Welcome to the New Year! This is the time many choose to take stock in their lives and careers and proclaim changes for the coming year. What will you do (or do better) in 2019? A new career? Seek a promotion? Start a new hobby? Most New Year resolutions never come to fruition. Why is that? When we try to take on challenges, there can be trepidation. This trepidation is often rooted in fear. This is a good time to ask yourself: Will fear interfere with my resolutions?
Fear actually has a purpose — it promotes self-preservation. Our lizard brain (amygdala) has been with us from the beginning of our very existence. It triggered fight or flight responses, which in turn kept us fed and alive (most of the time).
In the modern age, fear is often not a necessity and more often than not squashes opportunities. Fear stops us from taking chances, trying new things and generally from doing anything that might move us out of our comfort zone. It wraps us up in false security, and convinces us that we are better off with the status quo. Groundbreaking ideas and trailblazing activities are for other (clearly reckless and irresponsible) people.
When should we listen to our lizard brain, and when should we tell him to buzz off? That is the million dollar question! And there is no one-size-fits-all answer. But I can tell you that I used to let fear rule much of my existence and as a result I missed out on many amazing opportunities.
I am not advocating you jump out of an airplane this weekend or invest everything you own on some hot, new IPO (or better yet, an ICO). Bodily injury (or death) or extremely risky financial behavior are activities reserved for the adrenaline junkies among us — and I am happy to let them own that niche!
The fear I am talking about is not the kind that saves your life, physically or financially. Fear can also disguise itself as disinterest, mediocrity, banality and inaction. Your lizard brain not only wants to protect your physical well-being, but your emotional well-being. Who of you has ever thought:
- “What if they laugh at me?”
- “What if I fail?”
- “What will my friends (co-workers) think?”
I know I have. And sometimes, I still let that sneaky, primordial wimp flood me with doubt and anxiety. Seth Godin, in his book “Linchpin,” articulated this behavior in such a way I could not ignore it. Once I became aware of what was happening, I had to work hard to shut it down. This has turned into a lifelong process.
What can you do about it? Recognize it, acknowledge it — and then put it in a box inside your brain. This will be easier for some than others. Long-held fears of failure and ridicule can’t just be shut down overnight. But you have to start somewhere. This might be speaking up in your staff meeting. Or starting that new side hustle you have researched forever. Maybe you want to launch a new business or go for that promotion. (“The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins can help with this.)
Will you fail? Maybe. Will some people think you’re crazy? Probably. Here is a secret. Everyone fails. The most successful people you know and admire fail — and actually fail often. Failure to successful people is a chance to regroup and learn. And if there are people who whisper behind your back (or laugh right at you) — don’t worry about them. They are not part of your tribe.
You will never be “ready.” Don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect project or the perfect plan. Perfection is overrated and nonexistent. Pull the trigger and see what happens. Make adjustments. If you fall down, figure out what tripped you and get back up.
The upside is limitless. Your lizard brain would have you living a life of mediocrity — safe and uneventful. Those are fine adjectives to describe a flight across the Atlantic Ocean — but not for your life. You can be both a responsible adult and take some risks. Don’t put yourself in a box — save that box for your fears. Let that be your resolution this year and find out what you can do.
Cheri Dudek-Kuhn is a leadership enthusiast and CEO at Orchard Corset. Read her leadership blogs at cheridudek.com/news/.