Fear Can Be Debilitating

..and three steps to help navigate it

red and white floral painting

In 1984, Kathy Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in space.  She navigated the selection process when NASA decided that they needed scientists as much as they needed pilots for the space program.  From thousands of applicants and many interviews and tests, she beat the odds in a field that had accepted its first female astronaut only a year earlier.  So, what lessons can we learn from Kathy Sullivan?  More than I could possibly offer here.  Her perspective on fear caught my attention in a recent book by Michael Lewis.

As she stood at the Space Shuttle bay doors, waiting to take her first steps into space, she contemplated fear.  Fear of what might happen to her physically in a zero-gravity environment where her space suit was her only means of survival.  In previous attempts on Earth, the suits had a tendency to ignite.  Then she recalled previous perilous experiences and her ability to manage her fear.  She could not eliminate it but, in that moment, she had some control.  Her philosophy was – be afraid before and be afraid after but don’t be afraid during – which helped her take that daunting step.

This same concept can be applied to many of your day-to-day situations.  Here are just a few:

Feedback Can Be a Challenge

Giving feedback to a team member or colleague often induces sweat and dread.  We don’t want to insult or hurt someone’s feelings.  We also know that without feedback there is little chance of growth.  Feeling a sense of fear before giving feedback is natural.  Prepare for your meeting.  Have the facts.  Know what you want to convey.  In the moment, you will be able to suppress that fear and come across as empathetic and helpful.

Death Before Public Speaking

More people are afraid of public speaking than they are about dying.  Even the most-seasoned speaker get nervous.  With my clients, I advise that they memorize the introduction to their presentation.  No more than the fist 3-4 sentences.  This will provide the confidence to overcome the initial adrenaline rush and inclination to speak too quickly.  You are the expert on your presentation, and nobody will know if you skip a few words.

Failure Isn’t Fatal

Failure is often cited as a key fear among professionals.  In your day-to-day responsibilities, allowing fear to be your co-pilot can lead to self-doubt, indecision, and confusion.  Fall back on the knowledge that you are qualified, accomplished, and have been recognized for your abilities.  When you are heading to work, whether in the office, on a job site, or at a client, leave fear by the side of the road.  You do not need a co-pilot to advance your career.

My greatest fear, definitely heights but I don’t let it stop me from hiking in the mountains or climbing a ladder to get the job done.  As always, you can reach me at MRiegel@AECBusinessStrategies.com