How to Deal With Fear

How to deal with fear

It’s hard to set goals and get sh*t done if you don’t know how to deal with fear  or uncertainty.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is *waiting* until they feel confident enough before starting.

Confidence comes from taking action.

Success will require that we get started before we’re ready.

I’ve been talking to people long enough about their work + life goals to know that pretty much everyone could use a confident boost and some tactics for moving beyond fear.

That’s why I want to offer some really specific suggestions, tools, and strategies that I’ve used to pursue my own goals.

You can decide how these ideas can be applied on whatever you are working on- a job search, your own business or blog…whatever your Really Big Goals are.

Limit the amount of time you spend on “research,” “brainstorming,” and “planning.”

Do you spend forever in the “planning stages” of new projects? You’re not alone.

Research, brainstorming and planning are super important to any endeavor so I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t be part of your plan.

But they can’t be the only part of your plan.

“Thinking” is not the same as doing and often, people get stuck in the foundational stages of change.

If you need time to think, plan, research or generate ideas, give yourself a concrete amount of time for that process.

Put that deadline into your calendar and stick to it.

Allow research/brainstorming/planning to be part of your routine. But don’t let it be the only action that you take. It can be really deceptive because you can spend a lot of time in the planning stages without making any progress.

The truth is you’re never *really* done with this phase- you can always keep generating new ideas and making changes as you go but it’s really important to not get stuck here. Make a deadline and make a decision!

What’s actually much more useful is iterating or actually applying some of the “research” you’ve dug up and applying it.

Figure out what works for you, in your industry, business or other pursuit. Trial and error is no certainly short cut, but it’s a great learning experience and it will get you taking action!

Give yourself permission to make mistakes.

If you find yourself scared to get started because you worry about mistakes or rejection, go ahead and give yourself permission for those things to happen.

Seriously.

You won’t ever be everyone’s cup of tea…and that’s okay.

You might have heard me talk about how the only way I could actually publish a blog post at first was to give myself permission to have typos. In fact, I hit “publish” before proofreading a post, just to force myself to get it done. It still really scared me to put my work “out there,” but at least I only had to worry about the content and not the grammar!

It’s not your job to please everyone or to be perfect. It’s your job to do what you love so get to it!

(Side note: This typo thing held me up for, like, EVER and it’s a really stupid hold up, especially for a business owner. If you are a business owner or a potential business owner, you’re going to want to spend more time worried about permits, taxes, and legal stuff. What was I thinking about this worry over typos?! Fear is a funny thing that makes small things seem huge and it takes away energy that should be spent elsewhere.)

Set up organizations, systems, and a plan.

I’ve come to realize that what makes me so persistent and consistent in my own work is that, at this point, I am incredibly skilled at turning fear, confusion, and overwhelm into an actionable plan.

Here’s a sample of my system:

  • Write and update 6 and 12 month goals monthly and quarterly.
  • Set monthly intentions for both personal and professional goals that will help me meet my long term goals.
  • Hang the monthly intention in front of my workspace so I see them every single day (pics below!).
  • Create a weekly action plan every Sunday that I post in front of my workspace, in my electronic calendar and in my paper planner (ok, this sounds like overkill now that I’m writing it down but it’s working so I’m not going to stop!)
  • Monitor important metrics (i.e. newsletter subscribers, clients, workouts, etc) on a single spreadsheet every Monday).
  • Maintain a pretty regular schedule (i.e. Mondays are for writing, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for clients, Wednesdays are for marketing, etc)

I experience a lot less fear when I plan for the long term and the short term and I work off of a plan. My to do lists are right in front of me every day, helping me stay focused and on target.

 

I keep my weekly and monthly goals and tasks in sight, every day.
I keep my weekly and monthly goals and tasks in sight, every day.

I also build into my plan that 100% of my actions won’t be successful.

For example, when I am pitching guest posts to different blogs, I don’t worry about whether or not people say yes. I focus on the pitches I have on my spreadsheet to make this week. And next week, I’ll make more and so on and so forth.

Find the right people to support you.

Your job, especially as you get started, is to surround yourself with people who do support you.

Which of your friends, colleagues or family members can you rely on as you move through life’s transitions? Those are the relationships you’ll want to nurture.

Think about the relationships in your extended network, too.

For example, I hadn’t seen my college friend Val in years but I learned through Facebook that we were both starting businesses and we were living in the same neighborhood.

I immediately reached out and we reconnected and we’ve been brainstorming together and supporting each other ever since (check out Val’s business here!).

Ignore the wrong people.

When you make big changes in your life, not everyone is going to come along for the ride.

And that’s okay.

You know the people in your life that leave you depleted of energy and second guessing yourself with their negativity?

For me, those are the people who sent me emails every time they saw a typo. 

Give yourself permission to limit the amount of time and energy that they take up in your life.

The first time that I got those kinds of emails, I explained my entire anti-perfectionist manifesta for leaving typos.

#totalwasteoftime

Now I send one sentence email, “Thanks for letting me know! Hope you liked the post!”

…Because I have an actual business to run.

I know why my priorities are where they are and that’s really all that matters.

You don’t have to end all of these relationships, but you do need to preserve your energy for the work + life you’re trying to create for yourself.

When you get negative feedback, you can choose how to respond and you can choose to limit the impact of the naysayers.

What sort of boundaries might you need in place so that you can focus on your goal and even make mistakes along the way?

Find an accountability partner or group.

I belong to a writing group, a mastermind group and I have an accountability partner who is also a business owner.

These groups/partners serve as structures for my own work.

They provide regular deadlines , accountability, technical assistance, and moral support for projects that are otherwise up to me to make happen. It’s important to have these structures to help hold me accountable to goals and deadlines, but also so that I know that even though I’m working on my goals that I am not working alone.

Now you might be thinking, “Accomplishing my goals is something that I should be able to do on my own.”

It’s time to get over that!

The truth is that having other people hold you accountable and, more importantly, provide technical and moral support, makes all the difference in the world.

This structure prevent me from over-thinking.

It helps me think about strategic ways to invest money in my business.

And helps me make important connections and find new clients.

Finally, it helps me take steps that feel ambitious or too scary.

Goal setting doesn’t have to happen in isolation. It can happen with a partner, colleagues or a group. It takes the unnecessary pressure off of you to figure everything out so that you can actually get stuff done.

Find new communities, role models, mentors or a coach- even if you have to pay for them.

As you probably know, I started hosting networking nights in Boston because it seemed like such a struggle to get my clients out and meeting new people. And meeting new people is SO important, especially when you’re trying to change fields or start a business, moved to a new city, and/or if you’ve just graduated.

I attend at least two networking events in Boston each month. Some are great. Most are okay. But I show up, I grab a cocktail and I try to meet as many people as I can. I try to make this a consistent practice and set reasonable expectations. These events have also given me great ideas about how to be a better hostess at a networking event!

Additionally, I pay to belong to other groups where there are more experienced women business owners.

For example, I love being a member of Rock It and that’s how I ended up connecting with Cassie, my accountability partner, who has been a business owner for 10 years.

These were significant investments of time and money but it’s been invaluable to watch and learn how other people have transitioned to self-employment and grown successful businesses.

You don’t have to be a business owner for this to be useful.

Are you changing careers? New to town? I can’t think of a better investment than connecting with other people who’ve been where you want to be and can provide social and professional support.

What could a coach, mentor or accountability group offer you?

Surround yourself with positivity.

I’m really not kidding about this. The following is a *sample* of what I have around my desk.

 

Inspirational paper clip holder.
Inspirational paper clip holder.

 

Inspirational stickers. Plus, vacation-inspo.
Inspirational stickers. Plus, vacation-inspo.

 

I bought these inspirational cards for clients...and then bought another set so I could have a copy of this one!
I bought these inspirational cards for clients…and then bought another set so I could have a copy of this one!

I got this in my welcome packet when I joined Rock It. It’s a lovely affirmation:

Rock It

 

There’s really no such thing as too much positivity. You’re likely to encounter obstacles and it’s so helpful to have a workspace and a work plan that can help keep you focused and on track.

Take Baby Steps.

For any given project or goal, there are almost always multiple actions that you could be taking.

To get started, you really only need to take small steps. Seriously.

Those small steps could be things like:

  • updating your LinkedIn profile with your recent job responsibilities
  • asking for feedback on your cover letter from a trusted friend
  • reaching out to a contact about a new industry that you want to explore
  • purchasing a domain name
  • going for a walk
  • signing up for a class

Some of the first steps that I took to start my business included purchasing a domain name (not even this one! I’ve already changed it!) and website hosting, creating my services, and updating my social media accounts to let people know that I was in business.

All of that was terrifying at the time. Also, I really worried that investing in a website cost too much money (which is funny now because it’s really one of the smallest investments you can make).

But of course, I was mostly afraid that these investments and effort would be a waste of time because I was afraid I would fail.

So I started with the smallest steps and the smallest investments and over time, as my business as grown, I’ve taken bigger risks and made bigger investments.

Oh and it feels scary every single time. Don’t count on the fear going away! You have to learn to work with it.

Start before you’re ready.

It’s easy to think that you’ll be ready with one more class or one more certification. But the truth is, whatever vision you have for your career and life, you can begin to pursue that now. You don’t have to wait!

Find a way to start today, even if it’s really small.

Don’t let fear, lack of confidence or uncertainty stop you.

You can move with and through these other feelings.

Instead, ask yourself what can you start doing today despite your fear?

Let me know in the comments below!

One thought on “How to Deal With Fear

  1. I LOVE THIS POST. thank you for this!!!!!

    especially love the reminder to limit the amount of time spent on researching/planning, because then I end up feeling super overwhelmed. I have been trying really hard to “start before I’m ready” too, I have been putting off finishing my degree for a number of reasons – mainly because I never felt ready to, but I figured I was never going to be ready to, and it’d just get harder and harder. And now that I’m signed up for classes and ready to go I’m SO excited and proud of myself!!

    Thanks for the great tips, Jenn!!! I’m going to write down these steps in my journal and refer to them often 🙂

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