Perhaps you have been presented with a new opportunity, or there is something new that you want to do in your work. You start to consider it, the ramifications, the impact of making change and taking some risk.
As you have probably experienced, it doesn't take long before the worries begin to creep in. Gremlins take over your mind:
What if it goes wrong? What if you fail? What will this mean for your reputation? What financial ramifications will it have? What impact will it have on future opportunities in your work?
You may recognize this in yourself: you hold back and take more time to think more about whether this is an opportunity you should pursue.
On the one hand, you know, this could be truly fantastic for your career or business, but on the other hand, you are left with niggling feelings of doubt and worry.
These niggling thoughts don't go away, and you continue to delay and defer your decision.
Nothing changes and worst of all, the opportunity could just pass you by.
Something I do with my coaching clients, when I see them in this sort of predicament, is a very simple exercise:
A simple exercise to face your fears and unlock your work potential:
I first heard this technique on a Tim Ferriss podcast and is a simple exercise to help you get to grips with those gremlins going round and round in your mind.
1) The first step is to take out a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. Please do not skip this step, it is important to write this down and not just ‘think’ about it.
2) Consider the worst-case scenario that could play out if you pursued this new opportunity or made this change. Write it down. Write down in exquisite detail all the terrible and horrible things that could happen, all the things bothering and worrying you.
3) Step number three: Stop. Take a step back and analyze what you've written down. Put your problem-solving hat on and consider that if this ‘worst case’ scenario occurred, what your response would be. What would you do? How would you solve this situation? Would you be able to remedy the so-called crisis? Could you see yourself out of this worst-case scenario? What's the worst thing that could happen, and how would you deal with it?
Now most people who read this blog are those who are keen to grow and develop in their professional lives and no doubt, if you stop and think back to your life and your working life, you will agree you have regularly demonstrated being extremely resourceful. So, you may already have evidence that you are able to handle challenging circumstances.
You will note 2 things when doing this exercise:
1) The worst case scenario you mapped out is often not quite as bad as you thought. When you got that gremlin stuck in your mind down on paper, it lost some of its bite. You may see that this ‘worst case scenario’ is perhaps not quite as bad as you’d originally feared.
2) More often than not, you’ll be able to come up with a fairly robust plan for this ‘worst case’ scenario.
More often than not, you realize you could in fact solve for your worst fears playing out. You realize that this worst-case scenario could in fact be solved for. And at some point, you begin to consider whether there is any real point in holding back and the risks are less severe than you first thought.
You realize you would most likely be able to salvage the situation. Perhaps you may lose a little money, or the growth of your business may slow for a short period of time, perhaps you don’t get the big promotion at the exact stage you had hoped for. The point is: you are armed to make a decision. You can weigh up the benefits with the risks for which you have a plausible solution.
This simple process of getting to grips with your gremlins can help you to take action. It can enable you to realize you can take steps towards your big goal, to taking on this new opportunity in your work.
Placing a bet on yourself:
And another fun and helpful technique I picked up from Matt Mochary, a well-known coach to CEOs. He uses the idea of placing a bet. He places bets with his clients as to whether these fears play out. He says he usually wins! But you can do the same on your own. You can place a bet with yourself.
What Mochary suggests is that every time you play out these worst-case scenarios in your mind, any time you feel you are stalling on making progress due to fear or worry, you take out a notebook and you place a bet with yourself.
You record the bet – you note down the worries and fears that you think will transpire. Then, you act. You get on with giving this thing you are worried about a go. And every few months you look in your ‘bet’ logbook and see whether any of these bets you have been placing have been ‘won’. Have any of them come true?
What you will notice is that most of the time the worst-case scenarios and deep-seated fears do not become a reality.
So, get a pen, grab a piece of paper, write your fears down, get that worst case scenario onto a piece of paper. Create a plausible and reasonable plan that would solve this predicament and only then, decide whether taking steps towards this new opportunity would in fact be worth the risk. Make a record of these worst-case scenarios and monitor how many of these gremlins and bets against yourself come to fruition! Let me know!
These simple and practical tips will help you face those deep-seated fears and help you take action to making real progress in your work.