The funny thing about fear is it can be both the great motivator and the ultimate roadblock, depending how you handle it. Behind it is a basic human instinct: self-preservation, the will to live that makes us pause before recklessly hurling ourselves over the edge into the unknown.
The upside of fear is it pushes us past our perceived limits. Fear of failure is what gives us extra oomph to power through that looming deadline, or find the spark of brilliance needed to pull an idea out of the ethos. It’s what stops us short of the razor edge we sometimes walk in life when we leave a task undone until the last minute.
The downside of fear is it paralyzes us when we should take action. Instead of moving ahead, the fear of failure forces us to stand still and wait for rescue. It’s what causes us to put off decisions. Worry and anticipation lead to anxiety and depression.
So how do we embrace fear as a motivator without turning it into a roadblock?
Know that fear is part of the growth process. Without fear, we stagnate, we settle for good, we let opportunity pass us by. See your fear as a healthy sign that you are challenging yourself and continue to nudge yourself closer and closer to your edge, dare yourself to look over and even take a step or two.
Embrace fear as a tool to maintain your own personal standards. It’s easy to become complacent with our own performance. Fear of disappointing clients and editors motivates me to never miss a deadline (and sometimes I still do, but it’s rare because I know giving myself a break only leads to a slippery slope).
Use fear to challenge yourself to stretch. It’s often said (by me) that being an entrepreneur is the best personal development out there because you can’t hide from any of your fears or faults. Got a fear of speaking? Hate selling? Does technology make you uneasy? Chances are you will be called on to do exactly what you dread.
Use fear of failure to motivate action! Consider the cost of your inaction. What happens if you get stuck and fritter away an afternoon? What if you don’t fix that problem? What potential opportunities could you be missing by doing nothing? Use fear to motivate yourself when you get stuck or find yourself becoming distracting by fake work projects.
Pay attention to the negative chatter that signals the start of fear as a roadblock. Learn to recognize your avoidance patterns and behaviors and put a stop to them immediately by taking even the smallest step forward.