Overcoming Fear in 5 Easy Steps

January 19, 2011

I made it to the gym this morning for the first time in…well let’s just say I was pregnant the last time I was there and Olivia is almost one.  Free time has never been more valuable and choosing an extra hour of sleep over exercise was not a hard choice.  But was it the right one?  Regular exercise increases your energy, stamina and overall wellbeing both physically and mentally.  So why did I stop?

There was a big change in my life and I needed some time to adjust.  Then I used the change to rationalize why I should continue on my current path.  The excuses were plenty and perfectly logical.  And finally I got comfortable with telling myself I’ll get around to it some day.  Which means my ‘start date’ got pushed back further and further and further.

Sounds very familiar to many of our clients when it comes to implementing a change within their organization.  Unless it is mandated from corporate, a regulator or a law, things are rationalized away, pushed to a later date or overanalyzed to the point of obscurity.  Intentions are good, planning is okay and the predicted results are definitely worth the effort.  So where are things going wrong?

The problem is easy to see and very hard to fix.  It can be any one or a combination of all of the following: lack of discipline to follow through, fear of failure, fear of success or lack of trust.  I’m sure there are more however these are the heavy hitters.

I would never accept this postponement or lack of follow-through from a customer without at least a conversation and hard push in the right direction.  So I asked myself what would I advice a client?  Here are the answers and how I applied them to my situation.  Start by breaking the cycle and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Once you’ve done that it is easier to apply to other things as well.

1. Do something that either reduces stress, gets you excited or both.

If you hate doing something you either won’t or will have to waste a lot of energy arguing with yourself to do it.  That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of stuff that you need to do regardless of how you feel about it – expense reports are a great example.  However, if you start building habits on things you get excited about it then becomes easier to apply the same way of thinking to other situations.

–       I hate to bike.  The thought of getting out of bed when it’s still dark, getting all dressed up for winter, getting to the gym to bike for 30 minutes versus sleeping would be a raging war within my sleepy mind.  And I already know which side would win.  But, I like to run.  The rhythmic nature is a perfect backdrop for meditation.  It reduces my stress and it’s exciting to track my progress. Both sides have a fighting chance.

2. Start small.

If you throw too many balls up in the air you won’t be able to catch them all and a lot more will start dropping around you.  This has a negative effect on your psyche; look at all of the things I’m failing at?  Your rationalizations will be validated and you will have proof that you were right to drop, postpone or alter your plan all along.

–       I’m not going to be running a marathon, 10 km or even 5km by the end of this month.  I will be getting onto a treadmill a few times a week.  Whatever I do is good enough.  It is better than doing nothing.

3. Have a goal.

While starting small is important you should still have something you are working toward.  If you don’t, you run the risk of your very smart mind asking ‘what am I doing this for?’  Make sure it’s a stretch but not unattainable.

–       I have two goals.  My short-term goal is to be running 5km in 9 weeks. My long-term goal is to achieve a body fat percentage of 24.

4. Trust the process.

There are a lot of ways you can spend your time.  Mostly you split it between ideation, planning and doing.  Only one of these gets results.  So whenever possible, it is best to rely on a proven process for success.  The key is to follow it and trust it will work.

–       My sister-in-law trained for a 5km run after taking a few years off of exercise by using an app called Couch to 5K. I downloaded it and despite my skepticism that it will lead me to my goal I am placing my trust in the process that worked for my sister-in-law and many other people.

5. Welcome and accept encouragement.

If you’re like me, the most critical person of me is me.  One of the best ways to overcome your fear and self-doubt is to surround yourself with positive people.  Allow them to encourage you and really listen to what they are telling you.  It is likely they’ve been in the same position as you are at some point or another.

–       There is a group of people who exercise in the morning at my gym.  They are very positive, inspiring and encouraging.  My fears weren’t reinforced but rather they enthusiastically welcomed me back and let me know they believed in my ability to achieve my goals.

What has stopped me from achieving my goals over the last eight months was a fear of failure.  One thing I know for certain is that every day that I stayed at home and didn’t do something differently I was certain to stay the same or continue my backward slide.

If you have a similar story to mine or any questions please leave a comment.  We’d love to hear from you.