Deconstructing fear and reconstructing your successful mind
One of the most popular articles we have produced recently was around Emotional Intelligence and, hopefully, you managed to take the test when the article was released. Simply put, the test evaluates decision making through intelligence, working alongside emotions, by using a series of questions with multiple choice answers. Half an hour of questions answered and the system gives you a final analysis. I suspect if you take the test on different occasions you may get slightly different results. This is because our answers can change subtly dependent on our mood and confidence at the time. This provides insight into decision-making and how keeping our emotions balanced, whilst conducting business, we can create better outcomes for ourselves and the business.
The ability to control our emotions in business is extremely significant. First and foremost, it enables us to think rationally about all situations; good or bad. Without rationality we risk making a situation worse or becoming complacent. The process of business and maintaining continuity relies on us, as the business leaders, being rational and in control of our own emotions. If you are experiencing a difficult time, or have certain worries, thinking clearly is key to finding resolutions and focusing on how to resolve those issues. If your business is booming it is important not to become complacent but to continue the same processes that made the business busy in the first instance.
Understanding fear and how you deal with it
Fear is certainly an emotion we will all experience thousands of times throughout our business careers, and the type of emotional challenge that can have a negative and a rather derogatory effect on our business. Fear can certainly be damaging. It can damage our business opportunities if you fear to step out from a comfort zone after carefully considering a decision.
Fear in business has been extremely well documented. The term False Events Appearing Real (F.E.A.R.) has been touted by many business psychologists and is a negative ingredient for business growth. It can become all encompassing, taking control of you, and is indeed something that can potentially be passed on to your team, who naturally replicate your fears – sometimes without you realising it.
Become aware of your fear, analyse and deconstruct
The very same psychologists talk about Cognitive Restructuring. The first question asked; is the worrying you are experiencing helping to solve any fear or problems you may have? The reality is, the fear-fueled worry is a much bigger problem than you may think and certainly not helpful at all. It stops clear-thinking and, if it not deconstructed, will continue to stop you and the potential of your business. It is a signal that something needs to change in you, first and foremost.
How to deconstruct and restructure your cognitive thoughts
This process of deconstructing fear may sound rather odd but remember business is about you just as much as the business itself. It is about your Emotional Intelligence and ability to make the right decisions at the right time. If you are finding yourself having negative thoughts and predictions about the business far too regularly, it is time to unravel where that comes from and what changes you need to make to ‘think differently’ about the future. So, firstly you need to keep a little notepad close by…
Set a time period of 5 working days to record every time you have fear, worry or concerns around the business and record, in as much detail as you wish, where those thoughts have come from. Record the actual fear itself. It might be poor cash flow, a nonpaying client, fear of losing an important client, or simply the figures aren’t looking as good as they were. Put this information down on your pad in detail every time you have one of those type of thoughts about you and your business.
Then adjacent to this individual recording of a thought enter the worst possible outcome that can arise from your fear – what would it be? The best possible outcome and what would that be? Thirdly, the most realistic outcome? Spend time thinking about the realistic version.
Now look at the analysis of your thoughts
The old adage is, if you think a lot about your fear or problem, it will help you to find the solution. The term rumination-related thought is used, or what we all call ‘overthinking’ a situation. So each time you find yourself ruminating you write about this in one column on your note pad. In the second column, note if the rumination actually led to the problem being solved. At the end of the period you need to look at the percentages. What percentage of the thoughts led to a positive outcome. Whilst recording your ‘fear thoughts’, write down how long this thought lasted, put a time period against it.
At the end of the process you will have recorded the fear itself, best possible outcome, worst possible outcome, most realistic outcome, the percentage of positive outcomes (after the event) and how much time you spent in the fear or worry zone. It will surprise you!
Now to test your behaviour
Example: Your thought is “Cash flow is poor and I’m not sure I can resolve it”
For the next week you can look at that first fear, which may have been the cash flow concern, and then rate how well that situation has resolved itself by the end of the week. Rate it from 0-10.
For the third week you can allocate a set period of time to resolve the cash flow and record a set of action points to take to improve it. It could be chasing invoice payments, talking to the clients in question about payment terms, or getting actual committed dates from them relating to when they are going to pay. Again, record the ‘actual’ cash flow situation at the end of the third week and rate it from 0-10.
This sounds all a little simple, but there is method in my madness. Essentially, week two you procrastinated, and hoped things would be better by the end of the week. You took no action, and as the week went on that fear could have become all consuming. It might have been eating you up all week and the fear was taking control of you, rather than you taking control of it. How much valuable time could that have wasted?
Week three could have easily been carried out in week two. You detailed out your plan and carried it through. The likely outcome was the score being much higher in week three, not just because cash flow was improved, but you now had commitment from clients, you didn’t fear how long they were going to pay, you had clear thoughts on how you could resolve that fear or worry. One client may have said, I’m sorry but I cannot afford to pay you. At least you had clarity.
The difference was greater clarity, and this provided confidence and relieved that all consuming non-productive fear and worry. For all of us, it is much easier to put a worry out of our minds and not face it, but the problem will, unfortunately, keep coming back.
Part of my training as a business coach isn’t just analytical or processes, it is about helping business owners to gain clarity and not procrastinate over our fears. You may not always like the outcome if you face that fear, but you will have clarity and you can then make plans to overcome it moving forward. It’s OK, you don’t have to take week two and three of the exercise, but I would suggest week one. This will help you analyse your fears and rationalise them but also process them, so you can move forward with absolute clarity. You will find this more productive, rewarding and constructive for your business and those around you.