Are You Interested in Working Through the Fear?

Fear, Performance and Your Business

What are you afraid of?

Holidays make many entrepreneurs and small business owners nervous.
On one hand, HURRAH! A holiday!
Depending on your business, you may be looking at numerous merry-makers coming to your shop and celebrating by indulging in a bit of “retail therapy.” A different kind of business is looking at turning a “regular” weekend into a three-day weekend, and one where a LOT of people (their employees included…) take some time, gas up the motor vehicle of choice, and head out for a vacation of some length. Sometimes these two collide and the owner can have a staffing problem, but, hey, just put in a few more hours yourself and you’ve got it covered right? But what happens if, on this more dangerous holiday weekend, somebody gets hurt or something? In between all the travelers, the uncertainty of fireworks (as one of my colleagues said, “Normal people with a few drinks in them setting off explosive devices….what could go wrong?“…) and the randomness of other accidents…well, there’s plenty to get wound up about.

These are examples of the kinds of fear small business owners obsess about, and there are many, many more. When considering that, many of these same owners “buck up” and take the attitude that they’ll just do what needs to be done themselves to keep the lights on and the wheels turning. Each one knows that’s what they signed up for when they started their business.

Just keep pushing….and pushing…and pushing…

The problem with this (other than the fact that it doesn’t scale…) is the severe impact it has on the owner’s life and effectiveness. In the article “The Real Cost of Fear, and What to do About it” Michael Frisbie of The Energy Project writes about how fear, particularly of under-performance (or, in the case of the owners mentioned above, “not doing enough” or “not pulling my weight”…), leads to pushing forward in ways that only degrade effectiveness, negatively impact personal health, and stress relational ties.

The to-do list never really ends. There’s always something you could/should be working on, regardless of day and time. Frisbie notes that we spend too much of this assessment of the list looking at time needed to do all of it and what we COULDN’T do. We don’t look at what we CAN do, and how we feel at any given point. Start listening to your self. Look at the energy required to complete a task at the highest level of effectiveness and not the amount of time it might take. Prioritize to manage your energy and not your time. Listening to your self (that is, are you feeling depleted, exhausted, depressed and stressed, or enthusiastic, confident, energized and calm?) can tell you when you can expend focused effort. Then push forward! Need to renew your energy? Do that, and watch your critical thinking skills, morale and mental acuity improve.

The irony of the fear of not getting enough done feeding back negatively so that you can’t actually get it done is not lost on me. Managing energy, Frisbie points out, requires us to set boundaries that are counterintuitive to most of us. Being most effective can mean getting the right kind of rest at the right time, getting the fuel, if you will, to REALLY FOCUS to get the important stuff done, not bulling through by promising yourself that, if you ever get to the end of that to-do list, you’ll take a little time to regroup.

Do you listen to yourself now? What are you telling yourself? Need a break, or newly recharged and ready to tackle that Big Project?

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