One of the many great quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt is, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Any time of change can mean living in our discomfort zone and, often, needing to raise our fears and having a plan for how to manage them. Notice the word “manage” here – not “conquer” or “combat” or any other word that implies “banishment.”
Our fears are always with us – they’re a part of who we are – not to be vanquished, as that doesn’t really happen. It’s more about mitigating our fears and learning that what we’re afraid of can be something that propels us forward, even if we fail initially.
My favorite definition of courage is to have fear and then do what needs to be done anyway because it’s the right thing to do or is what will get you to your ultimate goal or vision. Speaking from experience, as someone who was confronted with a cancer diagnosis this year and had to go through treatment, fear was looking me right in my face.
What did I do? I spent my free time while I was going through all of this reinventing my branding and offerings in my business and then launched a radio show once I was fully recovered. Scary? Yes, definitely. I’m not one who has a love affair with social media and putting myself out there so much was a definite fear. And yet, I knew that if I really wanted to grow my audience for my business, something had to give and I couldn’t keep going on as I had, shying away from social media and attention.
Do I still have the fear? Yes! It doesn’t go away; it’s just that now I channel my energy differently and think about it differently – that it’s something to spur me on to better myself and support people as they go through some reinvention themselves.
The above photo is a favorite gift I received from the former CEO of a professional membership association I worked for much earlier in my career with that excellent, provocative question, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” It’s a weighty question (no pun intended – the gift’s a paperweight). As you can see, it has a lot of scratches and dings on it and has been around the block a few times, much like me. It’s true that the best learning is in our failures.
I’m also a firm believer that often the greatest progress we make in our careers and lives comes out of recognizing and managing our fears, dings and all. Will 2021 become the year you experience this too?