People ask me all the time how I get over my fear as a motivational speaker. And the answer is that I don't get over it. It changes, it takes new shapes, but it never really goes away – not completely.
Every change brings an element of fear.
But I do have a formula I use to help me own the fear instead of the fear owning me. It's not fancy. And it's not proven by anybody important. It's just the way I've always dealt with it. I call it the If/Then Formula for conquering my fears.
If _________ happens, then _______________ could happen, and this is what it will look like: ______________________________.
I know. I told you it wasn't fancy. Let me give you an example of how it works for me. One of the many times this formula came into play in my life was about nine years ago when I got the opportunity to perform on a cruise ship. It was one of those opportunities that I went after myself and actually got – and it terrified the living daylights out of me. We are talking physical terror. The list of "What if's" was enormous. At that point I had not traveled a lot, much less by myself. What if I missed my flight? What if I got on the wrong ship? What if the cruise audience hated me? What if nobody understood Southern? What if I didn't know how to work their microphone? What if I got seasick and threw up on stage? What if I wore the wrong outfit? What if the ship sinks? (And believe it or not, the ship sinking was actually the least of my fears.)
I was going to back out of it, but I have this weird habit of following through on my commitments – even the ones that scare me. So I was stuck. And I began working through my formula – fear by fear.
What if I miss my flight?
If I miss my flight, then I will book another flight from the airport – and if it's too late, I will miss the cruise ship departure. And they will sail off without me. And then find out I'm not on the ship. And call the head of entertainment for the cruise ship and tell her I didn't make it, and she will call me and tell me what a loser I am, and that she is going to make sure I never work again. And I will have to go back to a desk job or reinvent myself under a new name. And my tomb stone will read "Here lies Kelly Swanson…the girl who was almost famous, but she missed her flight."
Yes, this is how my mind works, especially when it's afraid.
And then two things happened.
One, I figured out a way to do the best I could to ensure that I didn't miss my flight – ie take the earliest flight out, or even fly into the departure port city the day before. This is actually what risk management means in corporate america – planning for the worst, but expecting the best – assessing potential risks and managing them ahead of time – being proactive instead of reactive.
Two, I decided that even if this happened exactly as I feared (which it NEVER plays out the way I fear) then I was still willing to give it a shot. The dream was bigger than my fear. And somehow the fact that I had faced it in my head allowed me to breathe again, and put the fear behind me.
I did this with every fear I could think of on this cruise ship gig, and then jumped anyway. I didn't miss my flight, and I got on the right ship. I did get horribly seasick, but was able to perform anyway. I wore a ball gown which was a tragic mistake and created a huge disconnect with me and my audience. I changed my schtick midstream because I thought what I did wasn't good enough. It wasn't. My act was not the right fit for this cruise line and this audience. I was horribly homesick and the seasick patch made me start seeing dead people. I will never again take this opportunity. And I am so glad I did take this one. Why? Because even though many things went wrong – I jumped anyway – and that's where the true triumph is – jumping. Taking a risk. And it made me stronger to take the next risk – which did pay off. And even though this gig was not my finest hour – they booked me for five cruises.
So what's your fear? And if it happened, what would that look like? And is that so bad that you're not going to jump? I hope not! See you on the other side of your fear!