What Prevents You from Taking that Bold Step
Taking the first step towards something new and important to us tends to be a challenging affair. Whatever that thing might be for you… starting a business, moving away, quitting your job, changing career, writing your first blog or just voicing an opinion, it requires courage and taking a bold step. But why is it that so many people find it so difficult and feel stuck, frustrated and unable to take that bold step?
When it comes to my life, sometimes I act ferociously and move towards what I want but sometimes I freeze and I don’t seem to be able to move. I get stuck and feel like I am unable to move forward for no reason. That led me to ask myself a question:
What is it that prevents me from taking that bold step?
Here’s what I came up with and what I thought I’d share with you:
Fear of Criticism and What Other People Think
Scientists have demonstrated that the brain sees criticism as a threat and we are biologically wired to avoid threats. No one enjoys being negatively criticised. Criticism hurts and it drives disconnection, triggers shame and makes us feel that we are not good enough. The amount of things we stop ourselves from doing because of fear of being criticised, consciously or unconsciously is astonishing. Criticism is paralysing and in retrospective I easily realise how many times I have not taken that bold step because of fear of what others think.
Criticism comes in many different ways and sometimes is disguised as good advice. As soon as you want to move house, start a business or do a career change people will throw unrequested warnings and advise at you. They are doing this because they genuinely care about us, but how much of that is actually preventing us from a well-needed change, or more importantly, how much weight are we going to give to that?
It is easy to learn to handle criticism if it comes from strangers or acquaintances, but it is a whole different story if it comes from people we love, respect and care about. They are people that matter to us and we give weight to what they think and although they genuinely want the best for us, their views or opinions sometimes can prevent us from moving forward. The question we have to ask ourselves again is, how much weight are we going to give to that?
What we need to be very aware of is that sometimes we don’t even get moving because we think people are going to say X or think Y, but in reality they probably wont say or think anything. Although some of this criticism is real, a lot of it is actually all made up in our heads and that paralyses us before we even start and sometimes such fear is not even real! Is what you fear real or all made up by yourself in your head?
So, on the topic of criticism, what I have learned is that to stop criticism from paralysing us, we have to have a very strong deep conviction of what we are doing and why we are doing it. If our hearts and minds are fired up by a strong desire or purpose, then it is much easier to stand the hurdles thrown at us. We also need to understand that people are entitled to their opinions and that if we wait for the day when everyone agrees with us or ‘like’ what we do or say, then probably we will be waiting forever and will never do or say anything. I‘ve struggled to learn this but I’ve come to understand that if I have an opinion that I want to voice, there will always be people who might disagree with me and that’s OK.
To a certain extent we have to learn to be ‘unapologetic’ about our true self and what we belief in. Is what people think preventing you from following what you really want to do?
To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing –Aristotle
Fear of Failure
Another thing that prevents us from being courageous is fear of failure. We live in a society that worships the ego. We must be successful, have money, and prove to others our value and failing is exactly the opposite of that. Whilst achievement is celebrated, failure is shaming. It not until more recently that society have started to see failure as opportunity and one of the biggest sources of learning, but even though that is the case, our natural instinct is still to avoid failure. I mean, who wants to feel shame and lose the money, time and effort you have put into something important to you? Failure is certainly not fun.
I can give you a lot of ‘motivational examples’ of how very famous and successful people failed, but you heard them all before and my intention is not to be cliché, but to get real with the issue. The thing I want to highlight is that TV, press and social media inundate us with thousands of success stories, but they hardly tell us about the real struggles that these people went through before getting there. Most millionaires have stories of bankruptcy, most successful artists are full of rejection and most gurus are full of falls. What we need to remember is that we need to embrace failure as part of the journey, move past it and get back up. I love the quote that says that ‘failure is only permanent if we give up’. Failure is indeed a temporary outcome, unless we give up, only then it becomes permanent. Most people succeed not because they knew how to do something, but because they persisted.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default –JK Rowling
Sometimes we have a very clear idea of where we want to go, but we don’t know how to do to get there. Other times, we might have an idea of the path, but we might not take off for fear of turbulence or unexpected weather along the way. Any of those two scenarios create uncertainty and they can stop us from taking the bold step we should.
The reality is that we cannot control the weather. Clouds and rain will come our way and we actually need to expect them and be prepared to go through them. Pilots trust the aircraft because they know it can go through turbulence and they also trust their own knowledge and experience of flying the aircraft. Similarly, we need to trust our idea, business or intention and we must trust our skills, experience and abilities to drive that idea, business or intention forward. and more importantly, we must trust our ability to manoeuvre our aircraft while we fly. Being flexible and reactive is critical.
We won’t always have a detail step-by-step plan of how to achieve our goals and even if we did, most likely thing to happen is that the actual path won’t be quite what we envisaged in the first place. Creating or doing something new intrinsically means uncertainty and walking into the unknown. We have to start walking without having the full and detailed picture of what the journey is like. Most of the time, taking the first step and turning around the corner is what shows us the next steps. I am a firm believer that the path is made by walking and not by contemplating what the journey would be like. This has certainly been my experience most of the time.
A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on it’s own wings -Anonymous