Breaking Through The Paralysis Of Fear

Azriela Jaffe
©1999 All Rights Reserved

Ever since my book on handling rejection was published (Starting from No: Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business) I receive phone calls and emails from readers who are paralyzed with fear in their businesses. They call me because they feel that they have met someone who will understand, and mostly, because they hope that I will help them get "unstuck." This morning, I received a phone call from a gentleman who could be speaking for thousands of struggling self-employed professionals.

After introducing himself and explaining his predicament - a consultant who does crackerjack work, loves what he does, but isn't doing enough of it because he's intimidated by the marketing and selling process - he gave me a clue regarding one of his biggest barriers. He said:

"I have to make this work. I am over the age of forty and no one over the age of forty can get a job these days. I quit a job so that I could become a consultant. I won't be able to find another job if this business fails. I must make this work!"

Perhaps you think that this fear would motivate him to charge out of bed in the morning, raring to go, determined to guarantee that he wouldn't have to endure a dreaded job-search. For some people, such fear might in fact be the kick in the fanny that they need each morning. But for many, like "Joe," that fear is not a motivator, it is a paralyzer. Joe has told himself a lie.

Joe lives in one of the biggest cities in the country. I have trouble believing that nowhere, in this city of several million, is there another opportunity for him, other than the business he is currently trying to make work. I pointed out to him that he had bought into a myth, and then was operating as if these assumptions were true. Yes, age discrimination is a real issue for many older Americans. What is also true is that our economy is booming, employers are seeking the best help they can find, and every day, thousands of Americans over the age of forty become employed.

Also true is that even if Joe is unable to make a go of it as a consultant, but he doesn't want to be re-employed, he can explore other self-employment options, either as a solo professional in another business, or partnered with a self-employed professional with stronger marketing and sales skills. Why is it important that Joe acknowledges this truth? Won't it just create an escape valve for him, releasing him of the motivation that keeps him on track? If he knows he can do something else, won't he just quit too early?

I listened carefully to what Joe was telling me. Beating himself up with this motivational trick wasn't working for him. If it was, he wouldn't have called me. Clearly, for Joe, he needed to unfreeze himself by eliminating his negative assumptions that were filling him with needless panic. I suggested to him that he make a critical mind-shift.

Right now, most of Joe's thoughts are negative. He is focusing on what he DOES NOT WANT every day. "I DON'T WANT to look for another job," or, "I DON'T WANT to market myself," or, "I DON'T WANT to admit to my wife that my current income is a third of what it once was." Filled with these negative thoughts each day, no wonder he isn't getting very far. I encouraged Joe to start thinking about what he does want, and to make his business a conscious and joyful choice, rather than looking at it as a prison from which there was no escape. Here's the irony:

When Joe chooses to work in his business, believing that he has other options, but deciding that his consulting business is what he wants to do with his time and energy, he will probably be effective enough that he will not need other options. As soon as he tells himself, "This is my only option," he will need other options because his business will likely fail. The mind is a clever thing.

When Joe believes that both his family's livelihood and his ego are utterly dependent on each sales call, he will hesitate to even pick up the phone. That's too much pressure to deal with, and so suddenly, something in the house needs fixing and he'll get to those sales calls tomorrow, or maybe, the next day. Human nature is to rebel against what we believe is imprisoning us.

However, when Joe believes that he is well-suited for the work he has chosen, that making a living as a consultant is much more appealing to him than being employed elsewhere, and that he genuinely loves the work of consulting, so he'd better market himself so that the work is there, he'll take responsibility for his career, rather than feeling like a victim with no control.

No matter how difficult your current circumstances, whether they be personal or business, there are always other options. The next time you catch yourself saying: "I've GOT TO MAKE THIS WORK, or else . . . change your self-talk to: "I want to make this work and therefore, I'll do what it takes."

And, if you do everything it takes, and it still doesn't work, or you discover that you simply can't summon the willingness to do what is required, release yourself from this prison you have erected for yourself, and go find another opportunity. Life is way too short for you to spend years believing that you missed out on your one big chance. The road to your success may be just where you are, or it may be a path that you can't even see at the moment, because you've convinced yourself that in this big wide universe, the only option you have is the one you are in.

Azriela Jaffe is the founder of "Anchored Dreams" (www.isquare.cim/crlink), and author of several books including Honey,I Want to Start my Own Business, A Planning Guide for Couples ( Harper Business 1996), and Let's Go Into Business Together, Eight Secrets for Successful Business Partnering (Avon Books 1998) and Starting from No, Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business (Dearborn, April 1999), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt. (MacMillan, 2000) ( For free online newsletter for entrepreneurial couples, best ideas in business, or marketing on the web, or for information about her syndicated column, "Advice from A-Z", email Questions and reader response can be emailed, or write to P.O. Box 209, Bausman, PA 17504. Azriela loves hearing from her readers, so don't be shy!

Category: Work-Life, Balance
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