You’ve got a goal that is important to you, but you’re thinking “I need to get over my fear to take the next step.”
I sooo hear you.
I’ve been afraid of a number of things that have gotten in the way of my goals.
Most recently, of shooting videos for my business. Had there been an award for the world’s best procrastinator, I think I would have been a seriously decent contender.
Procrastination is super normal when we’re feeling afraid.
But the problem isn’t actually fear. And it isn’t procrastination either, actually. Those are two things people have been taught to focus on, but they’re not actually the issue.
Fear is a Common and Paralysing Experience, but it’s Not Actually the Problem
People often ask me ‘how do I get over my fear so that I can achieve my goals?’
For some, they have business or money goals and they’re worried about failing and losing money – or losing face.
They’ll share concerns about investing money they can’t risk losing on hiring a business mentor, marketing consultant or prototyping a product, to help them grow their business, and yet they know it will help them. Or of creating marketing videos, in case they look bad and people judge them.
For others, with weight-loss goals, they’re worried about trying to lose weight and failing. Again. And having Uncle Brian give them shit about it at this year’s Christmas party, like he always does.
In whatever way we as individuals experience fear, it is certainly a common human experience.
Fear of failing.
Fear of looking stupid or incompetent when you’re starting out.
Fear of what Dad will think – or of that ‘stupid cow’, Mary, whose face comes to mind every time you think of stepping out and how she will think about you if you fail.
But I never go to work with them on their fear. Because their fear isn’t the issue.
Think about it….
You might be afraid. But you also want what you want.
You know that your experience of being conflicted is stopping you, but you don’t know what to do about it.
If we are held back in starting or creating something that is new and exciting… because of a fear of making a mistake, looking stupid, being judged or being bad at it…
…. then it’s important to understand that your problem is NOT fear.
Okay… so if the problem isn’t fear, what is it really?
What’s the problem then?
The problem, and the cause of your struggle is your life orientation.
Two Life Orientations: Which one are YOU?
There are two orientations of ways of seeing life.
One is as a performance.
The other is as a creation.
Performance-oriented people are highly attached to their identity. Their sense of self is fragile and dependant on how well they perform – or how they’re seen by others.
Creation-oriented people get clear on what they want, and they go after it. They know that on the way, they’ll experience successes and failures, but what matters to them is the goal and getting there eventually.
Performance-oriented people struggle to create new things and see them through to the end.
If someone has a fear that stops them, this is a function of a performance-orientation. This is because whenever they go to do anything new, it is HIGHLY likely that they will make mistakes, or even completely fail at it on the way to getting good or achieving their goal.
And it isn’t personal.
It’s true for ALL of us.
Why Being Performance-Oriented will Kill Your Goals
Let me put it to you like this…
To create anything requires learning.
Let’s face it… To get good at anything, to achieve our goals or to develop a new skill takes learning.
It takes TIME and PRACTICE. And FAILING. (And sometimes a FUCKTONNE of it.)
So, to cope with the journey as you move from conceiving of your goal to achieving it, your focus needs to NOT be on your performance (including what people think of you).
It needs to be on the goal. And on being willing to fail all the way there as you LEARN and get better.
If you aren’t prepared to make mistakes, look stupid, fail for a bit BEFORE you succeed, then your focus is all on YOU.
And that’s a difficult way to create, and I’d argue, an even more painful way to live!
Because it means things HAVE to go great right from the start – and NEVER go wrong – because it triggers an identity crisis of what it MEANS about you if things don’t go well.
How I’m helping my nine-year-old work through her performance orientation…
A tonne of people have a performance orientation.
Even children of coaches who teach this stuff are not immune to adopting this destructive way of seeing themselves!
I recently became aware that my nine-year old daughter has a performance orientation.
I discovered it because I have been taking my nine year old to gym classes on-and-off since she was two years old. Then, about a year ago, she wanted to quit.
When I asked her why, her answers told me that she was feeling intimidated by the other girls in the class.
These girls she was comparing herself to were so much further ahead than she was. Like those naturally talented, bendy-like-spaghetti girls.
Instead of focusing on getting better at the things she wanted to learn, her focus was on the other girls and how well she was (or more accurately, wasn’t) doing compared to them.
It’s important to me that she is able to create her life according to what matters to her. To do that, she needs to be able to create, rather than seeing it as a competition or a performance.
And yet, I could see that a performance was how she was seeing it.
I explained to her that in order to create the things in life that she wants, she needs to take her focus off what other people are doing and how well they’re doing.
She needs instead to have it on what she wants.
I asked her if there is anything she wants to be able to do at gym.
She told me she wanted to be able to do a front and back walk over, aerials and to get over the vault.
But she was finding all of them super hard and no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t get them.
I thought about her struggle and what we could do to help her.
I realised we needed to change something about how we were going about getting to her goal.
The classes obviously weren’t getting her. Or at least not as fast, or as easily as she wanted.
I told her that in life sometimes we need to find a teacher to help us with the things we’re finding hard.
I spoke with the head coach at gym and asked if we could get her some private lessons to help her.
She’s been doing private coaching for nearly two terms and is nailing her progress towards all of the things she wanted to be able to do.
She’s feeling much more happy and confident – and is super engaged in her gym now.
It’s gone from being confronting and scary, to fun and exciting. She’s stopped comparing herself to the others and is willing to take on a new challenge.
The Secret Creators Know, that Performers Don’t
There is a critical difference between what creators know and what performers know.
Creators know that they are NOT their results or their creations.
On the other hand, performers have attached their results to their identity.
As such, their self esteem, self worth, and self confidence is at stake every time the seek to do something.
Newsflash, people! You are not your results or performances.
You are so much more than that.
Even if you’ve been taught by your parents, or society, social media, your performance doesn’t mean anything about you.
You are not better as a person if you are succeeding, or worse if you are failing.
If you’re succeeding, it simply means that you’ve had more clarity, practice, and resources, have tried harder or for longer, you got lucky and/or you have a talent for the thing you are working on.
If you’re failing, it simply means you haven’t had enough clarity, practice, or resources, or you haven’t tried hard enough, or for long enough, you haven’t had enough luck, and/or you don’t have a natural talent you have been able to lean on to achieve what you’re working at.
None of that shit is personal. AND… It doesn’t mean you can’t succeed at it in the future if you really want it.
But if you’ve attached your results and your efforts to your identity, it’s no wonder you are struggling.
Okay, so what now?
If you have lacked the courage to start (or to carry on if you have stopped) because of fear, I encourage you to check in on something important…
Take an honest look at whether you even give a shit about the result you’re trying to create in the first place.
Do you really? Or is it more about what succeeding at it would MEAN about you?
If you do care about it, PLEASE get your focus back on it and carry on practicing and learning and failing till you get there.
If it’s the latter, check out who the audience is that you are trying to impress (it might even be yourself trying to look good to yourself!).
And please STOP and work to discover what you DO truly care about!
Because THAT is the way to create the life you want.
Any other thing you’re doing to impress someone, then you’re operating off your identity. And that’s a struggle of a life.
If you do really care about the goal, let go of performing.
Adopt a creation orientation, and KNOW that learning is part of the process and you’ll stop focusing on what succeeding or failing MEANS about you.
On the topic of my procrastination of shooting videos, what I learned years later from the experience was something altogether different…
My procrastination wasn’t about fear. It was because it was totally the wrong goal. I was trying to do something I thought I had to do.
It’s very hard to complete a goal you are doing for the wrong reasons.
Big love to you + your awesome future creations!
P.S. If this post has spoken to you, please let me know how you get on. I’d love to hear!
P.S.S. If you realise you have a performance-orientation, but you feel you’re stuck there, and need some help shifting to a creation-orientation, I offer private consultations for people who want to make that shift and need support to do that. Feel free to reach out.