’s scale it back a bit and choose a very simple example.
If you’ve found yourself in Sales but have a significant fear of the phone – essentially, calling people – you have two choices:
• Allow your fear to dictate and find another career choice where you may achieve a lesser degree of success
• Lean into your fear. If you detest the idea of calling your clients, following up on potential sales, etc., maybe your choice is to do that which you fear most first every day. That way the seeming burden is lifted, and you feel freer the entire rest of the day. And, if you’re hardcore, maybe you give up your sales job for a bit, go to work in a call center to overcome your fear and hone your phone skills, then return to a career in sales better equipped to deal with your fear or have none of it at all.
Make sense? Great!
Now you’re armed with the knowledge that, ultimately, the sum of all fears is rooted in your mind. So…
You also know how to be successful by leaning into your fear.
Go get ‘em!