What to do with that one pesky, infuriating fear…

“I can do it! But I hate it, so I avoid it as much as I can.” We were talking about a trip she wanted to take, but the interstate between here and there was a real challenge for her.

To get from East Tennessee to Asheville, North Carolina, we have to drive a section of I-40 called the “Million Dollar Mile”. It’s called that because it cost at “least a million” to build each mile of interstate right through the heart of the ancient Appalachian mountain range.

It’s heavily used by huge semi trucks delivering goods each way, and most of them are forced to a crawl on the steep, curvy route.

Now, me? I love roads like that. Growing up in the mountains means a curvy road at high speed is one of my favorite forms of entertainment!

But if you’re used to flat land and open spaces, traveling at 70+ mph while passing a line of semi’s around a sharp curve as you crest the hill can be a daunting experience for anyone.

The concrete walls edging the lanes don’t help much, either.

For my client, though, her fear was a bigger block than I first realized. It wasn’t just mountainous roads or passing trucks, it was any interstate that was new to her, any with heavy traffic, any with complicated lane changes and exits.

So she avoided them as much as she could, in any way she could, every chance she could.

And sometimes, she just didn’t go at all.

Her freedom was limited by her fear.

She didn’t really think about it that much, because she was so used to living around the fear. That is, until now, when someone she loved was seriously ill, and getting there was suddenly really important.

And really hard.

Sometimes, fear like that sneaks into our lives as entrepreneurs, too.

And just like my client, they limit us in ways we don’t realize – either.

For example, for years I took tele-classes offered on all kinds of things, ranging from business skills to organizing tips to interviews with people I admired. I loved learning that way, and wanted to do the same for my clients.

But the technology was daunting. Or so it seemed.

Where would I start? What service would I use? What would it cost? How did it work? Could I manage the controls? What if I cut people off or messed up the recording?

What if I looked like a fool in a hundred other ways?

So, I lived around the fear, and found countless other ways to reach people. I did a ton of public talks, workshops and support groups. I wrote columns for the newspaper and newsletters for clients.

So my freedom was limited as well.

For one, I could only reach those who were geographically close by, which meant I couldn’t help as many people.

But what was worse – really – was the way this hurt my spirit, my confidence. I was always frustrated with myself. This low-level but constant embarrassment weighed on my mind – and held me back.

It seemed like everyone I knew was doing tele-classes, webinars, and countless tech-based workshops, yet I couldn’t bring myself to try it the first time.

It seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it?

And yet – that small thing was a big block for me as a business owner.

So when there’s one pesky, infuriating fear that stubbornly blocks your path, what do you do?

Here’s the good news.
You CAN do something.

You learn how to drive with trucks, tackle the tech, and ease right on through that fear.

Here’s how.

FIRST: Tear up the problem.

The first thing my client and I did was break the fear down into all of it’s tiny parts. Was she afraid of ALL interstate driving or just some aspects? When was that fear the worst and when was it manageable?

We discovered various factors: driving on sections she didn’t know well, a fear of getting lost, dealing with curves and hills, coping with high traffic, and yes – passing trucks.

Each required a different set of skills – and confidence – to tackle.

SECOND: Organize your list.

Line it up from easiest to hardest, from ‘a little scary’ to ‘outright terrifying’.

For my client, the ‘least scary’ was driving on a gentle stretch of rural interstate she knew like the back of her hand. Driving unknown sections was somewhere in the middle. Passing trucks on the Million Dollar Mile (with curves and hills) was at the top.

Your list might range from “exploring software options on the web” to “publishing my first book”. (!)

THIRD:  “See” your success.

The first battle with fear is always in your mind, so the first step to beating it, is to work with your thoughts.

Affirmations, meditation and deep breathing can really help with the jitters. Other tools like visualization, journaling or scripting help too.

Practice ‘seeing’ yourself easily and effortlessly as you complete that scary next step. Make it real in your mind. Connect with the joy of that moment.

Notice how strong you feel on the other side.

FOURTH: Make it real.

Don’t wait for the fear to go away – because it won’t.

Instead, start with the “easy” end of your list, and practice success.

Take baby steps forward. Give yourself a deadline to do each tiny part. Ask a friend to be your accountability partner and hold you to it. (This is one of the most critical things I do as a coach – holding my clients accountable as they work through their own baby steps!)

Your fear will diminish.
Your strength, and confidence, will grow –
with each step you actually take.

Trust me on this.

NOW: Celebrate.

Every. Single. Victory.

Any action you take forward, ANY action – is worth celebrating.

Micro-moments lead up to big moments. Don’t blow them off!!!

Instead, stop for a second. Notice what you’ve done. Tell someone. Allow the pride to well up inside, and own it. This is the fun part!

And to top it all off…

Write me here, in the comments below, or over on my Facebook page, and let me celebrate with you every step of the way.

What First Step will you take today?


Photo Credit: Wendy Pitts Reeves

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