Even at the best of times, there are so many external factors that can make it harder for us to achieve our goals. Time, resources, access to skills…we all face day-to-day challenges of some sort. 

And in these unmapped and unprecedented times, the list of things that seem to conspire against us is longer than ever (and now it contains a whole net of curveballs that we never could have predicted).

But still one thing holds true…that the biggest barriers of all are the ones you unthinkingly tell your brain to build, through the way you communicate with yourself.

And the way you talk to yourself has never been more important. So many of you have told us your confidence has taken a nasty knock as you navigate your way through the uncertain waters of lockdown and our new, socially distanced normal.

And with all that in mind, we want to talk about one of the biggest internal barriers of all – fear.

What are you afraid of?

Now, we’re not saying all fear is bad. Of course it isn’t – we’ve evolved to feel fear in situations where we are physically at risk, because that triggers the ‘fight or flight’ hormonal response we need to defend or ourselves or escape from danger.

But feeling fear when we are not physically at risk has a chronic effect, and that build-up can become catastrophic. A stress response that is not quickly depleted (because we neither run nor fight), it affects our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

As business owners and professionals, often we are paralysed by that fear. It stops us believing in ourselves, communicating our true value and getting the results we deserve.

Ask yourself this: what are you afraid of?

Clients tell us they harbour fears such as:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’ll only make a fool of myself
  • My family will judge me for my career choices
  • Others will think I put my work before my kids
  • I haven’t the courage to do that
  • What if I fail?
  • I’m probably too old and out of touch now

Perhaps some of these feel familiar. Perhaps you have a different or a longer list.

But then ask yourself a more important question: what are your fears doing to you? Are they preventing you going for that promotion you want, starting the side hustle you dream of, getting more visible in your small business to sky-rocket your growth?

The good news is that doing the work to change the way you communicate with yourself – what you say to yourself, and the actions you take to invest in yourself – will change how you feel about these things. And then that changes the way you act and the way others see you. 

Of course, this is a big piece of inner work to do, but here are five simple actions you can take straightaway to lay some groundwork for switching from fearful to fearless:

1 – Be clear about your goal

What do you really want? What do you put on your new year goals list every year, for example? Perhaps you want a promotion or a pay rise. Perhaps you want to start a business, grow it exponentially, or perhaps you want to work less.

And once you’re clear about what you really want…

2 – Be equally clear about your why

Why is that goal so important to you? Will promotion give you more impact and validation as an authority in your field? Will more money give you more security and independence? Will working less give you better health, more time with the people you love, or perhaps free you up to make a whole other dream come true?

There is no wrong answer here. What matters is that the clarity that comes from knowing your real ‘why’ will keep you motivated as you face down your fears.

3 – Do a skills and attributes audit

Now you know what you want… and why you want it… now it’s time to look really closely at all the reasons why you will succeed and achieve your goal.

This exercise has previously been described to us as the root canal of all self-reflection activities, because so many of us are instinctively modest and self-deprecating (often too much so). But trust us – your brain will use this hard evidence to help you transform your mindset and (as a result) your outcomes.

Take a piece of paper and write down every single skill and attribute that you have in relation to your goal. No need to question their place on your list, or the order of them. Think about domestic achievements as well as professional ones; your ability to run a household budget or project-manage a local sports event should sit very comfortably on your list right next to your formal education and your work experience. Think about your personality too. Are you a great listener, a fabulous host, the mother of all planners? Write it all down. 

Feeling stuck? Ask your family, friends and colleagues for their take. And try to avoid any temptation to brush off a compliment, because that’s a kind of hidden apology that gives away so much of your strength and power. 

Review your list for any gaps and make a plan for how you will close them – through new learning and mentoring, perhaps, or by taking on a new activity.

This exercise gives you the evidence you need to dismiss those of your fears that were unfounded (which may well be plenty of them), AND it gives you a practical list of actions you can take to address the fears that have some validity.

4 – Get your geek on

Want to feel more confident about your industry knowledge, so you can speak and act as an authority? Listen to every podcast, read every article, follow the credible experts. Ask clients, colleagues and friends in your industry what keeps them awake at night or what they’re most excited about. 

Binge on information but reflect as well as consume to make sure it leads to your action, progress and success. What have you learned? What could you add to it? How can you use or share this to move you towards your goals?

5 – Embrace your inner copy cat (temporarily!)

So, your goal is set, it’s underpinned by a meaningful ‘why’, you know that you’ve got the skills you need (or you know how and when you’re going to get them) and you’re building your knowledge and confidence. 

Internally, you are well on your way, but we all benefit from having a blueprint for taking our next steps. 

So take a look around – who is doing what you want to do? Who do you see as a role model? What is it they do or say that you admire, and can you use that exemplar to create your own style?

This isn’t a long-term strategy, of course! You are not here just to be a copy of someone else. But it can give you just the boost of confidence you need to plot your first few steps on a new journey.

Hope this helps you get at least a bit unstuck if you’re feeling bogged down by fear at the moment. It really is a peculiar time, but remember that a crisis never leaves you where it found you – so why should this not be exactly the right time for you to build a different mindset, and enjoy all the different outcomes that will inevitably follow?

Please let us know how you get on – your feedback means the world to us, and invariably it sparks another blog or teach-in too. Comment below or come and see us on our Facebook page. And if there’s someone you know who you’d love to see shift from fearful to fearless, please share this and tell them about us because we want to support them too.

Until next time – be safe and well.

Lucy & Emma xx

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