By Corporate Coach, Michael Steele
Overcoming what frightens you the most strengthens you the most. ~Matshona Dhliwayo
For some, it creates action and creativity. For others, fear can create procrastination and stifling inactivity. Which path do you take?
Anything we do that is important will usually have some fear attached. When firemen enter a burning building, or Navy Seals head out on a mission, there is fear. When a CEO makes a major decision, or a speaker performs at a TED conference, there is fear. Yes, even seasoned professionals have fears while executing their roles. Fear resides within us all, but it is the courage one uses to walk through fear that makes a difference in life. So, how do we get past our fears?
Fear As A Motivator
While fear is often something that stops us in our tracks, it can be a positive motivator that helps us improve and grow if we harness it in the right way. For instance, many people are required to engage in public speaking as part of their job, but public speaking is one of the top fears along with insects and death. So, how can we turn fear into a positive experience? Let’s look at it through “Thomas’s eyes.”
Thomas Faces His Fears
While he always gets nervous when presenting, Thomas is offered, and accepts, a public speaking engagement to promote his business. Instantly, his nerves kick in. He begins to imagine standing in front of the crowd, and looking out over the audience, and as he does so, beads of sweat, sweaty palms, and dry mouth all start hitting his system. Anticipation, nerves and some stress are now in play, and the presentation is still 2 weeks away.
Thomas allows negative thoughts to escalate over the next several days, and as a result, he begins to do less and less in preparation for his presentation. He is literally becoming frozen with fear. He needs to break the fear cycle that is making him shut down, and instead, engage in small steps of positive action.
Instead of engaging in avoidance, the smallest steps can help take Thomas out of his head and break the pattern of fear. Here are 6 steps that can help Thomas, and you!
- Create action. Small steps will begin to create the momentum. You may start by writing out your presentation. Action generally leads to more action, and once you get the ball rolling, it is easier to keep things moving forward.
- Be aware of any negative self-talk and turn it around to something positive. Awareness of self-talk is very important, and one way to keep fear at bay. When you recognize you’re thinking negatively, stop, and turn it around to something positive. Start with simple self-talk such as “The presentation will be great!” “I know what I am talking about and look forward to sharing it with others.” “This will be a great experience.”
- Visualize a positive outcome. Don’t get hung up trying to be perfect. Perfect is not necessary and can create paralysis. As a presenter, it’s important to know what your goal is for the audience, and have a means for measuring that. What, specifically, do you want them to learn? Write it down and ask questions at the end to ensure they learned it. Visualize this happening and you are more likely to make it happen.
- Get organized, research, and know your subject. Knowledge creates confidence but don’t get caught up trying to be the world’s expert. Focus on what you need to know so that you can share it confidently with your audience. One of the benefits of all this preparation is that it helps relieve fear, while inspiring you to continue moving forward.
- Practice, practice, practice. Work and refine your speech or sales presentation. As a coach, I recommend practicing not only by yourself, but find an audience as well. That audience can be your spouse, friend, your coach, or someone you trust who will be honest and fair with you. There is a difference between taking the “game winning shot” in an empty gym or taking that shot front of packed arena. As you practice, visualize the room, see the faces of your audience, and envision the success of the presentation.
- Breathe deep, visualize yourself relaxed, and enjoy the moment. The more you see it in your mind, the more effective you will be at creating it in real-life.
Breaking the cycle of fear is not easy.
Fear is real and will always exist in our workplace and the world in which we live. It is our willingness and courage to walk through those fears that leads us to our happiness and success. Don’t let those anxious moments or fears stop you from the success you are striving for.
Michael Steele has used his basketball coaching experience to create winning teams in business and finance. He offers a unique perspective to business leaders and team members looking for the “win.” Click here for more info on Michael.