The New Year has arrived…and along with it will be hurdles, excitement, opportunities… and, if you let it, a time for a new, empowered you.

What if you made the New Year a time when you catch yourself thinking or responding: “Because I’m afraid XYZ might happen.” Imagine the huge albatross off your shoulders in work and in life! Imagine the feeling of freedom you'd experience.

Dreamstime
Source: Dreamstime

Fear is often a subtle signal that you’re about to make great strides, that is, if anxiety doesn’t rule you.

The fear of taking risks could be the single most critical barrier between you and a life of joy, satisfaction and fulfillment. At work, if you really love your comfort zone, absent of any fear – you’re likely not tapping into your potential this New Year. 

The world’s greatest achievers have faced their fears, and many have welcomed them as a personal growth challenge. How can you? Let’s first take a closer look at this highly complex emotion.

The Face of Fear

Oftentimes fear, unease and worry are emotional by-products of negativity, which are easy traps for most mortals. Yet, you and only you, have 100 percent control over your thoughts and actions. It’s a paradox that’s easy to forget, but extremely empowering to remember.

Negative thoughts can turn to positive in seconds, if you’ve mastered an ability to train yourself. But a caveat here: because we’re human, we can’t put pressure on ourselves to think we’ve failed when anxiety sets in again, or it will be self-perpetuating. It will rear it’s ugly head …but how much will you allow – and what will you do with it?

Fear’s close cousin, stress, can do a lot more than just consume your mind. In it’s worst form, it can cause heart attacks, strokes, challenge the immune system and do much more physical harm, as discussed in an in-depth article in today’s New York Times Health Guide.

One interesting study about fear suggests that it’s a learned behavior. It’s quickly adopted during infancy, not innate. Can fear therefore be unlearned? It is certainly a challenge worth exploring – and even using as a sign to take positive action.

Anxiety in the Workplace

In many offices today, fear of risk-taking is rewarded: “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” Or worse, “You did what???” Anyone who has worked for a tyrant of a boss knows this too well. But managers who have unlearned that thinking have made the biggest strides in corporate America and society. They view the worst outcome of risks to be mistakes – but believe that “smart mistakes” are the only way to innovate.

Envision it. Be it.

Success is a mindset. Where are you going to place your thoughts? Will you envision a positive outcome at the outset? Can you picture getting the job of your dreams or owning the company you’ve always wanted to run? Can you then turn the clock back to today, creating a visual path to that goal?

When you limit yourself to safe or mediocre standards because you dread the unknown, then you can become skillful at career sabotage. (And who better than you to do that?)

Business leaders we admire follow their heart as a map; the word "defeat" is not in their personal lexicon. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “There is no illusion greater than fear.”

How to Let Go

What else can you do to manage this emotion, and even go as far as allowing it to make you stronger in your work life? Here are some ideas to consider:

Use your personal guidance system. Try and gain better control of your environment. What do you see and think? If it feels bad or makes you depressed, listen to your gut instincts. If you feel bad, then you’re right!

Plan how you’re going to outshine your latest fear with a goal that dwarfs the monster you face. Giving yourself permission to look fear in the eye and your mettle will be beyond empowering. That thinking will likely lead you to solutions you hadn’t thought of before. It can truly be catapult your career, or be life changing.

With whom do you spend time? Naysayers are everywhere. You can’t read the news or even talk to family or friends without something negative emerging. We seem to live in a fear-based society – often stoked by daily headlines. Take what other people think about you under consideration, but separate the wheat from the chaff. Make 2017 the year to avoid toxic people. Spend your time with people who know the power of positive thinking; and who are living examples of the benefits. Spend the time to find a trusted mentor or coach with whom you resonate.

Let mistakes “work for you.” Understand that the alternative to not taking chances and making some blunders along the way – is to be very mediocre. Risk takers who run across some speed bumps and move ahead unfettered are best positioned for optimal career and life growth. Now is a good time to self-reflect and explore how life’s lessons better prepare you for an empowering and successful year ahead.

Embrace laughter. Analyze what brings you joy and laughter. Is it certain friends? Reading? Comedy channels? Facebook or YouTube videos? Maybe it’s time to set some new Favorites on your computer as your “go to” resource for levity. It will help combat fear and boost your creativity, too. At work, allow humor to tamp down anxiety around you; it will be contagious and serve you well personally.

Love yourself. Perhaps the hardest but most important task of all, is to turn off negative self-talk – and turn on self-love. Once you come to appreciate your unique value – not just your skills set or contributions at work, but your total being, you will create more peace for yourself. And if fear is raging beyond what you feel you can handle, follow your instincts and seek professional advice from a qualified therapist. Let your emboldened self worth allow you to achieve the unimaginable. You can consciously choose to love yourself.

By making a commitment to let 2017 be The Year to Overcome Fear, you’ll be opening a new door to a life of joy, achievement and empowerment that you may have never thought existed.

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