Why Fear Can Be Good For Your Business
Ever been afraid? If you work for yourself or are thinking about it, you may feel a good deal more fear than you thought was appropriate for a reasonably self-aware human bean.
Self aware or not, when you set out on the path of self-employment, there are plenty of things to be afraid of. Will people want to hire you? What if they think you charge too much? Are you really good enough at what you do to strike out on your own? What if you fail?
When you work for yourself, you have to deal with fear - it is inevitable. Fear is also indispensable (unless you are perfectly evolved, in which case, why on earth are you reading this?).
Fear is inevitable whenever you face the unknown. It is scary not to know what to do, how to do it, or even if something should be done at all.
Because fear arises when there is something you don't know, it's easy to let what you fear distract you from what fear can do for your business.
Fear carries at least one of the following messages, sometimes both.
Whether you are energized or paralyzed by fear depends on your ability to distinguish between these messages and respond appropriately.
That's a good thing, unless fear is trying to say, "Wake up!" Confusing these messages can make self employment miserable, if not impossible.
The High Cost of False Alarms
The lizard brain is designed to stay on alert until it has disarmed or escaped the threat or simply exhausted the body's energy stores. Your mind tries to make sense of this by finding evidence that there is something terribly wrong. Minor obstacles and irritations are magnified. It can be hours or days before something interrupts the cycle.
Meanwhile, you live in a state of hyper-vigilance or frozen retreat, wearing out your adrenals, exhausting your neurotransmitters, and, by the way, sending out all matter of random, prickly signals to the people around you.
Trust me, I know this game. I'm a former world champion, and from time to time I step back into the ring like a battle-scarred veteran determined to show her chops. Ugh!
When Fear Feels 'Just-Right'
No matter what your particular brand of challenge and thrill, I'm betting that you know what it feels like to take a significant risk for the sake of something that matters to you and come out the other side.
It feels pretty terrific, doesn't it?
Do you remember how you felt as you consciously accepted the risk and moved forward? That's fear that feels "just-right."
"Just-right" fear is all about waking up and staying awake for as long as it supports your purposes. Unlike the fear that gives control to your lizard brain, just-right fear wakes you up to opportunity, issues challenges, offers choice.
Don't Let an Alarm System Run Your Business
Every crossing since the advent of car alarms has been punctuated by the honks and sirens of car alarms activated by the vibration.
Imagine trying to conduct business from the car deck of a ferry in the midst of all that noise! That's what self-employment feels like when "Wake Up!" sounds like "Watch Out!"
If you alarm sends the wrong signal, it's easy to get mired in perfectionism, procrastination, and second-guessing.
"Just-right" fear energizes so that you can respond to opportunities for learning, growth, and --yes-- profit.
I could write a book on recalibrating your alarm (now there's an idea). For now, consider these two "adjustments."
When you work for yourself, many - if not most of the most meaningful opportunities arise in the context of business. If you are new to business, your alarm may be triggered because what's appropriate in business, selling, for example, had not been appropriate in the context of previous employment or relationships.
You can deal with fear in a way that strengthens your confidence and empowers your business. Identify the fears that are arising out of the context of self-employment. When you find one, reconsider it in the light of the appropriate context. You may still find that you are afraid, but the message may morph from a dire warning to a call to learning.
Coaching vs. Rescue
But when your lizard brain takes over, learning is the last thing on your mind. (Rightly so. If you are truly in danger, the priority is to get to safety.) You may reflexively seek rescue rather than the support and challenge that you need in order to succeed.
In his marvelous book, The Power of TED, author David Emerald demonstrates how to transmute fear and reactivity into empowerment. That's not a word I generally use, but David's book infuses it with practical significance.
Coaching is to TED*, or The Empowerment Dynamic, what rescuing is to the familiar drama triangle.
If your alarm is keeping you from engaging with the opportunities in your work, take a look at your professional relationships, both the ones you have now and the ones you dream of. Are these relationships sources of rescue or coaching?
Notice, I'm not talking about professional coaching, though that's certainly an option. I'm talking about your attitude toward all your business relationships: customers, vendors, colleagues, competitors, prospects.
Consider each of these relationships and ask yourself:
Reviewing your relationships and re-orienting them to challenge and support rather than rescue (or escape) will go a long way toward recalibrating your alarm.
When you work for yourself, your alarm is likely to go off at the least trembling breeze unless you have a wise, trusted network of support - people who will hold a lantern while you study the terrain, who will share the rules of the road and believe in you when you don't believe in yourself.
That's it, at least for now. Context and Coaching. May they help you rest your alarm, deal with fear effectively, and make the most of it.
About the Author
Business Coach and Personal Growth
Coach Molly Gordon
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