Overcoming Fear and Uncertainty

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What holds you back?

Is it fear? You might be afraid to embrace new technology, because you’re set in the old ways. Or maybe it’s uncertainty; uncertainty that you can handle the challenges ahead, or that the direction you’re heading is the right one.

I understand that. 

Arianna Huffington puts it well:

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes — understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

In my presentations, I emphasize to audiences that all change will be preceded by a mindset shift. Consider that all the results you are getting now are because of your current thinking. If you want to improve outcomes and get the results you deserve, you have to begin with a mindset shift. 

First, before we tackle how to overcome fear, we should park for a second to define it. Fear is one of those words we toss around flippantly, but what does it really mean?

Fear is a reaction to a threat. Now, of course, if you see a bear in your yard one night and it starts sprinting toward you, we understand that sort of primal, fight or flight fear; “I need to run if I want to see tomorrow.” Another way to look at fear is in a more abstract way. Do you fear the unknown? It’s not that you know there is a bear in your yard, but what if you saw a story about it on the news one morning, and then had to go outside while it’s still dark? You may be afraid because you perceive a threat, even if one isn’t there. 

So, sometimes, when we think about starting new things, or embracing new technology, fear can set in. We’re not afraid of laptops or smartphones, but rather we are (or were) uncomfortable with the unknown. It’s not a defect, it’s human nature.

Does this mean we just live with fear, and have no recourse in overcoming it? No!

There are plenty of solutions to overcome fear. 

The first step is really just understanding it. What is it that leaves you uneasy? Uncertainty plays a big role in fear, just because we do not know the outcome of something we’ve yet to try. But taking time to consider the path you’ve chosen, the tools you’re using and how they differ from what you have now is important. In all things, it is better to analyze and consider the environment and how best to proceed. You don’t get any points for being the first one in, and in the last section we discussed how only a small number of the population are innovators. Taking time to survey the landscape will pay dividends before you invest everything in a risky idea.

Here’s another idea: Learn from others. While other people try new technology, pay attention to the results. Ask your peers and others in the same space as you what they’re using, and how they are seeing either success or difficulties with adapting to new technology.

One example of this is the cloud. At first, it may have seemed daunting to consider having all of your important files online and off your hard drive. Services like Dropbox and Google Drive make it easy for us to clean up the icons from our desktop, but it can still cause concern when you don’t see important documents right in front of you and safely stored in your folders. 

But here is a chance for us to implement another tip: Practice. Just the other day, I gave a presentation and workshop to an association of nurses. Right as I was set to begin my slideshow, the file didn’t work. I panicked, for a moment, but then remembered that I had prepared for this exact problem. When I present, I always have a copy of the presentation on Google Drive, my laptop and on a flash drive. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. 

There, too, is another way to embrace change. Just because you are adapting to new technology, it doesn’t mean you have to discard all of the old ways. In fact, it’s better to ease into new things while you still have firm footing in the processes that make you comfortable. You can learn new, exciting ways to lead through technological innovations without betting the farm on a new process that isn’t tried and true.

As a leader, you may encourage the adoption of new material, but you might not be the one using it every day. It is important to listen to those who work around you to ensure they are making progress with new tech, and that their concerns are heard and addressed. It isn’t enough to buy new software and tell your team to figure it out; leaders are available to their teams and willing to lend an ear to correct course if needed.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

We understand what fear is now, and that there are a few things to keep in mind when moving forward with new technology. But how exactly can we conquer fear?Psychology Today has a great list of four steps to build confidence and conquer your fears, written by Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D.:

1 – Let the Movie Play Out

In this tip, Hendriksen suggests that we consider the implications of an action. What happens if you do x or y? Our mind tends to fixate on the worst possible outcome, and that’s natural. But if you continue “watching the movie,” what is the end? If you can look past the immediate obstacles, and play it out in your mind, you will often find that the results really aren’t as bad as you thought. It’s all about getting over the hump of doubt.

2 – Find the Will

This is all about mindset, which I cover at length in my last book, Unleashing Your Superpower. If you see yourself overcoming a challenge or fear, and know you can do it, half the battle is already won.

3 – Write it Down, then Prove it Wrong

Write what you’re afraid of, rebut the fear, consider all the options. You’ll see you’re stronger than the fear holding you back.

4 – Break Your Fear into Snack-Sized Pieces

As I said in #2, it’s about mindset. A lot of issues arise just because a topic seems too big to tackle, but breaking it down into smaller sizes makes even the largest burden manageable. With these in mind, take a quick analysis of yourself and the problem you face:

  1. What’s the best that could happen?
  2. What’s the worst that could happen?
  3. Could you live with the worst that could happen with the possibility of the best that could happen?

If the answer to number three is yes, then it’s time to move. Your mind is holding you back.

So, now that we have the tools needed to move things forward, fear and uncertainty won’t hold you back.

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