By Sunny Simon
As a career counselor, I do a considerable amount of coaching on facing fear. Recently I accepted a new, rather complex project causing me to practice some heavy-duty self-coaching. I am not immune to driving myself a bit nuts over looming deadlines, key presentations and most importantly, the overall thought of screwing-up and failing. There is a word for the latter. Atychiphobia is a technical term for fear of failure and sometimes that phobia has its way with most of us.
Atychiphobia rarely deters me from trying scary new things, but once I’ve accepted the challenge, those emotional enemies in my head I refer to as gremlins, begin bombarding me with thoughts of self-doubt. Whenever I allow those gremlins control, anxiety sets in taking the form of a sleepless night that morphs into a nightmare depicting me in the starring role. Often in such a dream I’m trying to get to an important meeting but continually get deterred by multiple road blocks.
Stress and fear are cozy bed partners, so it is not uncommon to experience anxiety when you’re confronted with a new challenge, but at some point, you need to face your fears and take your power back. Becoming stress-hardy is doable; it just requires practicing some helpful techniques.
John Madison, leadership guru and author of the best seller, “Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose,” recommends separating the rational from the irrational. Makes sense, as we all tend to exaggerate our fears. Madison advises examining those annoying thoughts to determine if they are truly rooted in reality. I took his advice and reviewed my fears about failing in this project. He was spot-on. Most of my worry was inflated. After processing the overblown fear, I felt a sense of peace and renewed strength.
Another way to deal with an intimidating challenge is to review your many accomplishments. Often I advise clients to take stock of the positives before heading out to an interview. Bringing your value and worth to the forefront does much to diminish any thoughts of self-doubt.
Battle your trepidation with visualization. Spend a few minutes creating a visual of how success will look and feel. Setting your thoughts on the outcome drives the doubts away.
One final thought about overcoming fear of failure. Ever fail before? Well, this might sound counter-intuitive but think about a past short fall. Your world did not crumble right? Sometimes all it takes to drown out the negative voice of our inner critic is to recognize failure is not the bogeyman. It’s the thought of failing that brings us down. Use the strategies listed above and failure will fade into the past not part of your present.
Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching and the author of the blog www.lifeonthesunnyside.net