Seeing the world from very high places is both inspiring and alluring, it frees the mind and allows us to appreciate expansiveness and beauty. As humans, we have developed all manner of methods to get up there for a peek, from balloon rides, observation decks, sky-diving and even (for the most adventurous) base jumping. I am no less enthusiastic to see the view, but I have a crippling fear of heights, so if I get too close to the edge, my mind fills me with dread, shuts down my limbs and butterflies in my stomach go crazy. I can’t even bear watch those videos of skyscraper daredevils.
Determined not to miss out, I have developed my own strategies to work through the fear, which has meant nerve-wracking rides on cable cars, standing no closer than five metres from the edge and a hot air balloon ride preceded by sleepless nights. Practical strategies help to overcome the overriding feeling that I am about to plunge to my death.
In fact, there is no danger. All the places I have been are safer than crossing the road, and the battle is only in my mind: of my rational mind and my irrational fear battling it out, and me determined to override it long enough to see how great the Yarra Valley is from a balloon or New York is from the Empire State Building. When in that moment, the fear can be kept at bay by not dwelling on it and looking out, not down. “Look forward, don’t look down” is the mantra I repeat to myself. If I dwell on the fear, regardless of how real the danger is, I can easily go into a downward spiral. If I let that happen, the fear becomes consuming and I can’t move forward.
Interestingly, when working with small and new business owners, I see the same pattern on the business owners. The journey of business owner requires faith in yourself and determination to go forward, regardless of the perceived danger. Even as the business becomes established, that fear never completely goes as the owner is well aware that any business can take an express elevator down to failure on short notice. In this context, emotional management is key. In the early days of the business, when client base and cash flow is just being established, it’s easy to psyche yourself out, let doubt fester and fulfil the failure the fear. It’s easy to get into a downward spiral of doubt, then stop taking the actions that you need to grow your business. That means not making new contacts, asking for fair prices or building your network.
In business, as in life, your future is controlled by your mind-set. Self-doubt can be a killer, so rather than ignoring it, learn to work around it and put it in the right place, not dominate. Stay focused on the future, the outcomes and your goals. In other words, don’t look down.
Knowing the actual danger and your personal limits is important. Thrill-seeking fun, which pushes your limits but is safe, is not the same as risking your life. In your business, plan well to understand the risks so you can fend off those doubts. Once you know the risks, you can push yourself further and develop the skills and strategies to move your business forward. Simply reminding yourself not to dwell on the doomsday scenario can help to push it away.
We all have setbacks, and in fact, most successful entrepreneurs have a long history of dogged determination in the face of difficulty. Failures or setbacks can be pushed through when your focus is on the future. Hold your nerve - know that you are a long way from the ground, but don’t let that be a source of uncertainty, rather a motivator to keep moving forward. Most importantly, know where you are going and be confident in the path before you start. No tightrope walker steps out on the wire without knowing where the other side is.
Without doubt, courage is necessary to move into new and unknown territory. Nerves and doubt are always there, but can be companion rather than enemy if you keep them in check. Be brave, know your path and don’t look down. Look forward.
Dr Warren Harmer