What would you do if
you weren’t afraid? —Spencer Johnson,
Who Moved My Cheese?
In any undertaking of substance, you can’t expect yourself to be fearless—we all have fear. The secret is to be courageous and not let your fear win over. Having courage is not the absence of fear but the drive and the strength to keep going in spite of it. Ultimately, your desire and belief in your vision must be stronger. That’s what you lean on.
The following is an excerpt from Professional Destiny about the difference between faith and fear:
“Fear shows itself all along our journey. The more important our purpose is and the more remarkable we are called to be, the more we can expect to encounter fear. Anyone who is remarkable has overcome great difficulty and fear. If this weren’t the case there would be more remarkable people—those who stand out as truly extraordinary. Most people choose to be ordinary. They play it safe and do just enough to get by.
What separates the extraordinary from the ordinary are those people who choose faith over fear and practice discipline every day in achieving their purpose. Faith, in this sense, means a passionate, unbending belief in your vision. Here are some things to know about faith:
Faith is believing in success. It’s believing in a friendly creative force bigger than yourself, a force that will help you. Fear is inverted faith—it’s believing in failure.
Faith looks forward. It’s believing in your vision even when there’s no proof. You may not know all the answers, but you know you will take the next step.
Faith is the tool to overcome fear. Truly remarkable people call on it every day and guide their lives with it.
With faith, you don’t get to know how it gets done. You don’t get to know what is going to happen either. “How” or “what” are not the questions—you just need to know that you are going to do it.
Faith and commitment get you there. If you falter on either, the journey will take longer.
Expect that the process of moving along your path will throw challenges at you. It’s part of the package. It’s the hand you are dealt. When you think of it this way, you won’t get mired in pessimism or misery. Or if you feel it, which is natural, you won’t stay there for long. You know it’s just something you need to get through. And you will.”
Last week, in the discussion of Conquering Fear, I briefly introduced the concept of FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt—and how it can freeze you in your tracks if you’re not careful. This week, as part two of Overcoming Obstacles to Your Professional Destiny, we’ll talk about uncertainty and doubt. They are a bit more insidious, but can be equally paralyzing. FUD is natural whenever you endeavor to do something different—especially when it’s a big step. Yet while it may be natural, it’s not particularly helpful… so let’s expose it here for what it is and weed it out!
The first four letters of the word “doubt” are also the root of the word “double” and it means believing in two things simultaneously. Meaning, you may believe in your success, but you also believe in your failure at the same time. This, in effect, cancels out or lessens your power (depending on the level of doubt). You’re become like a boat tossing in the waves, bobbing back and forth.
If something is not happening in your life that you want (new job, new relationship, success in your business, whatever) check to see how much doubt you are carrying. Then do your best to throw it overboard.
Uncertainty can also be a “success delayer.” It can keep you hemming and hawing—but, on the flip side if managed correctly, it can also open your eyes to new possibility. That is the way to harness it.
The following is some wisdom from Professional Destiny:
“Finding and living our purpose isn’t easy, and sometimes we just don’t want to deal with what is facing us. It seems too big. Or, we believe we will face a hard time in the unknown, so we just tune everything out and hope things will get better. The unknown is uncomfortable and no matter how unfulfilled we are feeling in our current situation, we’d rather stay in a situation we know instead of venture out. There is a great fear in moving from our familiar life, even if it is unsatisfying. We get to the point where we know ‘this is what I am not,’ but we don’t yet know what we ‘are.’ We say to ourselves, ‘This is what I don’t want, but I don’t really know what I do want.’ In other words, we know our current situation isn’t working for us, but we don’t know what our new situation will be or what it will look like. We are ‘in between’ and for most of us it’s a very uncomfortable place to be.”
But there is a completely different way to look at it. When we are uncertain, we are more open. Many possibilities are available to us—and we are more apt to pay attention to the “maybes.” A maybe could be our golden opportunity, but in the past we might have charged along, not even noticing it. Instead, we stayed narrowly focused in our comfort zone and missed the budding possibility.
Uncertainty is actually our time of greatest opportunity. So get comfortable with it and embrace it. If we hold our vision and resolve to take a step toward it each day, we can be assured that great uncertainty only lasts for a while. This too shall pass.
If you want to discover the career you were born for, one of the greatest challenges you’ll face is overcoming the obstacles that tempt you to stay complacent. In my book, Professional Destiny, I dedicate a chapter to “Obstacles and Tests” because there are several nasty forces that threaten to throw you off course if you’re not diligent. The biggies are: Fear, Uncertainty, Comfort and Complacency, Limitation and Habit, and Counter Intentions.
This week’s topic is fear and the following is an excerpt from Professional Destiny about how to move through it:
“In any undertaking of substance, we cannot expect ourselves to be fearless—we all have fear. The secret is to be courageous and not let our fear win over. Having courage is not the absence of fear but the drive and the strength to keep going in spite of it. Our desire and our vision must always be larger…
Since we were young, we have been taught to live in fear. Fear of ‘not enough’ and survival of the fittest.
Nothing stands between us and our highest purpose and the true desire of our heart, as much as doubt and fear. FEAR is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. It is our greatest enemy. Most often the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. Fear of failure, fear of scarcity or ‘not enough,’ fear of sickness, fear of loss, fear of humiliation—all stop us from moving forward. We must substitute faith for fear. If you think about it, fear is really faith in the negative. It is faith in failure instead of faith in success.
Years ago, early in my marketing career, my peers and I used to pride ourselves in spreading FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt—about our competition. We looked at it as a fundamental business game and took great relish in mastering it. FUD also stands in the way of achieving your purpose, and your mind is a master at it. It is the single greatest obstacle to accomplishing your purpose because it is insidious and can show up at every step of the way. The larger your purpose, the larger your fear, uncertainty and doubt will present itself. Expect this. Anytime you do something big, you can expect big challenges. They go hand in hand. Some fear is good, it can keep you safe, but the majority of fear only holds you back. Once you take a stand and commit to your vision, the fear that weighs you down will dissipate and you will make faster progress toward your goal. Anytime you experience new fear, it is a sign that you need to re-commit to your vision and re-commit to action. Make forward movement and the fear will take care of itself.
The question to ask yourself is, ‘what would you do if you weren’t afraid?’”
That’s some pretty powerful food for thought. Stay tuned for future installments covering the sister topics of overcoming Uncertainty, Comfort and Complacency, Limitation and Habit, and Counter Intentions.
I was told three times last week that I really should watch the Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk about nurturing creativity and overcoming the fear of failure. Being told once is always interesting, twice gets my attention, but three times… hits the blog! Since failure is a favorite topic among us authors (see Failing Your Way to Success, inspired by JK Rowling), I read the signs of this consistent prompting to mean that the subject is quite worthy of more discussion. It’s important because the fear of failure goes hand-in-hand with pursuing anything new and different. And unless we overcome it—we may stop ourselves from doing what we were born to do.
Here’s a liberating perspective of how to deal with fear that Gilbert introduces in her talk:
“I recently wrote this book, this memoir called Eat, Pray, Love which, decidedly unlike any of my previous books, went out in the world and for some reason, became this big, mega-sensation, international bestseller thing. The result of which is that everywhere I go now, people treat me like I’m doomed. Seriously—doomed! Like, they come up to me now, all worried, and they say, ‘Aren’t you afraid—aren’t you afraid you’re never going to be able to top that? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to keep writing for your whole life and you’re never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?’ So that’s reassuring, you know. But it would be worse, except for that I happen to remember that over 20 years ago, when I first started telling people—when I was a teenager—that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this same kind of, sort of fear-based reaction. And people would say, ‘Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success? Aren’t you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?’ The answer—the short answer to all those questions is, ‘Yes.’ … But, is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do?”
Gilbert goes on to share the idea (dating back to ancient Rome and Greece) that, instead of the rare person being a genius, all of us have a genius. It is our job to show up and do the work and invite the genius, the divine inspiration, to flow through us. This way if our work is brilliant, we stay humble because we know we had help. But if our work bombs, it’s not entirely our fault—we just know that our genius was temporarily out to lunch.
In my book Professional Destiny, I cover the topic of fear in two chapters. It’s worth such emphasis because nothing stands between us and our greatest work as much as doubt and fear. Fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of not being enough, or fear of not having enough. And unless we find a way to tame our fear, it can stop us from moving forward.
Gilbert gives us a great perspective on how to overcome it: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment, then ‘Ole!’ And if not, do your dance anyhow. ‘Ole!’ to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”
Professional Destiny® is about finding the career you were born for. I've created this site to help you in your pursuit. Here, you'll find excerpts from my book, as well as new ideas and stories to help you make the most of your natural gifts. We're a community, so please join the conversation!