Fear can be both a powerful motivator and lead to inaction...at the same time!
We all experience fear in our lives, though our level of exposure varies. We all know the sweaty palms, racing heart, butterflies or nausea that accompanies it. No one is immune to it. It's just something we have to deal with and we all do it in different ways.
For many of us, fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of the unknown can lead to paralysis or make us automatically to default to "the norm". In fact, the new book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Think Like a Freak, addresses this topic in the very first chapter.
How we deal with fear is the key.
Do you recoil or do you forge ahead anyway? Recoiling means you will react to whatever consequence results from inactivity and forging ahead means you will have an active hand in shaping the outcome of the situation or circumstance you fear. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Like the NIKE slogan says "Just Do It".
But is it really that simple? What if what you're scared of is a situation that is entirely your doing, not something imposed upon you? Does that situation make it any different?
I learned that very lesson this past year as I was setting up this blog! After leaving my employer of 12+ years, I realized that I wanted to share some insights with the world, both as a way of organizing my own thoughts (and hopefully learning something in the process), and as a way of offering something that others might find useful in some way. That realization made me secure a domain name, investigate various blog hosting options, and start to write.
So, what's the big deal?
The shear amount of preparation and thought for one! And then there's that overwhelming reluctance to hit the "GO" button.
Getting ready. The preparation stage.
In getting "ready" to put this blog out there, I spent six months writing material for it. Yes, you read correctly, six months! I was not sure what I had to say or how to say it, so I experimented, over and over...and over again. What was I going to write about? What do good bloggers say & write? How would what I think and write matter? To anyone?
I'd been told that I had some insights and perspectives to share and others did tell me "you HAVE to write" but that didn't change my level of hesitation. So, I did what many of us do.
Then, I went into analysis paralysis.
I read a number resources on blogging, from hosting, to content, to raising awareness about it on social media. I also read about successful writing strategies. I searched for images for the blog, Twitter, and Facebook platforms, searched for the perfect theme, only to leave these unimplemented until some unknown trigger would make me move to the next step. I needed my own proverbial kick in the butt.
Hitting the "GO" button.
I finally gave myself some deadlines after dilly dallying for some time. Some might call it ruminating. One of these deadlines was to get to 50K words written by year end 2013. I thought that if I had this amount of material, then maybe I would feel that I had enough to say to justify ownership of a blog and the ability to call myself a writer. Maybe this amount of material would make me feel sure about declaring what it is that I would be writing about and result in a better description for the blog itself for both me and you, then potential future readers. In short, the impostor syndrome was alive and well in me.
What amount of preparation and work would really be enough for me to "go live"?
Success = doing stuff. Go figure.
What finally occurred to me is that the most successful people just "do stuff". They don't wait until everything's perfect. They don't perfect their ideas so long as to have what they're working on become irrelevant or uninteresting. They throw it out there once they feel it's "reasonable". They put it out into our critical world and see what sticks, what needs fixing and what should just not persist. In short, they "feel the fear and do it anyway".
So, after months of knowing this fact and not going live...
I did it. I threw my now-ridiculous amount of caution to the wind and published my first words. That was, almost to the day, a full six months after writing the first words.
Was that wait time justified? Part of it certainly, but definitely not all of it. The fear of failure did make me spend more time on the blog content than if I had not felt a certain responsibility to myself and to you, dear reader, to offer something of value that might be useful to you or someone else.
Is it perfect? Not at all. Is it better than if I had published my first thoughts half-hazardly?
I can tell you in hindsight that the fear and the rush associated with publishing this blog make it feel like an important activity and, no matter what happens next, no matter how long this activity persists or where life takes me, I think I'll always appreciate that I won't experience the regret of asking myself the "what ifs" of not having moved ahead.
I will have to remind myself of this every time I dive in and try something new in the future. One belief of mine does offer some relief: I can only get easier to keep trying new things.
How do you deal with the fear associated with doing something new? Do you forge ahead, do you overplan, do you avoid dealing with it? What's your story?