“We’ll do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.” Whether we’re talking about our personal experiences or professional endeavors, this insightful quote from Tony Robbins rings true. Think about your life at home and at work. We have goals. We have dreams. We also have fears. And all too often, our fears keep us from chasing those goals and dreams.
Dr. Seuss wrote about fear in his obscure book, What Was I Scared Of. Throughout the book, the main character continuously sees a pair of empty green pants that seem to be chasing him. He runs away scared, trying to avoid the pants. Eventually, the protagonist and the pants wind up in a snide bush together, and he discovers the mysterious pants were just as frightened of him as he was of them.
For most of my life, I was afraid of needles — an unfounded fear based on nothing. So, when I was writing my bucket list several years ago, I placed “overcoming my fear of needles” at the top of that list. I even came up with a plan to accomplish my goal. I would get a tattoo. Pretty brave, right? I should also mention that since that time, I avoided tattoo shops like the Dr. Seuss character steered clear of the rogue green pants. And much like his unfounded fear of those pants, my illogical fear of needles gave me angst. I tried to avoid it. I tried to forget about it. I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. But no matter what I did, the fear kept nagging me. What was I scared of?
I spent three years avoiding my fear, but this past weekend, I finally had enough. While I was in one of my favorite cities, I decided it was time to take action. I walked past the tattoo shop twice. As I passed by a third time, it looked busy, so I wandered in assuming the wait would be too long. I was wrong. They had an opening on the schedule. I was out of excuses, and I was standing face-to-face with my personal version of those empty green pants.
My fear had controlled me for years, and before I was called back to the tattoo artist’s studio, it made one last attempt to hold me back. Rehearsing all my old excuses, I worked myself up as I waited. But when my name was called, I got up and walked back to face my fear. Sure, I turned white. I sweated. I was dramatic. I almost passed out. But none of these reactions were because of the pain; that was minimal. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it pain. It was a minor irritation. My fear was all in my head.
When we experience fear, it’s usually because we don’t have enough information. We operate on false assumptions. We don’t ask the right questions. We don’t try to gain a better perspective. And the worst part is that we let fear drive decisions that are far more important than whether we should or shouldn’t get a tattoo. In strategic planning and everyday business decisions, we let unfounded fear keep us from doing the things we need to do to be successful.
Perhaps a poorly performing employee continues to drag your team down because you’re afraid of confrontation. Or maybe you stick with the same core processor year after year, renewal after renewal, because you fear change (and the potential issues that come with it). Some people avoid making a name change or launching a rebranding campaign because they fear what legacy members might think or how many members will close their accounts. No matter what your individual fear might be, if you choose to gain perspective, take decisive action, and embrace positive change, you’ll quickly realize that the terrible outcome you feared is as harmless as an empty pair of pale green pants.
So, what’s on your personal bucket list that fear is keeping you from accomplishing? Is it worth getting to the end and wondering “what if” instead of experiencing “what’s possible?” Professionally speaking, what’s the change you know you need to make — the one that you keep putting off because you’re afraid? 2019 isn’t over yet. You still have time to conquer that fear. Quit running from those empty green pants. Stop, turn around, and face them.