Ever heard this acronym for “fear”? False Evidence Appearing Real.
Fear is a feeling we get about something that hasn’t actually happened. When we’re faced with problems or stressful situations, our minds have a way of going straight to the worst-case scenario, and that fear can prevent us from moving forward. It prevents us from taking risks. From putting ourselves out there. From taking action. From trying. Fear can be paralyzing, and it’s especially harmful to lead from a place of fear. Believe me, I’ve done it. And it isn’t pretty.
As I built my business, my fears hurt me and my company deeply. Fear of what others would think caused me to hold on to Student Maid’s second location for far too long instead of selling it when I knew I wanted to. Fear of retaliation got in the way of letting people go who didn’t embody our values. Fear of putting myself out there kept me from publishing my book on time. Fear of lost revenue kept me from ending relationships with customers who treated my team badly. And fear has often kept me from speaking my mind and standing up for myself over the years.
While I’m still guilty of letting fear drive my decision-making from time to time, I’ve gotten a lot better with practice. I’ve learned to recognize when my fear is warranted and when it’s just a false narrative. If fear is affecting your decision-making as a leader, I urge you to explore what it might look like to live and lead without fear. Here are a few tips that have helped me:
- When faced with something, imagine the worst-case scenario and make a plan for what you will do if it happens. Can you wrap your head around it? Are you willing to accept the worst if it does happen? Usually, that’s enough for me to put the fear aside. It’s not having a plan that can cause uneasiness.
- When you feel fear, stop yourself in the moment. Remind yourself that what you feel isn’t real. It is false evidence disguised as real evidence. Ask yourself if the narrative in your mind is really true.
- When you feel afraid, acknowledge it. What is causing that feeling? Journal about it. See if you can find the root. Often, understanding where the feeling is coming from and why is enough to make it go away.
We are much better leaders and humans when we make decisions and take action with conviction. Don’t let fear cost you as much as it’s cost me.