I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last few months talking to people about why they hesitate to start something new, and their answer is often the same – they’re afraid.
I can definitely relate.
The other day, someone asked me to tell them about a specific time I felt afraid and had to overcome that fear in my career. I had a hard time answering her… because I genuinely couldn’t think of a time when I wasn’t scared out of my mind.
I’m scared. You’re scared. We’re all scared.
The key isn’t to eliminate your fears, but rather to learn how to face them and move forward despite them.
When I started my first side hustle from my kitchen table, I was terrified.
I was afraid of failing. I was afraid I didn’t know how to be an entrepreneur. I was afraid I would let people down, get rejected, and laughed at… you name it, I was scared of it.
What I learned after starting was that when you’re chasing big dreams and trying new things, fear is inevitable.
The key isn’t to eliminate your fears, but rather to become the kind of person who faces their fears instead of running away from them.
To help me overcome my own fears, I created a simple 4-step FEAR process:
Step 1. Feel your fear
Remember, fear is a survival instinct. It is a signal that something is wrong and protects us from danger and allows us to survive. The problem is, your mind often doesn’t know the difference between an existential threat – such as a saber tooth tiger who is about to attack you, and a non-existential threat, like the fear of being embarrassed or rejected. To your mind, it’s all the same. Something is wrong. There is a threat to your safety and you feel scared.
The good news. Fear is fleeting. Research shows that most emotions only last up to 90 seconds…90 seconds. So, when you feel the fear, especially when you know there is no real existential threat, you may want to remind yourself that it’s just that. Fear. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just fear. Your life is not at risk, nor is your existence.
Denying your fears will only allow them to have more power over you – let yourself feel your fear instead of pushing it away or avoiding it, and observe what being afraid feels like.
Step 2. Embrace your fear
The dictionary defines ‘embrace’ as: To accept or support willingly and enthusiastically – to take in or include as a part, item, or element of a more inclusive whole. Once you feel the fear, you need to embrace it. And yes, I’m suggesting you accept it willingly AND enthusiastically.
Why? Because fear is your friend. Remember, the feeling of fear is hard-wired in us. It is there to protect us. Once you embrace that fear and accept it will ALWAYS be present in some form, then you can stop wasting time trying to ‘overcome’ or ‘get rid’ of it and start spending time learning how to understand, manage and work through it.
You can also share your fear. Things are much scarier on the inside than they are on the outside! Shine a bright light on your fear and bring it into your conscious level. Talk with a friend or write it in a journal. Once you identify your fear, you’re that much closer to owning it.
Once you’ve identified the real fear and embraced it, then you can move on to my favorite step: ACT.
Step 3. Act on your fear
Aristotle believed the cure for fear was to act in virtuous ways, including being courageous. Too often, we let anxiety, overwhelm, and fear overcome us until we’re totally paralyzed and can’t do anything at all.
I agree with Aristotle – one of the only ways to overcome fear is to act. Action creates further action; momentum creates further momentum. So, once you take one step, you’ll start building the confidence and the courage to take the next.
Remember, sometimes the risk of not taking action is actually greater than the risk of moving forward. Take a look at the risks or issues if you don’t start something new or take a risk to chase your dreams. What would happen? What would the outcome look like 3, 6, or 12 months from now? Is that outcome greater than the risk associated with jumping in and building the life of your dreams? Are you making those fears much worse than they actually are? For me, I’d always rather have an ocean of fear than a mountain of regret.
Step 4. Repeat
This isn’t a recipe for making fear go away, but a process for us to feel our fears and move forward. The secret is to learn how to turn your fears into fuel for success.
Every single time you face a challenge or do something unfamiliar, it’s going to be a little scary. You will continue to encounter fear, but by feeling it, embracing it, and acting on it, the fear will lose its intensity. Little by little, you’ll become stronger than your fears until they no longer have the same kind of power over you that they used to.
Now that I’ve shared my 4-step process, I challenge you to apply it. Feel your fear, embrace it, act on it, & then do that all over again.
Kim Perell is widely recognized entrepreneur, investor and national best selling author. A great believer in paying it forward, Kim loves to help aspiring entrepreneurs achieve success and is an early stage investor in over 100 start-ups, 16 of which have successfully been acquired by some of the largest Fortune 500 companies.
Originally published in Entrepreneur