Fear and Fatigue

Last week I postulated that as I travel around the country giving speeches in corporate, academic or conference settings and spend time speaking to women, I am forming a conclusion that the two biggest impediments to women in maximizing their success are FEAR and FATIGUE. In last week’s blog, I talked about FATIGUE and how it is an impediment, particularly to more seasoned professional women, in maximizing their success and in this week’s blog, I want to discuss the role of FEAR and the role it plays in impeding success maximization.

As I discussed in Expect To Win, when you think about WHY you don’t really “go for IT”, the big promotion, the new opportunity that could really catapult your career, having the big conversation with your boss, leaving your job that you know is below your intellectual or skill level to reach for something more challenging, or whatever IT is, the answer is usually rooted in FEAR. You are afraid of failing, or you are afraid of success, you are afraid of what your family will say, you are afraid of what “people” will think, you are afraid of the unknown, you are afraid that if it doesn’t quite work out the way you think it will, then what, you are afraid that if you are too successful, you might be not be able to find a significant other, or you are just plain scared!

While FATIGUE is the more predominant impediment to more seasoned career professionals, FEAR is the predominant deterrent to younger, less experienced professionals. I am not saying that more seasoned professional women aren’t also plagued by FEAR, fear of losing what they have worked so hard for, fear of failure, etc., but FATIGUE is more often than not the reason why they don’t go for it, pull out all of the stops, and leave it on the floor.  Younger professionals generally have less familial responsibility, more energy in general and less of their career has been spent fighting their way up the corporate ladder, so FATIGUE has not had a legitimate opportunity to settle in as a constant friend and then as a formidable foe. However, because younger professionals have less experience in recovering from mistakes and less experience in general, they are more afraid of a mistake, for they fear that they will not be able to recover from it. They don’t necessarily identify with the “this too will pass” adage and mantra of more seasoned professionals who understand that there will always be challenges and that maturity teaches you that there is always a way to solve a challenge. Younger, less experienced professionals are most often overwhelmed when challenges arise and are therefore less inclined to take risks that could result in outsized returns for FEAR that the mistake or not achieving the goal could be a real career breaker, or insurmountable. If you identify with this statement, then know that you are allowing FEAR to slow you down, to sabotage your ability to maximize your success.

So FEAR has you in its grip, what do you do now?

  1. First, understand that ANY time that you approach ANY opportunity, conversation or challenge from a position of fear; you will always UNDERPENETRATE that opportunity. You cannot and will not be able to maximize your success in that endeavor. You will not get the maximum return on your energy expended. So if you are going to bother pursuing any endeavor, pursue it WITHOUT FEAR, so that you will get the most out of your effort;
  2. Second, understand that this is YOUR life and the TIME in your life is the most precious thing that you have in it, for it is finite. You can always get more money, more things, more skills, but you will never get more TIME. You cannot afford to waste this precious entity, which you will never get more of. You will never see THIS day in your life again, so you must spend it professionally and personally in a way that you are getting the most return from it. So do not waste another moment endeavoring to do things that will not give you the highest yield on your time expended. FEAR will cause you to lose valuable time. It will cause you to stay in a seat that you should abdicate because you are no longer learning, you are no longer producing for your firm in a productive, high impact way. FEAR will block your ability to make a decision that could result in a wonderful career or job with a steeper learning curve and career trajectory.
  3. Thirdly, understand that because it is YOUR life, you cannot let the FEAR of what others will think or say, impede your forward motion or your propensity to take a risk. Other people’s opinions or advice may be needed, appreciated, or even asked for and it may be excellent advice, but you cannot let what you think their reaction might be deter you to your decision, if you fundamentally believe that you are making a great decision for YOU. As a dear friend, once told me, this is real life, this ain’t no dress rehearsal!” This life was given to YOU. Everyone has the opportunity to make the most of it, don’t let someone else’s fears, concerns, or negative spirit deter you from maximizing yours.
  4. Fourthly, FEAR of success is a tricky concept. Most of us would never admit that we are afraid of success, yet sometimes people sabotage themselves and their own success, because they are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of how life might change if they are successful, how others might react, and the new challenges that await them when they get to a new level. Remember that you have been given gift of intelligence, of experience, of a network and of valuable relationships that have enabled you to attain higher and higher levels of success.  You have the responsibility to go for it. With every new level of success, you receive a more powerful platform from which you can be effective in helping others succeed, you can deploy the multiplier effect in all of your actions, which is incredibly powerful and which will ultimately enable you to achieve even more in your life.  If you are afraid of the new level, the new promotion, the new title, the new challenges that wait, refer to your track record. You have a track record of firsts in your life, a track record of overcoming things that once looked like challenges and ended up as accomplishments. Refer to your track record, if you did it before, you can do it again;
  5. Lastly, remind yourself that the worst that can happen if you go for it, is that you FAIL, but failure always brings you a gift and that gift is called experience. Now you know how to do it better, now you know how to do it differently, now you know how to do it successfully. The journey to go for it, is always worth it. You learn something; you add experience and knowledge to your tool chest that, if it can’t be used now, it can be harvested later, where it might bring you even greater value.  You cannot let FEAR rob you of the satisfaction that you will have AFTER you have had endeavored to GO FOR IT!