Is Fear Running Your Business?

We’re all afraid of something in life, whether it’s heights, spiders, or our in-laws. It’s completely natural and a part of being human. Fear also serves an essential purpose — it’s why most of us don’t jump off of cliffs, drive 100 mph, or gamble away our life savings. At its best, fear protects us from life’s most serious dangers. But at its worst, it can hold us back from achieving our true potential.

As logical as we think we are, emotion drives many of our actions. If you need proof, just look at your business marketing. It’s probably not designed to inform alone — and if it is, it’s missing the boat. You want your customers and prospects to feel something, whether it’s a connection, relief, hope, or even fear.

Though it has pros and cons, fear sells because it guides our decision-making. And it’s not just about the things we do or don’t buy. Fear can color all aspects of our lives without us knowing, and it can even keep our businesses from flourishing.

Fear Of The Unknown

As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably already overcome a fear of the unknown just to get started. You may think that’s all behind you — after all, you took the leap. What’s left to fear? 

Unfortunately, there’s a lot. Your business may not be new, but you’re constantly facing new challenges and decisions, and there’s a first time for everything. It can all be scary — creating a position at your company, starting a marketing campaign, or offering an untried product or service. Since the venture is new, you don’t know what to expect. Soon, you might find yourself procrastinating without even understanding how fear is stopping you.

Anything new we try is inherently risky, but as you know, wise risks have a lot of value. Consider whether the fear is coming from a logical place. If it is, reconsider your decision. If it’s not, ask yourself what you’re waiting for.

Fear Of Failure

Fear of failure symbol. Wooden blocks with words 'fear of failure'. Beautiful canvas background, copy space. Business, fear of failure concept.

All business owners (actually, all humans) have to also contend with a fear of failure. A lot of us tie our sense of self-worth to our success. If we fail, we might ask ourselves, who am I? Will my family and colleagues still respect me? Will I have enough money to care for the people I love? With so many things that could go wrong, isn’t it safer to maintain the status quo?

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Of course, you’ll also miss some of the ones you do. But without trying at all, you are succumbing to a slower, quieter form of failure. In the end, you might really just be afraid of others watching you crash and burn. If you are, consider whether what other people think is worth losing your chance at success.

Fear Of Success

Few entrepreneurs will admit to a fear of success. The desire to succeed is why you went into business! How could you possibly be afraid of your biggest dreams?

In truth, when we succeed, our lives change — and we’re not always sure how. Will you have more responsibility than you can handle? Will your relationships suffer? Are you good enough to maintain your success? And if you become successful, won’t it hurt even more when you fail?

Business man afraid of his own shadow monster concept on grungy background

Fear of success is sneaky. It rarely appears as a fully formed thought or realization. Instead, it shows in our actions or lack thereof. Putting off the things you need to do, backing away from responsibility, refusing to accept praise, or believing you’re asking for too much — these are all symptoms. If you’re deferring decisions and avoiding what needs to get done, you might be more afraid of success than you realize.

The Bottom Line

If you want to overcome your fears, you first have to admit what they are — even if it’s only to yourself. You can only begin to address your fear rationally after you acknowledge it. Whether you fear failure, bankruptcy, disappointing your family, or something else, write it down in as much detail as you can, then ask yourself why you’re so afraid. Next, consider how that fear is impacting your decision-making and business growth. Finally, objectively and dispassionately assess the truth. How likely is your fear to actually come true? And is that likelihood worth holding yourself back?

Only you can answer those questions for yourself. Maybe your fear is actually performing its protective purpose. But what if it’s keeping you from achieving your dreams? You won’t know until you dare to face your fears head on. Fear is a part of us all, but only you can decide whether to let it control your destiny.

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