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Your Fear Is a Valuable Messenger

I appeared recently in an entrepreneur forum as a panelist. One of the questions asked was, what was the biggest challenge you faced when launching your business? My answer? Fear. Fear is like the annoying text messages that won't stop until you answer. Fear has been described as, 'False Evidence Appearing Real.' I get it. It's a way to diminish those lizard brain signals of, Danger, Danger Will Robinson! (you had to see Lost in Space to get that one). When you do calm that lizard down, you can step back, see that all is not a disaster, and see a way forward. However, it misses something really important about fear. Fear is not false. It is telling you something really important. Fear may not be proportional to the observed threat. You may be misled about its source. That doesn't mean that it's not evidence of something. Fear is evidence that something is wrong. Wrong for you and your safety, that is. Fear is a healthy response, telling you that something has gone awry. It may not signal an existential threat for many of us, though people of color face that regularly when in the wrong company, whether or not in uniform. Outside of these scenarios, fear is an indicator of something less immediately and existentially threatening. Fear evolved to warn us of danger. Since we're past the days of saber-toothed tiger attacks, what could it be warning us about? It means, you're entering into unknown territory.

We're all experiencing the fear of the unknown around this pandemic, so there's a general underlying fear buzz to everyone's existence right now. On top of that, for an entrepreneur, entering the unknown is a pretty common occurrence, so the cumulative effect is that your reaction can be stronger than it normally would be. I've experienced that myself. As I evolved my Impact Breakthrough intensive into a 12-week program earlier this year, it should have been business-as-usual. It's not unusual for me to pivot an offering to match my clients' needs, or to develop content. I do it all the time. So why, when I started plunging into this work, was I so scared? Having all kinds of concerns about whether it would work, would it be good enough, how would it be seen by my clients, at a greater intensity than I normally would? First, it's cumulative. In the early stages of the pandemic, I wasn't so aware of the underlying fear that the pandemic was tweaking in me. That's more apparent now, so I've been able to acknowledge it, and up my daily centering practices, like meditation, gratitude, and exercise, among others. Still, it's in the collective air, even as you're doing the simplest of chores, like grocery shopping. Second, I want my work to be excellent, to have the highest quality. I love my clients, and I want them to have a truly transformative experience that I know the Impact Breakthrough process provides. It's my values of mastery and excellence that were getting a prodding there. See what I did there? I broke my fear down into its triggers: uncertainty around the pandemic, and wanting to live up to my values. When I did that, it all started to feel a lot more manageable. When I understood where it was coming from and what it was trying to tell me, I could do something about it. I really don't like those icky 5-easy-steps-to-massive-wealth memes that you see so often. They're manipulative and really don't cover the whole story, not by a long shot. So that's not what I'm trying to do here. What I am doing is pointing out useful things you can do when you feel fear, which will help you get closer to addressing whatever is triggering it. I also want to do fear justice. Though I don't always see it as valuable at first either, fear can be a real friend to you. To sum up:

  • Acknowledge the fear. Admit you're scared.

  • Find out what's triggering it. Dig into your circumstances and your values. What wants to be heard?

  • Reflect on, what can I do about it? If the fear's pretty intense, doing anything, however small, can dial it down enough to help you get a grip on the bigger things that you need to do to address it.

You're reading this, so I know you care about impact. Fear will keep you from it, if not by shutting you down, then by distractions. As an entrepreneur, you have people who rely on you. Your clients, your team, the people who collaborate with you to deliver what you offer, like your suppliers and those you collaborate with. Those are good reasons why knowing how to interpret your fear becomes even more important. I've found this approach really valuable for getting a grip on my fears. I hope you do too.

Ursula Jorch is a speaker, business coach and consultant who helps entrepreneurs grow a successful business that makes a difference in the world. A 21-year successful entrepreneur herself, Ursula helps you define the difference you want to make in the world and develop strategy and marketing so you have ever-expanding impact. Find Ursula on her podcast, Work Alchemy: The Impact Interviews where she interviews impactful entrepreneurs and leaders like Seth Godin and Marianne Williamson, and at WorkAlchemy.com for free resources for you and your business.


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