Is fear and procrastination slowing your business growth? We all wrestle with it in one way or another.
Whether you’re trying to get things perfect, or you’re buried under a mountain of doubt and uncertainty, it’s helpful to know fear and procrastination are part of growth.
While we do need to prepare, it’s a common mistake to think we need to be confident and skillful to move forward on our goals and get results. When we delay, instead of momentum, we’re more likely to scatter our energy on tasks and the demands of others. Actually losing self esteem while trying to get everything perfect to build confidence.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of loneliness and shame about fear and procrastination which everyone on a path of growth experiences, but most entrepreneurs feel too embarrassed to discuss.
I’ve been self employed since my teens, and eventually realized that I’m optimistic to a fault. I tend to reach for the stars and set high goals for myself that require major transformations to achieve. More than once I’ve started a journey ill equipped and unprepared, driven by the raw belief “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. While that shines poetic, the reality was daunting, especially back in the days when I had no template to follow, and needed to transform my character to succeed. In retrospect, those transformations are my proudest moments.
I remember my first day as a stockbroker in Toronto in the early 80’s. I was sitting in shock at my desk after a week of orientation. Through that orientation I’d discovered the phone wouldn’t be ringing of the hook with investors seeking my words of wisdom. Back then, I was a painfully self-conscious but driven 23 year old, the first female among 120 men in the “bull pen” of this Bay Street company, and I could feel a lot of male eyes were curious to see how I would do.
I was expected to pull call lists from the “Who’s Who” and other directories, prepare my introduction and start “cold calling”. As you can imagine, there was a lot of fear and procrastination like organizing my desk, studying stuff and buying office supplies that I can only describe as demoralizing before I got into a steady flow.
It took time, but gradually my persistence gathered into basic skills and yielded a few results, which boosted my confidence. That nub of confidence gave me enough traction to dig in and improve, and it wasn’t long before I was getting great results.
Fast forward 2 years, I was asked to manage a sales team, which opened yet another cycle of vulnerability and rapid growth… yet this time, not quite so shocking or daunting, because I had more faith in myself and the process.
My point is, it’s natural to freeze, procrastinate or be tempted to bury yourself in distractions when you’re faced with a daunting task. Unfortunately, if you get stuck in this limbo, it will destroy your self esteem, build bad habits, and cost your business dearly.
Three Obstacles To Building Capacity and Confidence
So, why do we find it so difficult to cut through fear and procrastination… and how can you move into decisive action?
1) Not Knowing Where to Start – To Stake Your Claim
Most entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed starting their first business, or scaling it to the next level. Starting out, there’s enormous pressure to take brave actions, get momentum, develop new skills, and attract clients as soon as possible. Overnight, a mountain of skills and complexity has appeared that you hadn’t realized was there, looming large and daunting.
In the shadow of the mountain, we can feel very small, inept and unprepared. Most of us aren’t prepared for how much we have to do and overcome, just to make a profit. Its a lot, so its natural to feel the need to regroup, to gather the skills and confidence to move forward.
The problem is that conquering doubt, fear and procrastination doesn’t require skills or confidence… it requires a “good enough” plan, courage and decisive action… putting one foot in front of the other to get traction and forward momentum.
A good enough plan involves setting clear priorities, and getting focused on your steps (and schedule) to achieve them.
It takes courage to walk into new territory, even with a map to follow… not confidence.
Consider courage and decisive action the act of staking your claim in your market. Through decisive action you’ll learn what works and develop the skills to succeed. It’s getting skillful and verifying your ability to climb mountains that builds confidence.
2) Cognitive Dissonance
Walking into unknown territory is disorienting and uncomfortable. It gets easier as you become more adaptable and accustomed to change.
Sometimes, when you use your brain in new ways, like learning a totally new skill, being presented with a different perspective or even trying to memorize a dance sequence, you can experience cognitive dissonance. You know… the weirdly chaotic, fog and confusion that can surface when your brain is asked to process new behaviors and concepts?
It happens because your brain creates pathways that link to other pathways to process information. With repetition they become ingrained and inform how we perceive ourselves (including our abilities and values) and the world around us.
Limiting beliefs around charging fair value, public speaking or using new technology are common examples… so are movements that requires new forms of motor control.
Cognitive dissonance, is the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses is usually relieved with defensive maneuvers: such as rejecting, rationalizing, or avoid the new information; to persuade ourselves that no conflict really exists. It’s a control mechanism and way of preserving stability or order in our conceptions of the world and of ourselves.
It feels chaotic and confusing because ingrained neural networks soften and detach, which has us feeling lost, and out of control until new pathways form. The brain starts searching for new routes to process the new activity, perspective or information.
As entrepreneurs we are on a continuous journey of capacity building and character change with every level of business growth. Recognizing the signs and learning to navigate cognitive dissonance is a key skill if you want to adapt and grow.
The secret is to be patient, and stay centered, open and curious. Before long, the confusion in your mind will clear, tension or anxiety in your neck, chest or solar plexus will dissipate and your brain will reorganize itself to generate solutions by creating new neural pathways.
As your brain becomes more agile and your range of motion expands, you’ll become more adaptable and resilient in general.
That’s the role of your brain, to figure out how to help you achieve your goals. The best approach is to observe your reactions and outcomes and simply let it do its job.
3) Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is mostly about the fear of looking foolish or inept. It’s a daunting hurdle, because social acceptance is a basic need for our survival and happiness. That’s a challenge for entrepreneurs because our expert status is directly linked to our income and networking success.
Fear and procrastination doesn’t feel good or comfortable and neither does the courage phase of growth. We know we run the risk of looking inept, and losing credibility…
Don’t let that stop you.
In the bigger picture, taking decisive action supports our self esteem, while staying frozen in procrastination erodes it, causing us to shrink inward – becoming more evasive, frustrated and invisible with each passing day, week, month and year.
It’s decisive actions, not perfection that will elevate you above the crowd, most of whom are stuck as well.
The faster we get at taking decisive action, the sooner we learn what works and what doesn’t. So resolve to take decisive action, stay focused and persevere. As I’ve said above, capacity and confidence will follow.
Courage comes from vulnerability and confidence comes from experience… So, do your best to get things right, but drop any need to armor yourself with false bravado, which is the root of imposter syndrome, making everything more complicated.
Actually, as you move into decisive action, you’ll see the folks doing the judging, are usually projecting their own self-dissatisfaction. The action takers will be giving you helpful tips and cheering you on!
You’ll soon discover that honoring your vulnerability as you grow your business, makes you wiser. It’s a great way to qualify your core group of clients, mentors and anyone else you want to align yourself with.
Self Mastery Takeaways
- You have to start with courage, and decisive action to develop your skills. Then you’ll build the confidence to believe in your abilities.
- Courageously moving through confusion, fear of rejection and feelings of inadequacy is part of growth. It takes the charge out of any shame, blame and embarrassment that keeps you frozen and stuck.
- Moving forward to build your skills and confidence while honoring your vulnerability allows you to open your heart, enjoy honest, enriching relationships, and create success in life and business.