Whether you realise it or it is fear on some level that usually holds you back from taking action in an area of your life.
When I go to see clients and I start working with them if it turns out they don’t like making phone calls or they don’t like going to networking events, at the end of the day it’s all about fear and this fear comes up because of how we think about things that causes us to feel in a certain way.
A great question I always ask myself if I am fearful about a situation or I’ve got a situation I’m uncertain about is:
What must I believe about the situation, myself or people in general in order to feel like this?
I remember long ago when I used to feel very uncomfortable making calls, like sales calls or similar things. I’d ask myself that question—“What must I believe about the situation, myself or people in general in order to feel like this?” and then the answers came up:
Well, perhaps they’ll think I’m pushy.
Perhaps they think I shouldn’t be calling them.
Perhaps they’ll think I’m interrupting.
As soon as I start to get those answers I know what it is that’s making me feel awkward and I can look to rationalize them and get my head around why it isn’t really such a problem to go ahead anyway.
So for example, perhaps they’ll think I’m interrupting them. Well, if they don’t want to be interrupted they shouldn’t answer the phone. Perhaps they should have voicemail. That would be a way I would rationalize that particular aspect in my head.
It’s very important to find out when you have a fear about a certain situation to notice when you think about it what do you imagine happening?
In these fear situations we usually run pictures very quickly in our heads of how we think the scene or situation might play out. We also say things to ourselves or remember things other people once said to us that will cause us to get that fearful feeling. It all happens very quickly and you have to pay attention and be curious and realise what you are doing to yourself in order be fearful in the situation.
So when you think about a situation or activity that you fear what do you imagine happening? Do you see pictures in your mind? If you see pictures do you see yourself in the picture or do you just see the outside world view as if looking around?
When I used to have a fear of making phone calls I’d have this black and white picture in my head pop up which was of the person at their desk with the phone in their hand looking very angry. I didn’t see myself in the picture at all. I just saw them.
If all this sounds quite weird and unusual just start thinking about something you really love to do. If you’re going to go on a holiday how do you think about it? When you’re getting excited about a holiday or Christmas or an event that’s coming up you imagine it in your mind. You make pictures in your mind of it. You say things to yourself about it and you probably talk to yourself in your head in a very upbeat tonality going, “Oh yes, it will be really great when we get on the holiday. I am really looking forward to that. I can’t wait until we get to the hotel, we check in, we relax, we have fun, we go to the beach”—all those sorts of things. Well, you probably think about the things you fear in a very different way and if you start thinking about the things you fear in a different way too and you start changing that inner voice to be a bit more upbeat and a bit more focused and you imagine things going well you could actually start to feel better about it. If you start thinking about all the things that could go right rather than all the things that could go wrong, that too would be a massive step forward.
This was the biggest thing that I was doing wrong when I used to hate speaking in public. I used to be the world’s worst at standing up and speaking anywhere. If I was at an event and somebody said, “Mark, will you stand up and say a few words?” I’d make any excuse to get out of that room quick because all I would see in my head and all I would think about is it all going wrong. I’d see myself panicking, forgetting the words I was going to say, people not being interested. I’d even imagine passing out.
Once I realized that and I started thinking about how good it could it be if I shared some information with people, if I made them laugh, if I had something that they could make use of and how good I’d feel if I actually got over this and was able to stand up and speak to people, gradually I started to feel better about it and over time I got to the stage like I am now where I love the opportunity to stand up and speak absolutely anywhere and I get disappointed when the my time slot is over.
It’s all about first getting conscious and aware of what’s going on in your head—what are you saying to yourselves and what you are picturing.
A great strategy is to think about how good it will be (and how good you will feel) five minutes after that event is over—what will you be doing five minutes after it’s finished? Will you be relaxing, thinking, “Great, that’s over” Well, that’s fine if that’s the case but thinking about how good it will be five minutes after is an amazing new path or strategy to get through a call, a meeting or something you’re not looking forward to because when we experience fear our mind says to us “There is nothing beyond this” and we don’t think any further but as soon as we think about how good it will be five minutes after the event or the situation it says to our brain “You know, you survived this. We’ll get through this” and it helps you feel a bit better about it.
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