Going through any major changes in your life can be confronting – and trying to change things in your business is no different.

One of the primary things that holds us back from achieving ‘success’ in this process is the fear of change. Often this fear of change is extremely debilitating, either slowing progress, or ultimately derailing and stopping the whole show.  The trick is to know how to use this fear to gain momentum for change, rather than letting it keep you stuck or giving up altogether.

Every human emotion, including fear, has served a purpose in the evolution of the species.  Fear emanates from the oldest, most primitive part of our brain called the lizard brain.  This part of the brain is responsible for our fight, flight or freeze responses.  Its job is to keep us safe.  The only problem is that in this modern world, the perceived danger is often not an external threat. Rather, it is an imagined threat created entirely by our thoughts.

What are we afraid of?

Making changes in your business often requires going out on a limb, and out of your comfort zone. It necessitates doing things differently, and going against the established mould. In agriculture, this is a big thing, especially in family businesses, or in close knit communities.

  • Many people are deeply afraid of failing in this process. They can’t bear the thought of feeling embarrassed and humiliated. ‘What will other people think?’
  • Others are afraid of actually succeeding which to them could mean loss of a certain lifestyle or even friends and family. ‘My friends won’t like me if I’m successful.’  (Note that the Tall Poppy Syndrome is very prevalent in Australia).
  • Still others fear loss of freedom that could come with change. ‘I’ll have to work all the time if my business is successful.’

What does this fear look like?

When fear strikes and the lizard brain takes over, this can manifest in several ways:

  • Feeling overwhelmed. ‘It’s all too much.  Why did I ever think I could do this?’
  • Procrastination – more research, more preparation, more discussions, another meeting, ‘I’m not quite ready yet.’
  • Get busy doing other stuff – there is always something else that has to be done. Many people default to busyness to escape feeling challenged or threatened. ‘I’m so busy – no one can say I’m not doing anything.’
  • Throwing blame and shame onto others to make you feel better and create a distraction from the main game. ‘I couldn’t do my task because Greg hadn’t finished his!’
  • Do nothing, give up, settle for what you already have. ‘I’m really quite comfortable where I am.  Why would I put myself through all that angst – and it might not work anyway.’

How to manage the fear

Many are conscious of when their actions are being dictated by fear, and can take steps to salvage the situation before it is too late. However others may be completely unaware of why they are acting the way they do, and the fact that they are in essence being ruled by the fear.

How do we manage this fear so it doesn’t hinder us in making progress and reaching our potential?

  1. The very first thing to do is to acknowledge you’re feeling afraid (many simply have that ‘uncomfortable’ feeling, or they know they are acting out of sorts). Ask yourself what the fear represents.  Am I scared of failing?  Am I scared of being seen (tall poppy syndrome)? Become more self-aware of what holds you back.
  2. Take one small step in the direction you want to go. This will ensure you stay on track with your planning and also won’t throw you into overwhelm.
  3. Seek out support if you need to. Talk to someone about what you’re going through.  Sometimes our thought patterns keep fuelling the fear so we need to find a way to break the cycle.  Sharing with someone who can give you a different perspective or encourage you to keep going will be enough to break the pattern.
  4. Celebrate the small wins. Often we’re so focussed on the big goal at the end that we forget to acknowledge all the small achievements along the way.  Be kind to yourself.
  5. Sometimes, it’s important just to remember to breathe. Take three long, slow, deep breaths and exhale fully.  This will take you out of fight, flight or flee mode by calming the mind and relaxing the body.  Clear your head, and then you can work out what to do next.

When next confronted with fear around a new venture or opportunity, or doing things differently, remember:

‘Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.’

Suzie Kassem

Harness your fear and turn it in another direction to give you the momentum you need to achieve your goals.

 

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