What could you achieve in your career this year if you weren't held back by fear?
Over the years I've heard many people express frustration in the self-imposed limitations in their careers (and life). These limitations are often due to fears of:
- the unknown
- saying “no”
- saying “yes”
- reputation damage
- what others might think
- being judged
- speaking up in meetings
- being caught as an imposter and a fraud
- changing careers
- not meeting expectations
- missing opportunities
- making a bad career choices
- public speaking
- fear itself
- and the list goes on.
Fear is a normal part of life. It’s a primal instinct and serves a purpose to warn us of danger to survival (the good old ‘fight or flight’ response). In today’s world however, when the response is often unreasonable to the fear, is it limiting your confidence and ultimately your success?
“The fears we don’t face become our limits.” – Robin Sharma
I’ve seen career fears becoming fundamental assumptions of people’s being as they go unquestioned over the years, most often with people not knowing why this fear has been kept ‘alive’.
By not taking action and tackling assumptions around your fears, are you placing limitations on yourself and your career?
The good news is, fear is a feeling and you can get over it. That is, as long as you are “ready to be uncomfortable, apprehensive, excited and surprised”. – Nicola Phillips
Tackling one of my big fears the hard way!
This time last year my husband asked me to join him in the novice triathlon race at Nowra, on the Central Coast of NSW. Talk about big fears – I had never competed in any race except for “fun runs” and was not what I considered a triathlete. The thought of a triathlon (even a novice race) made me sick to my stomach and I wasn’t entirely sure why. It was a question that my stepson asked me (“what is the worst that could happen?”) that encouraged me to finally enter and got me through the race. He certainly hit the nail on the head with that question in more ways than one…
Trust me, I didn’t break any records and if I’m totally honest the race was a disaster. Until now, only my husband knew the full story as I was so incredibly upset and he swore he would never tell a soul!
At the time, I wasn’t at my fittest, and the event organiser advised that for the novice triathlon, people could wear flippers in the swim leg. As dorky as I felt (and probably looked), that is what I decided to do to help me get through the race. For anyone who has ever swum with flippers, it won’t be a surprise that I smashed the swim leg. On the exit from the water however, I got pulled up by a marshal who absolute ripped into me in front of over 50 spectators and participants saying I was “disqualified” and “illegal” and “breaking the rules” as “I wasn’t allowed to swim with flippers”. I cannot describe in words how incredibly humiliating this was. It was as if “what is the worst that could happen” was actually unfolding, right in front of my eyes. The crowd and other participants (all complete strangers) were unbelievably supportive as they could see I was exceptionally distressed as it was my first race. Some of them took him on, disputing his comment that I had broken “rules”, which after a while he gave in and told me to “carry on and we would sort it out at the end”.
As people continued to exit the swim leg and run to transition, I couldn’t get the motivation to run alongside them (probably because I was too busy bawling from humiliation). When I got into transition the participations were incredible – telling me “to not let that ‘so-and-so’ ruin my day” and so forth. I wanted to pull out, I really did. But I remember the self-talk, something along the lines of:
I have two options – continue or pull out. If I continue, what’s the worst that will happen? I might come last. Coming last isn’t bad. Someone has to come last. Why shouldn’t it be me? At least I would finish and have earned my souvenir t-shirt. I know I didn’t break the rules. I trained (a little bit) and deserve that t-shirt. Why am I letting someone else impact my success and happiness? It surely can’t get worse than this. I can do this. I will do this. I am going to earn that t-shit.
With that I hopped on the bike and off I went, despite uncontrollably sobbing for most of the ride and being taken over by absolutely everyone. It turns out however that the ride in the countryside was enough to get my mojo back and empowered me to smash the run and take over lots of weaker runners. Despite all the upheaval, I very proudly finished the race in less than an hour and was not disqualified (he was wrong and I didn’t break any rules whatsoever!). 
This one race set me on a new direction last year which I could never have anticipated - 3 novice triathlons, 3 half marathons, 2 'fun' runs, and (drum roll...) being awarded the 1st Australian to complete the Amalfi Coast ‘Lost World’ Path of the Gods incredibly challenging trail run in the gorgeous Italy!
You and your biggest fear
As I mentioned above, fear is a feeling and you can get over it. “Feelings aren’t positive or negative; it’s what we do with them that render them constructive or destructive. It’s the same with fear.” – Nicola Phillips
So over to you:
- What is your biggest career (or other) fear?
- Why have you kept this fear kept ‘alive’ over the years? What are the assumptions you continue to apply?
- If your fear was realised, so what? What is the worst that could happen? What would you do? Would you survive?
- What would you need to believe to stop your fear impacting your ability to do something?
- How are you going to be courageous, take action, tackle your fear and remove those self-imposed limitations?
Since the Nowra triathlon I have had the confidence and self-belief to tackle career and other fears, which has been a very empowering experience and truly pushed me past some self-imposed limitations I had placed on myself.
You can easily do the same.
“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb
I encourage you to read my testimonials on www.careerinsidetrack.com to see how I have practically helped others discover the height of their strengths, overcome self-doubt and build a career that they are passionate about.
Call me to start the journey of tackling your career fears today and get a competitive edge!
 Note: The race marshal had no relationship to the event organiser (who was absolutely wonderful!).