Defying The F-Word

December 7, 2015

The hermit crab lives in a salvaged empty shell. As it continues to grow, this shell eventually starts to pinch. The crab must then move into a new shell or die: its price for not changing is the steepest imaginable. So the crab leaves its shell and for a time is naked and vulnerable, an easy target for predators… Until it finds a new, bigger shell. What bliss when it does! It will live in its new home, enjoying the change it has made.

Your shell pinches every time you think as a business professional, “What can I do better, and what should I be doing that I’m not doing right now?” So what stops us from moving into a more comfortable shell?

We’re going to tackle the dreaded f-word here. Fear is a wily opponent and wears many clever disguises. I often hear leaders complain, “This wouldn’t work in my organisation / my culture / the work I do.” Fear can make you shut down before you even start. You blame your context and think, “If only I were somewhere else.”

But wherever you go, and even if your context changes, that fear will remain like an ever-present shadow cast by your doubts. Self-censorship, risk aversion, change resistance, and self-sabotage are all propagated by fear.

Fear manifests through procrastination (i.e. “I’ll start that next week.”) wearing a deceptive action disguise: it’s going to happen, just not now. “Not now” soon turns into never. Fear’s most dangerous mask, however, is perfectionism – the arch nemesis of execution. Perfectionism is procrastination’s smiling, cherubic posterchild.

In The War of Art (one of my all-time favourite books) author Steve Pressfield talks about strategies to overcome your resistance, the word he uses for fear. His number one principle is showing up to do the work. As Woody Allan famously said, “Eighty per cent of success is showing up.”

Nothing is more important than showing up – at the gym, or for that tough conversation, or just being mentally and emotionally prepared to make challenging changes. Showing up means you’ve already won your first round against fear.

What are your fear defying strategies?

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