The biggest obstacle we will always face is fear. If there is any reason we are not living our lives the way we desire, it is because of fear. Fear stops us from taking action. Fear makes us take strange and many times self-sabotaging actions. As the title for chapter 1 of Ripples: Part 2 said, “Fear makes fools of us all.” The first important part there is, “us all.” Everyone gets afraid. Everyone. Some just know how to deal with it better than others. Some have learned how to act when they are afraid because they know this fear is all that lies between where they are and where they want to be. But the other important part, the part we will be focused on, is how fear makes us turn into fools.
When we make an excuse not to do something we want to do or to delay action, we will come up with some great reasons, won’t we? Really excellent and sound reasons to pause, to wait one more day. We will break out our calculators and our spreadsheets and make a presentation to show why today isn’t the right time to make that sales call or to start that business we dream of starting. We’ve all done it, and we all do it. We will accidentally forget to do something and push it off for a later date. We will find that there just isn’t enough time to get to that vital task we need to do. But now, let’s ask ourselves a question… in this moment, when we are unafraid; when we are just here enjoying our day; do you think those excuses are real or do you think now that maybe you could’ve done whatever it is you wanted to do? I can look back at many choices and excuses that left me standing still and not moving forward; but, in the end, I know there is always a solution to every problem. So, if I want to do something, there is a way. Only fear can block our way and again, what makes fear sneaky, is it can change our brains to really believe that we don’t have the time or the ability to do that thing, or it’s just not the right moment. We will believe it, which is where fear makes us turn into fools.
Again, Fear makes fools of all of us. So, I’m not saying this to make anyone feel guilty or bad about themselves. I’ve let myself become foolish as much as anyone. I’m saying this so we can battle fear together… and it is a constant battle. If we can recognize our lame reasons; if we can see through the guise that fear throws over our eyes (sweet rhyme, Derek!); if we can pause and shift our mindset at that moment we are afraid and making excuses, we can eventually overcome it. We can move beyond it. Then, you can do it again. And again. And ultimately, we can become masters of our fears and leave our foolish ways behind.
So, to help you (and myself as well!), I’ve created a series of steps here that I’ll call:
STEP 1: ORGANIZE
The first thing to do is to discover that we are being foolish. This is the hardest part. As I mentioned above, we are fools because we really, really believe that our excuses are real. So, how can you identify if you’re putting something off, or making excuses? Easy.
Take out a sheet of paper (what is this, homework? I don’t have time for this–says our foolish self). Now, turn it the landscape way, and divide it into three columns. Column one: General Tasks. Column two: Need to Do. Column Three: Essentials.
Let’s start with Column Three. The essential stuff. The truly vital actions that have to get done to grow your business, to move forward on your dream, to grow and improve yourself. Sales calls, networking events, creating a marketing campaign, calling someone to ask for help, working out, eating healthy, learning something to improve your craft, etc. There’s a lot, but try to narrow it down to just those essentials. The hardest part of this might just be identifying what your vital tasks are; the things that move things forward. So, spend a little extra time thinking about this Column.
Column Two is for all the other things for your work and business that need to get accomplished but are not necessarily going to expand anything. For me, that would be writing my stories, creating music, and so on. These are not going to grow my business, but I need to get them done, or there’s no Podcast!
Column One is for everything else; the general tasks in your life that you have to do. Laundry, haircut, pick up the kids from school, etc. Again, the stuff that needs to get done, but that are not connected to your career, your work, your dreams or goals. Picking up your kids up from school is still essential, so don’t let my column titles confuse you. Definitely still pick up your kids ; ).
STEP 2: IDENTIFY
Now, let’s look at your list. I would imagine that Column One has a lot in it, Column Two a good amount, and Column Three is probably the smallest. That right there is an interesting thing to think about, but not part of this topic. Now, give it a week. If you are ticking things off Column One and Two, you’re going to feel like you’re getting a lot done, and you are, but if Column Three is seeing no action, you know that fear has grabbed hold. If I’m not making any steps towards befriending Oprah this week, I’m clearly afraid to take a step.
STEP 3: DENIAL
Ok, let’s skip this step together and don’t deny what the columns say. I know those excuses sound amazing, and they feel right, and we all believe in those excuses, but the list doesn’t lie, so skip your denial and let’s move on to the next step. Make the belief that any problem is solvable stronger than the belief in the problem.
STEP 4: PAT ON THE BACK
If you’ve successfully moved past the denial step, congratulations; you just saved yourself another month or more of foolish actions! Pat yourself on the back and move on to step 5.
STEP 5: TAKING THE ACTION
Ok, action time! You know what you are avoiding, you know you have a fear, and now you need to push beyond it. You need to take that action and cross off that item on Column Three you’ve been avoiding. This is taking action in spite of our fears and here is the best method I’ve found and used for doing this. I get this from Tim Ferris, and I’m going to simplify it a bit, but if you go to www.timferriss.com/blog you can search “Fear Setting,” and you can read his much more in-depth approach to overcoming fear and taking action.
Here’s the gist:
Think of the action you are afraid to take, or that is bringing you to worry or doubt. Write it down on a piece of paper. Now, write down the worst that can happen. If it all goes to hell and falls apart, what’s the worst result possible? Most likely, it’s nothing too bad. Death is usually not a worst case scenario for anything on your list, and all worst cases are either temporary or solvable. I find this part is often all I need. Writing down the worst case scenario lets you see that it isn’t bad at all; but, the next part gets you over the next hump if you aren’t already ready to tackle that task in Column Three.
On the back side of the paper, or underneath what you just wrote, write down the solution to the worst case. If the action could result in a lost client, then what’s the solution? Is there a quick, easy way to get them back? Is it ok if you do lose that client? Can you get two new clients somehow? Most problems aren’t that hard to solve, and by this point, you’ll know that the action you fear probably has minimal adverse effects; and, of those possible negatives, there are most definitely solutions. Time to take action now as there isn’t anything to be afraid of as you can now see.
STEP 6: REPEAT
Repeat this consistently. Keep those three columns and keep checking in on Column Three and making sure you’re doing those things as they are what is essential. They are vital to your success and to you reaching your dream.
STEP 7: HELP
One of the things I focus on with coaching is removing the excuses born from fear; removing the belief that something is too far away to go after right now, or just not the right time. I believe any problem can be solved and I’ve never been proven wrong. Anything someone wants to do, there is a way. Any dream you wish to pursue, you can get there. I think sometimes we need a little help to get there though, and doing everything on our own is not the answer. It doesn’t matter where you get help, just that you are open to it and seek it when you need it. Alright, everyone! We are fools no more!
All my best and Happy Holidays!