Managing Fear

RHN-ManagingFearThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Leslie Kolb, MSW, ASW.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed various fears that most of us have experienced during our life in some capacity or another. Last week we discussed a broader fear of loss, which can include a fear of failure. But what about a fear of failure specifically? Do you avoid taking risks or setting goals because you are afraid you won’t succeed? If you let your fear overrule your desire to be productive, move forward, and achieve things you desire, you will most likely find yourself in a rut without any possibility of forward progress.

So how can you manage your fear of failure? First, consider your goals. Dream big. Have you been wanting to start your own business? Or have you been meaning to pay off that credit card? Do you want to get in shape? If you can focus on one goal that you’ve been afraid to set for yourself, you can take further steps to manage that fear and move toward achieving it.

After you know what you want, the next logical step is to make a plan in order to achieve it. What will it take to build a business? Take your time and create a step-by-step plan, from building a business model to raising money from investors all the way to your marketing strategy. As you move toward your goal, you may see that you need to add pieces to the plan, but just having a general framework, a “to-do list,” can help relieve anxieties about having too much to do without knowing where to begin.

Next, after you know what you want to achieve and have made a plan to do so, try to identify what kinds of circumstances you imagine might stand in your way of achieving that goal. If you are building a business, what scares you? Do you imagine that no one will patronize your business, or that the overhead will always outweigh the income? Whatever your fears are, you can begin to take control of them by writing them down and identifying them. Then, address each fear with a contingency plan. Think of it as a fire drill—it’s a very good idea to have a safety plan in place in case there is a fire in your home. Develop a plan, as you would a fire drill, for each thing that you believe threatens your success. Some may be complicated, some may be simple, but just the fact that you have a list of possible actions to take to save your business can be enough to calm your fears and keep you from being distracted by them.

Finally, as you are moving through your plan of action, remember that only so much of it is in your control. Many of us are “doers” who tackle problems as soon as they arise, and in turn can be impatient when we have to rely on others to be timely or productive. For example, if you need to have the fire marshal inspect the building of your new business before you open, it may not be up to you when the inspection occurs. All you can do is ensure that your building meets every code that the marshal will need to approve. Try to be patient—not only with others, but also with yourself. In life there are inevitably hiccups, no matter how steadfast and stable your plan is. Remember that you will still be moving toward your goal, even if there are setbacks. And hopefully, if you have anticipated those setbacks, you already had your “fire drill” in place to manage them.

This week, consider what goals you might be putting off because of a fear of failure. By identifying your fears and creating ways to deal with them, you can empower yourself to overcome them. Before you know it, you might find yourself having achieved a goal you believed you could never attain!


Elana Clark-Faler
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