3 ways for overcoming fear and anxiety in business

Running your own business is a rollercoaster ride of extreme emotions. Managing those emotions is just as important as developing the right business model and creating the best product or service. From my experience, and from talking to other people on this journey, two key feelings that show up on a regular basis are fear and anxiety.

There are many sources of fear for entrepreneurs:

  • can I make enough money
  • is my idea any good
  • will I create the impact I want
  • am I able to follow through
  • what do I need to sacrifice
  • what if I fail

Fear undermines our ability to move forward and make decisions. It narrows our perspective and makes us overthink our next step until we’re overwhelmed with analysis paralysis. We tell ourselves that by reading more blogs and watching more inspirational TED talks we’ll discover the perfect way forward. Instead this remorseless over-analysis and blatant procrastination just overloads our senses and turns our brains to mush.

As entrepreneurs we also have to regularly deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. When you’re doing something for the first time then you’re never sure if you’re doing the right thing. There are always unknown unknowns, which means you rarely have all the information you want. However, at some point we just need to act, or else nothing is going to happen.

I hate the phrase “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. It’s such an oxymoron, but what it says to me is to accept discomfort. If I stop fighting being uncomfortable and recognise it’s just part of the ride then I can channel that energy into something more productive.

In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck says that people with fixed mindsets don’t believe that they can change or improve. When you have a fixed mindset you think that you’re born a certain way and it’s not worth trying something different. You’ll just fail anyway. This creates a fear of trying anything new.

Fear is just a state of mind and not something that you have to carry with you all the time like luggage. Like all emotions fear comes and goes, the choice you have is whether to cling onto it. For entrepreneurs, courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to persist in spite of it.

Since fear and anxiety are a natural states for an entrepreneur, the ability to anticipate and manage them is a vital skill

So how do we act despite the fear and the anxiety?

Stop being a perfectionist

We don’t have to get things right the first time and it’s okay to screw up. The most important thing is to keep moving forward and learning from any mistakes or missteps along the way. If we’ve got an idea for a new business we shouldn’t agonise over creating the perfect plan. Our instinct should be to share this imperfect idea with as many people as possible. We need to listen to their feedback, integrate what we hear and work out how we can make our idea even better. We need to detach our self-worth from our ideas in order to be able to share them freely without fear of being judged.

Cultivate deep relationships

With the right people around you, running a business doesn’t have to be as scary as some people make it out to be. We should surround ourselves with likeminded people who understand our emotional needs. Whether you want to make global impact or just make a living, feeling connected to people who understand what we’re going through makes uncertainty and ambiguity more bearable.

We need to learn to be vulnerable and stop believing that we need to know it all and look like we’re always in control. Running a business is challenging and can feel like we’re constantly spinning plates, but there are many people out there feeling exactly the same! When we authentically connect with others we realise that these feelings of fear, uncertainty and worry are common. Suddenly the world feels less stressful because we know we’re not alone.

Develop your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a skill you can learn, and involves becoming aware of unpleasant emotions as they creep into our consciousness, through feelings and moods. If we train ourselves to pause before we react to them, and to anticipate the impact these emotions have on us, we can make a choice to respond differently and stop them from negatively influencing our actions. Like with any skill, the more we practice it, the more instinctive it becomes. Once we master this skill we’re better able to work with these feelings and act more intuitively. Intuition is a potent source of information and being able to trust our gut instinct means we can make decisions and act faster.

We can only overcome fear and anxiety in business if we practice these strategies on a regular basis. At first they may feel challenging and difficult but we can follow the path of guided mastery through the process of habituation. I’ll be hosting a webinar with Shamash Aladina about how this works on Wednesday 5th December. If you’d like to join us and have stories to share or questions to ask then register to the webinar. You can read more about this topic on Shamash’s blog too.