Emily applies for her dream job.
Jason starts a business in his garage.
Corinna works on her plans to start a charitable foundation.
Candace goes back to college after 20 years.
All of them are, in essence, building a bus. A “vehicle” that can take them to their dream, their vision.
What else do all these people have in common? A thought. One wretched, painful thought that plagued them day and night: What if I Fail?
But they forge ahead, building that bus. They work. They prepare, the dig in, they do everything they know to do.
But then comes a big moment – time to pull the trigger. For Emily, it’s a call for an interview. For Jason, it’s time to enter the market and start selling. Corinna has to find startup money. Candace has to submit that paper worth 50% of her mark. They’re all consumed with worry and doubt throughout the process. It’s killing them and stealing their joy.
The bus is being built, but who – what – is driving?
When Fear Drives the Bus
When fear is in the driver’s seat, we may notice these things:
- We feel inadequate or experience imposter syndrome.
- Our chest or stomach feels tight.
- We feel tired or drained.
- We procrastinate, avoid and distract ourselves.
- We become short-tempered with others.
- We catch ourselves brooding on negative thoughts about ourselves or others.
There’s an old saying that I despise that goes like this: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” That, in my opinion, is no way to live your life, and may just be a recipe for a heart attack. How about we don’t live our lives working through – or around – fear? How about we live our lives motivated by joy, creativity, and inspiration?
Feeling the fear and doing it anyway, to me, is like trying to run in mud. The amount of resistance that fear adds to the activity is ridiculous and unnecessary. When we’re trying to build the bus of our dreams, but we let fear drive, the triumphs feel small, and the failures loom large. Instead of deriving pleasure from the joys and wins of the day, when fear drives the bus, we eventually become discouraged and defeated.
Neither fear nor shame are worthy motivators. In fact, usually they are just big fat fakers.
Retrain Your Brain
I’m not a neuroscientist by any stretch, but I have learned, from research, working with clients and personal experience, that the brain is highly elastic. The thoughts we habitually think, thoughts to which we give place and focus, create neuropathways that become well-worn “cow paths” in our brains. They shape our feelings, inform our actions, and lead, many times, to our outcomes.
Every entrepreneur, small business or non-profit that comes to me for training and/or strategy development comes with a vision. A hope. A dream. They desire to build a bus that will take them to “mission accomplished”, whatever that represents. So, we work on things like building business foundations, developing strategy, mapping out processes and action plans. But we also identify and address the mental and emotional blocks that impede progress. We figure out who or what is driving the bus.
Here are a few things you can do to kick fear out of the driver’s seat and off the bus completely:
- Stay keenly focused on the vision. You cannot hold two focuses at once. It is a discipline, yes, and yet, keeping your attention directed on what you want vastly increases the probability of success.
- Love every idea for five minutes. For most of us, when an idea arrives on the scene, our brains – or the voice of fear and doubt – tell us all the reasons we can’t do it, or it won’t work. The best way I have found to combat this is to commit to exploring that idea, at least for five minutes. If we refuse to listen to doubt and fear, the idea may or may not end up in the “keep” file, but we find that we are spending a lot more time in creativity and inspiration than we are in anxiety and worry.
- Make a Plan. So many times, we worry, fret, and distract ourselves or grab at seemingly quick and easy solutions but we don’t directly address what the fear is saying. Instead, sit down and make a plan to tackle whatever the fear is telling you is an obstacle, or may become one. Start by focusing on what success would look like and what you want. Then create a roadmap for how to get there and then block time in your calendar (this is important!) to do those things.
- Track your wins. This may sound silly, and even feel silly, at first. But developing a winning mindset involves retraining your brain to pay more attention to your hits than to your misses. I recommend that, at the end of each day, you take 5-10 minutes to jot down, bullet form, your wins of the day. “Had a sales conversation I’d been avoiding” or “Knocked 3 things off my to-do list” or even “Successfully changed the printer cartridge”. Then pat yourself on the back.
- Talk to someone you trust. Fear, like shame, breeds in the dark. We may think these are just our “secret thoughts” that no one sees, but one of the best ways to beat the bogeyman of fear is to call it out. Make sure the person you talk to does not buy into and reinforce your fear. Talk to someone who can help you gain a different perspective, and you’ll find, quite often, that fear is all gums and no teeth.
- Have a gratitude practice. Some people have a gratitude practice in the morning, or the evening, journalling or just meditating on things for which they can be grateful. I know firsthand the energizing and fear-fighting power of gratitude, and I did not want to just feel the jolt it offers, only to have it “wear off” as the struggles of the day come along. So, I decided to develop a “cue” that would remind me, throughout the day, to practice gratitude. I drink water all day long, and so I have made that my cue. Take a sip, offer gratitude. It could be for technology, or people, or lunch, or even just for the water, but it really keeps my vibe up throughout the day. Try it!
Build that Bus with Daily Love and Inspiration
It makes no sense to be building your bus, wracked with anxiety, hoping that someday, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the ride. Why live like that when you can live every day focused on your journey, filled with joy and inspiration? It IS possible, I promise. Yes, it’s a discipline. Yes, it’s a process. But each new day is your opportunity to take that next step toward making the changes that will put you and your love and passion into the driver’s seat of your own bus. And that’s a darn good feeling.
Reach out if you want to talk about how to drive your bus and kick fear to the curb.
And, as always, stay on point!