Fear is not unusual and it’s not limited to those who may be considered weak. Fear-based thinking is a shared characteristic of everybody everywhere. We see it in our personal lives as fear of being hurt in a relationship, fear of the unknown or fear of financial catastrophe. We see it most notably in our professional lives as fear of failure causing us to never start anything new and to stay comfortably within the bubble of things we already know.
On the surface, fear of failure sounds like an effective motivator. Why on earth would anybody seek failure? However, fear of failure keeps us from achieving our goals by ensuring that we remain merely average. Through repetition, fear-based thinking can become an instinctive response to every request or opportunity presented to us (sometimes without us even recognizing it in ourselves). So, trying harder than we normally might, accepting a new task, learning a new skill, putting in extra time on a project or even seeking recognition where it is deserved becomes something to be avoided. We remain firmly cemented in the middle of the pack. In fact, that same fear drives so many decisions in the workplace from top to bottom that it can shape entire organizations. Look at Apple without Steve Jobs then ask yourself if Facebook has ever introduced a genuinely new technology. Thankfully, that is not the case at IST.
Famed motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar once said, “F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.” We can choose to face our fear of failure, embrace the unknown and trust that we can overcome the obstacles of an uncertain future. Below is a short list of things to keep in mind for those who want to break free from professional mediocrity and rise to the top:
- Make learning a core capability – We’ve been doing it since infancy. Babies learn to crawl, kids learn to ride bikes, teens learn social media faster some of us can prepare a bowl of cereal. Why should we stop or limit our learning when we get older? Winners are always striving to be better and always know that they have something to learn.
- Embrace change – Without change, there can be no growth. It’s easy to get bogged down in “the way things are,” but never discount your innate power for innovation. What is the long-term goal you work towards? How does a current situation fit with that goal? What could be done better? Whether implemented or ignored, identifying and analyzing ways to affect positive change lays the fundamental groundwork for growth.
- Make yourself a needed person – Become the person people can always count on to help when they need an extra hand. There is no faster way to earn respect than to get our hands dirty on a project with another person. By making ourselves and our time available to others, we develop relationships with our colleagues and customers that make us irreplaceable in the long run.
- Give yourself permission to mess up – If it’s not broken, break it! By recognizing the status quo as being merely acceptable, we can break it down to its component parts then improve upon those parts to make it exceptional. The key here is remembering that we can always go back to the status quo, but we can’t be afraid of the mess that goes along with making something extraordinary.
- Manage your expectations – Disappointment hurts, but when we trace back to the root of our disappointment we can often find an unrealistic expectation. Assigning grand rewards to a small effort is nearly irresistible. We all do it. However, by taking the time to logically connect our expectation to the action taken, we can give ourselves clearer understanding of the likely outcome and remove unnecessary disappointment from our lives.
For many of us, this list may seem like a lot of extra work with no concrete reward. Nevertheless, if we put these suggestions into action on a daily basis, we will begin to see that a new attitude and outlook is forming. We will better understand our roll within our organization and instinctively know how to improve it. Fear of failure will be replaced with enthusiasm for what comes next. Our colleagues will come to recognize us as key players in the organization’s success. This new way of thinking will also find its way into our personal lives by reinforcing what we already knew – that no obstacle is insurmountable, no gap is too wide and every tough situation has a solution if we are willing to put fear aside and make an extra effort.
National Director of Marketing
Corporate – Atlanta, GA