Everyone experiences fear and anxiety about certain aspects of life; taking risks, new experiences, learning and implementing a skill, presenting a sale, having difficult conversations and communication within business. These fears and anxieties can hinder our goals, objectives, and communication.
A big part of my job is sales. In certain environments, it be may be called business development but it’s basically the same process. I look for opportunities to grow and expand the organization. This involves finding the right projects and relationships that are a good match for our company’s strengths. All of this requires a lot of interaction with people; on the phone, via email and face to face. It also necessitates presenting and public speaking; in most cases, sharing our ideas or value proposition in front of a business owner, business group or board of directors. This can be very intimidating at times and quite frequently comes with its fair share of nerves, worry and sometimes even a bit of fear.
Regardless of your role and experience, you likely face situations on a regular basis where you have to face fear head-on in order to be effective. It may be as big as a presentation in front of a boardroom, or as small as speaking up in a meeting at work but these are fears to face nonetheless.
What I have discovered over the course of my professional career is your worries are usually never real. FEAR is false. I heard once that fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real.” I’ve even used fear as “False Emotions Appearing Real.” The key word here is “False” and the reality is that what seems evident, along with emotions, are distorting our perspective on reality.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made assumptions that distorted my perspective about a tone or context of a potential interaction, an upcoming meeting, or even what someone else may be expecting. I assumed that it would be negative, that it wouldn’t go well, or I’ve interpreted that someone may be mad or upset, only to find out it’s the complete opposite. I have entered into meetings thinking, “We are getting fired.” Not because there was a reason to be fired but because I allowed false evidence to distort my perspective on reality. To my pleasant surprise, I would arrive and discover it’s exactly the opposite of my distorted perspective. Things are going great and the client has requested the meeting to say, “We want you to do more for us. Can you help?”
Even though I am outgoing and don’t shy away from public speaking or presentations, there is always some minor dread or nerves. It’s normal, I know. But if I didn’t have the proper mindset, it could be crippling.
A similar circumstance of this type of fear can be called the “confidence bias.” This term means that everyone at some level feels like they are under qualified, out of place or will be found out to be a fraud. Everyone is just as fearful of having their faults or weaknesses revealed. Everybody experiences some level of fear and anxiety; discovering this has actually given me more confidence. No one has it all figured out. The reason you are there presenting, the reason they asked you to have a meeting with them is often because they don’t have it all figured out and need your help. Everyone in the room is experiencing some level of insecurity about their amount of ability or expertise. Since everyone experiences something similar, the takeaway for me is two-fold. Fear is a normal feeling regardless of your level of success. This also means that your competition is scared too.
I have decided that fear is part of the process. The right amount of nerves can allow you to have a better edge, to do the best job you possibly can and to potentially have an advantage over a competitor. I choose to harness these feelings to make me better. I learned a saying early in my personal development, “Feel the fear and do it anyways.” Fear is normal, but what you do with that fear is what matters. Are you going to let it cripple you into inaction or are you going to realize it’s part of life and take advantage of it? So, make that phone call, take that meeting, share that idea. The only real way to make fear go away is by taking action on the thing you are afraid of. Feel the fear and do it anyway.