Sometimes the ladder you are climbing isn't leaning against the right house.
Regrettably, there are some companies which systemically churn and burn employees. No amount of pivoting and adapting to the situation or cultivating self-awareness, emotional intelligence or taking care of our mindset and wellbeing will improve things in the workplace. For the sake of our health, sometimes we just need to realise and accept that the ladder we are on is not leaning against the right house, and we need to move on. However, taking the step to move on is often easier said than done for two main reasons: Institutionalisation and Fear.
The longer we stay in a company, the more we become institutionalised. We adopt the belief that there are no other options out there for us, and we justify to ourselves that things aren’t that bad where we are. We fear change, the unknown, exposure, failure, judgement, and losing control. And, all of these fears become compounded when we become bogged down with life and fail to nourish our physical and mental health. In effect, when we don’t feel great and at our best, it becomes easy to limit the vision we have for ourselves based on our current circumstances.
But here’s the thing – if we allow our fears to take hold of us, then we can end up living in regret, stagnation, complacency and a deep feeling of helplessness and unhappiness. And so, to avoid this, we need to learn to release the False Expectations Appearing Real.
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Fear is a natural part of our natural human makeup that starts in childhood (Don’t touch that… Don’t talk to strangers) and evolves into adulthood where we become inundated with messages of fear, from society, the media as well as people around us. These messages of concern, as well as our past experiences, formulate our makeup and understanding of our world, which then creates mental roadblocks in our mind and can prevent us from making meaningful changes in our lives.
The main reason why I did not change jobs and careers sooner than I did is that I had an intense fear of failure. I feared the consequences of throwing away my job and abandoning my career. The inner critic in my mind, which can be a real doomsayer, would squawk fears at me, and, for a long time, I listened to and gave authority to this pessimistic critic. I was secure doing a job that I was familiar with, and my inner critic fed me stories that reinforced my need for security.
You might not make it on your own; you might and probably will fail. People will judge you for failing. Your failure will be criticised. What if things do not work out? What if you don’t make any money? What if you make a mistake?
I was eventually able to tame my inner critic when I began to read about people who inspire me; the athletes, the businessmen and women, the disabled and abled, the persecuted, the challenged and the gifted. I devoured books on and by inspirational people, and, the more I read, the more apparent it became to me that all of these remarkable people in pursuit of their dreams had failed at some point, and in the vast majority of cases, several times. Yet, despite these failures, they persisted, got back up and demonstrated immense resilience and determination.
Reading about these inspirational people empowered me to tune out my ego and fears, and gradually I began to hear the faint cries of my inner wisdom whisper You will make it. You will succeed. You will not fail. If you fail, you will be okay. What is the worst that can happen?
And when I asked myself, what was the worst that could happen? I realised that the worst had already happened – I had suffered from burnout, anxiety and depression. And, I had come out on the other side, and, with this realisation, I knew that I could endure more challenges and obstacles should they arise in the pursuit of my dreams.
To move past fear, we need to:
The steps we can take to mitigate fear are:
Using our imagination:
"We suffer more in imagination than in reality"
Many years ago, I used to be a professional worrier – I was exceptionally astute at imagining and predicting future issues, threats and dramas. I worried about all sorts of things that I had no control over. To my mind, if I worried about hypothetical issues, then I would be prepared when said problem arrived. But here’s the thing; the vast majority of things that I worried about never actually occurred. Which means that up until the point that I decided to cease worrying, I had wasted a lot of time fretting about nothing. In effect, I robbed myself of time and peace of mind for nought.
Regrettably, I was not unique in my predilection for worry.
Many people spend their lives worrying, believing that if they control their environment and the people in their lives, that nothing terrible will happen. Worriers attempt to control things to guarantee certainty in their lives because the thought of not having certainty causes them to have high levels of anxiety. However, it is the quest for assurance and certainty that stops worriers from making meaningful and impactful changes in their lives.
I know, because I had been there.
Until ultimately, I had to make changes because worrying got the better of me by turning into chronic anxiety. And dealing with chronic anxiety was much worse than any of the ‘imagined’ problems that I invented in my mind. Hence, it became my quest to lose the worrying, which I did successfully with daily mindset practices. Should you share my penchant for worry, it is crucial to realise the following:
The only things you can control are:
The things outside of your control are:
The things you can influence are:
To learn how to let go of the need to control things, grab a pen and paper and answer the following critical key questions:
As a former control freak, I can share with you that learning how to relinquish worry and control does not in my experience happen overnight, however with continuous practice and awareness the tendency for worry does go away. And, the renewed peace of mind from not being wrought with worry is absolutely worth the effort it takes to let it go.
If you would like coaching on this, reach out to me.
Rejection hurts, however, providing you learn to understand and deal with it, it doesn’t have to define you or set you back.
Several months ago, I applied to be a keynote speaker at a large global corporate conference. And, last week I received a standard one-line email stating that I was not selected and due to the volume of applicants, no specific feedback would be given.
Did the email upset me? Initially, yes, however, I got over it quite quickly because I have learned to deal with rejection positively. Some years ago, I read a book (apologies, I can’t remember the name of it) which stated that to build self-confidence we should become comfortable with collecting “no’s”. Meaning, we need to get comfortable collecting rejections. The idea being that the more we amass rejection, the easier it is to face. Which ultimately then leads us to become incredibly relaxed and confident, chasing every opportunity out there, regardless of any potential rejection that may occur.
I have taken those words of wisdom to heart over the years. As a result of this, I have had many successes from opportunities that I otherwise may not have pursued. And, on the flip-side, I have collected countless ‘no’s’ and have been rejected on multiple occasions.
If you are dealing with rejection or have a fear of rejection, then there are a few things to consider:
You will be rejected more times than you are accepted, and that is okay. It doesn’t mean that you are a failure or undeserving; it just means that you tried and weren’t the right fit for that particular opportunity.
It’s not an excuse to give up - it just means that you need to keep persisting.
A couple of years ago, I participated in the Royal Marines Commando Challenge in the UK. The challenge entailed a 10km run with various obstacles dotted throughout the course. I wasn’t particularly concerned about running 10km or about most of the obstacles; however, I was very fearful and anxious about the dreaded “sheep dip” obstacle.
The “sheep dip” obstacle requires a person to dive underneath a low-level cement bridge in dark, muddy, frigid water with the hope and faith that a Marine on the other side of the bridge will pull you up and out of the water. The thought of diving in muddy water and being enclosed in a tight space that I had to feel my way out of rather than see my way out of frightened me to my core. And, it didn’t help that the Royal Marines Commando Challenge website stated that every Marine dread’s this particular obstacle.
Approximately 7km into the run, and several obstacles later, we finally arrived at the Sheep Dip. As I gazed at the obstacle, I couldn’t help but swear and ask myself what I had gotten myself into. I expressed to the Marine at the obstacle that I was terrified, and he instructed me ever so calmly, “Don’t be, JUST DO IT”.
I felt like I was in a NIKE ad.
Realising that I had to do it to complete the challenge, I swore out loud, took a deep breath and dove under the water where moments later a Marine on the other side of the bridge pulled me up and out of the water. Astounded and in shock that I had actually done it, I quickly recovered my bearings and feeling like a champion, I continued running the final 3k to the finish line.
Sometimes to overcome fear, you have to feel the fear and do it anyway. The very things that cause us fear can often give us confidence once we embrace the fear.
Persistence + Determination = Fear elimination
What does fear stop you from doing?
Fear is the fundamental reason why people do not make changes in their lives or pursue their dreams. Fear of change, exposure, the unknown, failure, judgement and losing control paralyse us from taking action, which leads us to live with regret, stagnation, complacency and a deep feeling of helplessness and unhappiness.
Fear is a natural part of our natural human makeup that starts in childhood (Don’t touch that… Don’t talk to strangers) and evolves into adulthood where we become inundated with messages of fear - from society, the media as well as the people around us. These messages of concern, as well as our past experiences, formulate our makeup and understanding of our world which then creates mental roadblocks in our mind and can prevent us from making meaningful changes in our lives.
A few years ago, my fear of choice was Fear of Failure and what I call What if? disease. Each time I thought about changing careers and pursuing my passions, the mental gremlins in my mind would scream out What if you fail? What if you make a mistake? What if? What if? What if?
Eventually, after years of listening to the mental gremlins and experiencing fundamental unhappiness in my career, I burned out and succumbed to depression. But this still wasn’t enough for me to push past my fears – it wasn’t until I started to suffer from panic attacks that I realised that I needed to make changes to my life and work through my fears.
One of the steps I took to rebuild my health and life was to tune into my fears. Sounds counter-intuitive to turn into fear, right? It’s not. By tuning into our worries, we can begin to understand what is driving the fear, which ultimately takes power out of fear.
For example, in my case, I created counter-responses to my fears:
Fear: What if I fail?
Response: So what? Many people “fail”, yet they pick themselves up, pivot, adapt and try another way. The most successful people in the world fail and survive.
Fear: What if I make a mistake?
Response: So what? Everyone makes mistakes. There is no perfect human being. If I make a mistake, I can take it as a learning experience and move on.
Once I tuned into the fear, acknowledged it, and practised getting comfortable with it daily, I was able to take power out of the doubt, and push past it to the point where I ultimately built a new career and life that I love. Notice how I mentioned that I practised getting comfortable with it daily - I say this because it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention this. I am cognizant of the fact that a blog can sound like solutions to challenges are quick and easy, and this isn’t the case. Working through fear does not happen overnight - it takes daily practice.
Don’t allow your fears to stop you from pursuing your dreams – if I can push past fear, you can too.
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