Break your start-up anxiety
I’m standing on the stage, microphone in hand, brimming with confidence. I’m about to pitch my new business idea and I’m glowing with the smug feeling that I’m following my hearts desires.
I’m going to be so successful I’m telling myself. This is my moment. I look out and down from the stage at my audience, my stakeholders, my investors. There are hundreds of people sat in front of me, and I as open my mouth to speak my first line, I notice it. I’m starting to feel hot, my hands are sweaty, they start to shake. My knees are practically knocking against each other like a Tom and Jerry cartoon, my hair starts to frizz like a crazy professor and the first bead of perspiration trickles down my forehead, eyes widen, as I open my (now very dry) mouth to speak my first killer opening line…
…And then it hits me like the world has just stopped spinning
Of course I wake up from my nightmare (swiftly and thankfully before the crowd start to chant Off Off Off, as if I could have taken anything else off?). I head drastically under the duvet grabbing for any inch of clothing. Yep PJ’s on and secure. Thank heaven it was just a bad dream. And I breathe. Fear grips us at the most peculiar of times and often it can take us by surprise. But what if that happens when I do pitch to my investors? What happens if no one turns up on opening day? What happens if my new premises burn down by a random flash of lightening? What if, what if, what if? All this what if-ing can send us into a wild panic feeling like we’re heading down the helter-skelter that’s never ending, picking up speed as we descend……. I feel dizzy just thinking about it.
But what if? Well what if everything works out just fine? What if that first pitch goes so well, you have four dragon investors biting off your hand? What if you’re opening day goes so well, you run out of stock? Pre launch fears are quite normal, just like stage fright for actors and performers. It induces a chemical reaction called adrenaline, which can actually be quite useful if channeled in the right way.
The good news is that fear (either in the dream or reality format) is very common for all of us. Ok well maybe most of us, I’m sure there are a few adrenaline junkies out there (Evil Kinevil for example) who may argue otherwise.
Fear is an interesting emotion. It’s our very own self-contained safety blanket/parachute/exit ramp (delete as appropriate). It helps us to protect ourselves in times of danger or threat. Our senses are so finely tuned they can react to the tiniest of environmental changes (a sound change, lighting change, a feeling in the air), which alert our bodies to danger by causing a chemical reaction within the body which produces adrenaline (which of course helps us to fight or flight). I’m sure James Bond would say it’s been remarkably helpful for him over the years. However, it can also grip us at the least helpful moment and render us senseless, motionless, speechless (ready for flight or fight) when actually all we need is to take one gentle step forward, calmly and effortlessly.
There is no doubt in my mind that fear can also be a very powerful driver. For some people, without fear there is no drive. It is believed that most successful CEO’s are driven to succeed on account of one of two factors; their ego’s; or fear of failure. Those driven by fear of failure, are driven to achieve because the alternative creates all those horrible physical and emotional reactions associated with failure and lets be honest who actively chooses to fail? None of us (unless it’s a strategic or illegal poker maneuver). So in this case, fear is massively powerful.
So if fear is common to all of us why do some succeed and some fail in business you ask? Well the first factor is that some people feel more fear than others. There are perhaps a very small percentage of people who feel hardly no fear but lets be honest that’s just unnatural and quite frankly not very helpful when you’re being chased by a tiger in the wilds of Africa. You can’t tell me that even Bear Grylls gets fearful sometimes and uses it to his advantage right?
Starting a business for the first time is pretty scary stuff. But it’s also pretty exciting. Fear is a big scary thing and we’ve ascertained that it can be helpful and unhelpful. Fear is merely the vehicle, which causes the chemical reaction. Underneath every unhelpful feeling of fear I can guarantee is what we call a ‘limiting belief’. A limiting belief is a belief that we have created in our mind, which ‘limits’ our ability to be successful.
Here are some common limiting beliefs that I’ve heard time and time again when supporting people who’s dream is to set up their own business (and also let me just point out, these limiting beliefs are not only unique to people starting a business, they exist in all walks of life).
- I’m not good enough
- I’m not strong enough
- I won’t be able to find any customers
- I’m not good with numbers, I’m only creative
- I’m a doer not a thinker
- I’m a thinker not a doer
- I’ve never succeeded at anything
- I’ve always had a team to support me
- I’ve never done it on my own
- I don’t know where to start
- Things like this don’t happen to people like me
- I can’t afford it
- It’s not possible
- I have a family to provide for
These limiting beliefs are often unfortunately shaped by others, sometimes people you don’t even care toffee about and sometimes those closest to you and you know what? They probably didn’t even know they were going to help you shape a limiting belief at the time. They probably thought they were helping you, protecting you, saving you from making mistakes they made for example “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, no one will be interested in that kind of product, I tried something similar myself years ago, total flop” or “you’re full of crazy ideas but when do any of them ever go anywhere?” or better still “you’re not really going to do that are you?”. They’re worried for you because you know what? They have their own limiting beliefs and their own fears. So first things first, knowing if your fears come from you or someone else is a good starting point. If they’re someone else’s? Let them keep them and say “thankyou very much for your concern, I know you have my best interests at heart but this is really important to me and I’d love to have your full support”.
If however, you do recognize any of those limiting beliefs from the list above as your own (I know I’ve certainly done one or two of them myself over the years) or perhaps you’ve already identified a few others of your own, and you’re clear they’re not someone else’s limiting beliefs, the good news is they can easily be changed.
It’s very simple.
Limiting beliefs are just thoughts and thoughts can be changed very easily. You know why? Because you control your thoughts. They’re YOURS. No one else’s, yours! So next time you identify a limiting belief, take off your fear goggles and firmly place your “ass-kicking I can do anything” sunshine shades on and try and see your fears as positive. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- Says who?
- Why not?
- So what?
- What if?
“What if?” is a great question to ask yourself but the key is to make sure you ask it wearing your ‘anything is possible’ shades. If you’re wearing your ’limiting belief’ goggles, you’re going straight back to the state of fear.
Those that do succeed in using their fears successfully and wearing their ‘anything is possible’ shades, have the following things in common:
- They look in the mirror of self awareness on a regular basis. In other words, they know themselves better than anyone else. They know their strengths and they’re insightful enough to know what’s unhelpful about their behaviours too. So if their fears do crop up, they can wave hello like an old friend knowing they’ll be able to embrace it rather than fight or flight.
- They have a super sonic radar of awareness. It’s not just their radar they’re listening to, they employ their friends and family to alert them to any behaviours which may be standing in the way of their success so they can add it to their ‘action list’ and include it to within their self awareness.
- It’s not you, it’s me. They have the insight to know that anything which exists in their head or among their behaviours, belongs to them and therefore can be changed or altered by them from unhelpful to helpful at any point they choose. In other words, they stay away from the victim position. They choose to own their life and their behaviours.
- They blast their limiting beliefs into a million pieces. Once they’ve recognized what’s holding them back, where their fear is coming from, they put it in front of a wall and employ their internal tour of duty guns to blast it from this universe. Anything which is unhelpful, is swiftly maneuvered out of the way.
- Team fear! They surround themselves with the right kind of team and support. So when their adrenaline kicks in and it can’t be resolved, shot to a million pieces, self analysed the hell out of here, they have access to the right support to help them process it helpfully.
- I believe I can fly. Probably the most important, they never lose belief in their dreams and themselves.
So next time your stage beckons, take a deep breath, dust off your go-get-em shades, blast away your limiting beliefs and engage your fear to drive you forward towards your success.
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