This article was first published on KSL.com
I am struggling at work and I don’t know why or how to fix myself. I’m doing enough to get by, but I hold back and drop the ball on occasion. I procrastinate until the last minute and then do a rush job instead of my best work. I know I am the problem, but how do I change this and get more motivated at work?
This is not a motivation problem, it’s a fear problem.
Jon Acuff, author of the book, "Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters," was asked in an interview with Forbes Magazine what prevents most people from reaching their full potential at work. His answer, “The most common trap is fear. Fear never bothers you if you’re average, but the second you dare to be more than ordinary, fear awakens.”
You are either battling a fear of failure or a fear of success at work. In my experience these two fears are always the culprit when you feel like you have one foot on the gas and the other on the break.
The fear of failure is the most common, and it is a fear of looking bad, being embarrassed or being found out as not good enough. It is tied to your fear of what others think of you and will make you procrastinate doing things you are afraid you won't do perfectly. It also prevents you from trying new things, taking risks or putting your full effort into projects.
A fear of success (though it sounds counterintuitive) is a fear of achieving more or shooting higher because you lack confidence in your abilities long-term. You are afraid of the responsibilities and commitments that will come with stepping it up and raising the bar. You may be afraid you can't handle the pressures of a higher position, so it feel safer to be average.
Forbes also asked Acuff why most people decide to travel down the average path.
“The truth is that they don’t decide," he said. "The only thing you have to do on the average path is not die. You graduate from high school or college and effectively shift into neutral. Sure, you’re not moving that fast but you’re getting great gas mileage and you are making some progress, if you want to call it that. But you’re coasting. Eventually, you’ll roll your way right into the grave.”
Don’t settle for average at work. There is no reason to let your subconscious fears drive your career. You have the power to change your thinking and do better. You just have to believe it’s possible and do the work to overcome your fears, which isn’t that hard if you know how.
You may want to find a coach or counselor to help you. You may also want to visit my website and take the free Fear Assessment, it will show you on paper which of these two fears is an issue for you.
Here are 14 things successful people do to get past fear and reach their potential:
1. Recognize the benefits you are getting from shooting low. What do you get from keeping the bar low? What are you afraid of losing if you succeed? Free time? Your excuse to be lazy? Would trying harder mean finding out you aren’t good enough? Does it feel safer to play small? Own the reasons your subconscious mind thinks drifting is the best path. Decide you don’t want these benefits as much as you want success.
2. Focus on your assets and what you are good at, not your deficits and weaknesses. We all have both, but successful people focus more on what they have going for them, than what they don’t. Watch out for a tendency to shoot down your own ideas with excuses and negatives. If you catch yourself doing this, stop. Think of a positive possibility for every negative you come up with.
3. Know what your gifts are and focus on those. Don’t waste time trying to be good at everything. What are you best at? Focus all your time and energy there. Delegate or pass off the tasks that you are bad, OK, or even adequate at. Focus on your unique genius as much as you can.
4. Take risks in small doses — one step at a time. Raise the bar and slowly step out of your comfort zone. You can handle the next step. You’re ready for that. Take one small step outside your comfort zone today and do the same tomorrow. All successful people are risk-takers and they can do this because they aren't afraid of some failure.
5. Don’t take failure personally. Jonathon Brown from the University of Washington found that people lacking self-esteem take failure personally. They think failure means they aren’t smart, competent or good enough. Successful people understand that failure is about the issue or the technique. It isn’t about them. You can’t be a failure. Failure is an event, not a person. Many of us attach our self-worth to mistakes. This makes no sense. You are not the idea, the performance, the property or the experience. You are the amazing being who will learn and grow from the experience. Failures do not define you.
6. Accept failure as a part of success. Barbara Sher, the author of "Wishcraft," said “If you try and fail, you won’t feel as bad as you think. You’ll gain experience, education, contacts and self-confidence.” All successful people have a history of failures, but they understand failures are the path to experience. Failures makes you stronger and smarter. People who have tried and failed know more than people who never tried.
7. Gain knowledge — knowledge eliminates fear. What skills would make you feel more confident? Sign up for a class to improve those skills. Marie Curie said “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that (you) may fear less.”
8. Choose to focus on love. The law of the universe says you can feel only one emotion at a time. If you choose to focus on love and serving others, it is impossible to feel fear. How can you make your work about giving to others and not about you?
9. Visualize yourself comfortably handling more responsibility. If you can’t see it, you can’t achieve it. Visualize yourself carrying responsibilities with ease and confidence. This really helps.
10. Don’t blame others. Take full responsibility for what you do and don’t do. This will show you that you’re in control and have the power to create better results. Blame shifts responsibility, but it also shifts power away from you.
11. Cultivate relationships. If you have been a loner because it felt safer this must stop. The road to more success is paved by the valuable relationships you develop in your field. If you aren’t good at this, you may need some executive coaching to work on your communication and relationship skills.
12. Work hard. There are many people who want to be successful, but there are very few who are willing to work hard enough to get it. There is no easy, effortless, short road to real success. They only way is to work hard and not give up until you get there. Do the things others are not willing to do.
13. Create more value than you are paid for. I learned the secret to success from Og Mandino’s famous book "The Greatest Secret in the World." He said the secret is “to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.” In other words go farther, work harder and provide more value than your employer expects. So few people will do this, you will stand out everywhere you go.
14. Write your story now. Sit down with some paper and imagine yourself old and gray at the end of your life. If you could look back and see yourself now at this time, what do you want this next chapter to look like? Write the story the way you want it to play out. Read this daily. This harnesses the power of intention and you won’t believe how powerful it is.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular coach and speaker.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.