What to Do When You’re Petrified: 10 keys to keep fear from winning the day

Portrait of a scared woman covering her lips over gray background. Looking at camera

Yeah, I get scared.

I know you probably think that success comes bundled with immunity from the late nights and unexpected afternoons, when fear makes an unannounced visit to your door. And seems to stop you cold from doing the things you know you want to do, to get where you want to go.

But it just doesn’t work that way.

Sure, the more launches, videos, webinars and talks you do, and the more money you make the anxiety level lowers.

But if you’re growing (and I know you are), reaching higher (which I know you’re doing) and pushing your boundaries, at some point a real showstopper of a ‘nasty” is going to plop into your lap.

That brick wall the whispers, “Who the hell do you think you are? And just what do you think you’re doing?”

It’s irrational. Unpredictable. And confounding.

And if you’re not prepared to deal with it … the immobilization can not only keep you from reaching for your own brass ring – the connection, freedom and lifestyle that are the rewards of a successful business.

But can keep you from delivering that difference that elevates your own clients and customers out of the dark dungeons of stuck-ness in their own lives. Which would suck.

So I thought: Wouldn’t it be helpful to share a few of the cool ideas I’ve used to move through the dark nights of my own entrepreneurial soul. So you could not only move through yours … but then add your ideas to the mix?

The goal is not abolishing fear from your life. If you’re always reaching for new heights, and daring to go places you haven’t been, I don’t think that’s possible.

The key is to never let it have the final word.

When the going gets tough, the tough go to Starbucks

Yeah, you guys know Starbucks is my satellite office. But I find when I’m caught up in the mind racing haze of all the things that “might go wrong”, getting away to my favorite Starbucks (or maybe even a new one I’ve never been to before) quiets the noise, helps me see things as they really are, and moves me into action instead of just stewing in it.

I am always surprised (and profoundly grateful) how big an impact a simple change of surroundings can have.

Surrender to your strength

OK, you’re going to totally think I’ve lost it. But when I’m feeling apprehensive or blocked about moving ahead on something, writing an email, sales page or blog post really helps. Why?

I enjoy writing. It’s a strength of mine. And when you surround yourself and surrender to your strengths, you’re reminded of how much you have to offer. And the fear feels like a distant whisper instead of an incessant pounding.

Get physical

Getting out to the gym (or even having a workout to look forward to) gets me out of my head and into my body. And out of the fantasies of what I’m afraid might happen and into what’s actually happening.

Lifting. Sweating. Stretching. Workouts are a great pattern interrupt for negative thoughts, and a great way to tap into your internal energy to elevate your mood, outlook and creativity.

Visit your parents

I’m serious. A wise person once said, “If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your parents.” Now I realize many of our parents are no longer be around. But I’m sure there is a relative, friend, colleague that really pushes your buttons. Sometimes getting out of fear can be as simple as substituting something that actually pushes your buttons, for something you only believe will push your buttons.

Reasonable expectations

I see this running rampant in the entrepreneurial community:

“I have 50 people on my list, and I’m not a millionaire yet. What’s wrong?” “I gave my Signature Talk for the first time and I only made a few sales. I must be the lowest of the low!” “People aren’t fawning over me and kissing my feet at networking events … I must be scum!”

Guys can we stop with the inflated expectations? Part of what’s driving your fear is the mistaken belief you’re supposed to create massive success instantly.

Understand I am not asking you to lower your goals or your compromise what you want. I’m saying that cutting yourself some slack in your timetable will greatly reduce the fear you experience on the way.

Find a focus that’s bigger than your fear

I recently asked a millionaire business owner the key to their success, and their answer surprised me. “Desperation!” she said. “I was a single Mom with kids to feed, and I didn’t want them going without.” Yep, compared with feeding your kids, making a few phone calls after a networking event is small potatoes.

Having a worthy goal that is profoundly powerful, that you are driven to achieve, can do a lot to short circuit your fear. You may even find yourself taking action before you remember, “Oh, I’m supposed to be afraid of this.”

What can you give?

Much of fear is profoundly self-centered. It’s the feeling that the fate of the world rests on whether you nail your presentation (or whatever else you have in the hopper). And when I fall into this trap myself, what gets me out of it is focusing on what I can give … as opposed to worrying about what will happen if I do (or don’t) succeed.

Now notice I didn’t say “Give away the store!” (which is a whole other issue and blog post). But when you’re focused on what you can give and the impact you can make, much of the self-absorption that powers many of our most profound fears dissolves away.

Is it real?

This one’s a little intellectual. (And since I already think too much, it doesn’t always work for me). But take a look at what you’re afraid of and ask: Is that really real? And if it is … would it be the final word? Would it be something you could never recover from?

Many years ago I suffered through perhaps my least successful launch. I had worked my butt off on it, and it tanked. Ouch! So I gave myself a half-hour to be totally consumed by my “it’s the end of the world!” feeling. And once I discovered the world went on pretty much as it had before my launch tanked, I asked myself “Is there anything that would have prevented this?”

There was. And it was so simple and silly I couldn’t believe I had missed it. The following year ended up as my most successful ever, with a 50% increase in revenue. End of the world, indeed!

Break it down: The Rule of “Threes”

Sometimes fear comes from the belief or feeling we have a lot on our plate. Or the action we are afraid to take will move us closer to a situation that scares us even more.

This happened recently as I was making edits on a sales page for a new offering I was about to roll out. I was resisting it because once the sales page was done, the launch would start. And once the launch starts … who knows what will happen?

(Yes, I know good things could happen too. But I couldn’t stop the scary stuff from playing an endless loop in the YouTube theater of my mind).

When you are stuck because your mind is racing into the future, what breaks the logjam is forgetting about the implications of what you’re about to do, by breaking it down into a simple steps:

  • “Can I log into WordPress? Yes.”
  • “Can I go to the sales page inside WordPress? Yes.” (So far so good!!)
  • “Can I navigate to the place in the page where I need to make my first edit? Yes.”

Suddenly, I’m into action. I’m into a flow. And before I know it, the sales page is done before I had a chance to remember what I was afraid of.

I call this “The Rule of Threes”: If I can find 3 small simple actions I’m not afraid to do, I’m suddenly into a flow that supersedes and overpowers any sense of anxiety I had about that task.

Which brings us to …

Flow Rules!

Flow is that connection with an internal momentum or rhythm that neutralizes almost all other bad feelings, including fear. It’s what happens when you’re reading a really good book, having a really good run or workout, or engrossed in creating something powerful.

Flow is like the King piece in chess. All the other pieces can only move in one way. The King can move any way it wants.

And while fear is the enemy of flow there’s a sliver lining: Fear and flow can’t exist in the same place. Flow is like one of those Super Munchers in the old Pac-Man game that eats fear alive. Flow is fear’s Kryptonite. It’s the all-powerful antidote that is your key to getting through your block.

Key Secret:

Most of the avenues in this post are actually tricks to get you into flow. Flow is like anesthesia for fear. In fact, when you’re in flow, you will probably forget what you’re supposed to be scared about.

I could go on … and this post could be a million words long, (and you don’t have time to read a million words). But you do have time to write a few of your own.

Which is how you can help make this post totally awesome:

What are some of the ways you move through fear? Post them in the comments below. You never know how many people what you share will help. And then bookmark this post so you can return to it again and again when you need it.

8 Responses to What to Do When You’re Petrified: 10 keys to keep fear from winning the day

  1. Love this Rob! Your articles are always chock full of useful, practical stuff. 😊
    Love all 10 of yours and I would add my formula for dealing with fear is:
    F – face it and feel it
    E – embrace it
    A – accept it (let go the judgement of being in that state)
    R – Release it

    Its amazing how often it disappears just by acknowledging it!

    • Excellent Helen! Great contribution from you that I know will help a lot of folks.

  2. Thank you! Excellent advice that I’m going to save.

    It is about flow—just taking that first tiny baby-step to get a start on some little piece of a scary project can get you moving. The next steps get less and less scary—or, you just forget to be scared altogether.

    • Great observation, Pat. Yes, its amazing how if we just let ourselves take those first steps, we lose awareness of what we were scared of in the first place.

  3. Hi Rob,

    I like all your suggestions. Here is one more I use for myself and suggest to my clients. Since most fear is about anticipating an uncertain or negative future outcome, getting back into the present moment is useful.

    Just completing this sentence stem several times often helps. “Right now I (see, feel, hear)…”

    Examples: Right now I hear the sound of birds. Right now I see a pile of books. Right now I feel the keyboard with my fingers. Right now I hear the hum of the air conditioner.

    • Thank you Laurie. Sounds like you’re moving them out of what they fear might happen into what is happening right now. Great suggestion!