Have you ever been truly afraid?

Scared, terrified, shocked—as our kids pick out their Halloween costumes and the country indulges in candy and scary stories, we hear these words used all the time. This time of year gives us a great opportunity to take a moment and contemplate something that may make us uncomfortable: what am I afraid of? The initial response may be large spiders or heights, or maybe public speaking. When we think further into it, however, at the heart of many business owner’s fears are two monstrous concepts: failure, and the unknown.

For some, fear can be a great motivator. For many of us, it can be debilitating; often it’s difficult to take a step when that step could be in the wrong direction. The uncertainty of the future is also sure to keep many a business owner up at night. How can we push past these fears, and use them to drive ourselves, to motivate our actions, and to ultimately achieve success?

Like many psychological processes, the first step to enacting change in your life is often acceptance. We are all human, and (trust me) we all make mistakes. Yes, even the world’s top business people, CEOs, and entrepreneurs—they all stumbled and fell at some point. But, they didn’t let it keep them from pursuing their goals and achieving success. Once you can come to terms with the fact that no matter what you do, you will indeed stumble, you can stop hesitating before you act. It doesn’t matter if the step you take is in the wrong direction anymore– you can always take a new step in the right one.

Fear or Excitement? 

Once you’ve come to terms with the reality that you are, in fact, mortal, perspective becomes key. Have you ever heard the saying that fear and excitement are actually the same sensation, it’s just the way you perceive it? According to Psychology Today, the part of the brain that processes fear also processes excitement; in fact, there is very little physiological difference between the two emotions. Studies have even shown that if you anticipate or expect fear – perhaps like during a haunted house or a scary movie—your brain activates the “nucleus accumbens”, which is the reward center of the brain[1]. So, the logic is quite simple: you fear the unknown because it is just that—uncertain and unpredictable. The fear of failure ties into this; you can never know if your next decision will surely result in success. But, if you can learn to accept the fact that some degree of failure is inevitable, and learn to anticipate this fear, you can change an otherwise unpleasant experience into a tolerable one.

Moving Forward

Does this mean that we should be okay with failure? Not necessarily. Understanding that failure is an inevitable part of life is not succumbing to it. The next step in dealing with this fear is about understanding every failure is not a curse, but a gift. The universe is giving you an incredible, golden opportunity—it just depends on if you take advantage of it! How we deal with failure is such an integral part of who we are. Do you let failure roll off your back? Do you sit and stew and beat yourself up about it? Do you take the time to reflect on how and why you failed in the first place? And, most importantly, do you learn from that failure—and never make that mistake again?

Once you can learn to treat failures as a slightly unpleasant, unavoidable, valuable part of your life and business, you can truly learn to not only overcome your fears, but harness them. Imagine if you laughed in the face of uncertainty, or if you bought a ticket to your own failure, just like you buy a ticket to a horror film. You pay the movie theatre to accelerate your heart rate and scare the living daylights out of you—why not save the money and learn to enjoy your own fears yourself?

This Halloween, as you examine the parts of your life and business that truly terrify you, remember to take a step back, change your perspective, and thank the universe for the opportunity you’ve been given. Then put on your brave face and get back out there— you only need to get back up one more time than you fall!

UpdatePromise’s blog CEO Corner is updated every other week with original content from our CEO, Curtis Nixon. If you’d like to know more about UpdatePromise, or to subscribe to our blog, visit our home page at www.updatepromise.com


[1] Psychology Today, “Predictable Fear”