12 Ways to Confront the Fears that Are Blocking Your Success

What are you afraid of in life?


Making small talk at big gatherings?

Cold calling for new clients?

Speaking in front of a room full of people?

Fear is probably one of the biggest roadblocks for freelancers because it can directly impact your ability to take steps to launch or move your business forward.

For instance, if you're terrified of public speaking, you might decline to speak at a function, which could move your career forward. Or maybe you fear rejection – so you never even apply for freelance assignments you see advertised online.

If fear is stopping you, I've put together 12 "fear-facing" tips you can use to take control and start doing the things you know will help you get more out of life:

  1. Ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that can happen?" – It's important to take the time to access the actual risk you face by confronting your fears. For example, if you're afraid of cold calling, write down the worst-case scenario if you call up a prospective client and your conversation doesn't go well. You'll most likely find that the answer is not nearly as bad as you imagined.
  2. Put what you're doing in perspective – Millions of people go to bed each night hungry. Many have physical disabilities that turn each day into a struggle. When thinking of other people’s struggles, your fear of, say, making a simple phone call clearly pales in comparison.
  3. Ask yourself, "What happens if I don't do it?" – Make a list of all the things that will occur if you don't confront your fear. Using cold calls as an example, you'll (1) have fewer customers, (2) make less money, (3) have a more stressful life, (4) be able to take fewer vacations and less time off, (5) have less money to assist the important people in your life, and (6) you might have to apply for a 9-to-5 non-writing job … and so on. Use this list to motivate yourself.
  4. Think of the good things that will happen – Make a list of the good things that will happen when you conquer your fear, usually the opposite of what you listed in number three. For example, instead of having less money, you’ll have more money, and so on. Keep it close by as a reminder of what you'll be missing out on if you don't take action.
  5. Make victory the only option – I've heard some people say that to be successful, you shouldn't have a backup plan or a Plan B. That’s up to you, but the point is you've got to make success your only option in your mind. When you take failure off the table, you want it more. And that "little bit more" could be what you need to push yourself over the top.
  6. Don't be afraid to fail – Everyone fails at something at some point in their life. In fact, there are countless people who failed big before they became successful. For instance, English physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton never did particularly well in school. When put in charge of the family farm, he failed miserably.

    Abraham Lincoln was defeated in numerous runs he made for public office.

    Movie legend Charlie Chaplin was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because they felt his act was too strange for the public.

    In his first screen test, an MGM executive wrote that Fred Astaire (one of Hollywood’s most successful dancers, singers, and actors) "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little."

    Think of failure as being one step closer to success.

  7. Analyze what's causing your fear and determine the solution – Before you can really conquer your fear, it’s important to know what exactly you are afraid of. A key reason why some people are afraid of public speaking, for example, is that they are afraid they will embarrass themselves.

    So what's the most reliable way not to embarrass yourself when speaking in front of a crowd? Thorough preparation. If you have the information you are presenting down pat, your confidence will soar and the chance of humiliating yourself is slim to none.

  8. Change any beliefs that are limiting you – If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of public speaking is, "I'm terrified of public speaking," then you probably won't be agreeing to a speaking gig any time soon. However, if instead you say to yourself, "I love public speaking because every time I speak before a crowd, it's an opportunity to move my career forward," you have a far better chance of excelling at it.

    When it comes to cold calling for new clients, you might believe, "I don't know enough yet to really help this person's business." Change that to, "I'm confident I know more about it than the person I will be talking to. I'm convinced that I will be a huge asset to their marketing endeavors and business success."

  9. Take small steps at the beginning – You don't have to "slay the dragon" on the first day. Start off slow, and then increase your output as time goes by. Nothing wrong with sticking your toe in first to see how the water feels and then, instead of doing a cannonball into the water, wading in slowly. For instance, if you're afraid to make cold calls, start with a target of maybe five calls your first day, and then gradually add more as you become more comfortable.
  10. Recall a time when you successfully faced your fears – Think about the confidence you had and how good it felt to succeed. Then use that positive energy to help conquer your current fear.
  11. Keep in mind your fear gets easier to handle – No matter what it is you're afraid of, you'll get better at it with practice. If you hate small talk at parties, buy a book on how to network effectively. Then put what you've learned into action. In no time, you'll be a mingling machine. Same with cold calls; you can't help but fine-tune your approach with each new call.
  12. Take action – I've saved the most important point for last. The solution to many of life's problems or situations is to take action. Dale Carnegie once said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Whatever it is you're afraid of doing, stop thinking about it and just do it. You’ll be focused on the action itself and not on the reasons why you shouldn't be doing it. Plus, you'll feel better about yourself, you'll be way more productive, and you'll be a good role model for the people around you.

Steve Jobs says it best …

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know of to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

If you use the above 12 points as a guide, you should have no problem mastering your fears and reaping all the benefits that come with doing so.

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Published: September 17, 2012

4 Responses to “12 Ways to Confront the Fears that Are Blocking Your Success”

  1. Hi John,

    I always enjoy reading your articles; they are quite informative and empowering. And I am making a habit of writing them out by hand and sticking them on my bedroom wall (until I can create a real office space) so that i can read them everyday.

    Keep up the good work!

    Guest (Tasia)

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article and I would like to thank you for your contribution here.

    The details are interesting and I think you are on the right track.

    However, you can cut through the complicated part and get straight to the point.

    There is a method that allows you to do that--to cut to the chase--and that is the practice of daily meditation.

    Meditation allows you to find the center of your being.

    If you have a strong sense of identity, you can then be in a good position to move forward and make progress.

    Meditation allows you to cross that finishing line.

    Archan Mehta

  3. I'm glad you included the last point: Take action! So many of us wait to feel brave or feel strong (before we move forward) but the feeling never comes. Taking action has helped to overcome some big, big fears. We we move forward the fear seems to evaporate magically!

    Guest (James)

  4. I read this article and it is as if you have written about me! I am terrified to say even a few words however small the gathering maybe. The minute I am required to do so, I become tongue-tied.

    Thank you. Reading this article has given me a reason to try to take those small steps!


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