This week I got the Lab Rats to explore what fears they thought were lurking around the next corner of the maze ready to jump out at them and destroy their chances to reach the end of the maze and get the cheese.
All four of them fear ridicule, judgment and not living up to the expectations of others, while Alessio, Wendee and Horatio suffer from the-devil-you-know syndrome. They fear making changes and finding out the new situation is worse than the bad situation they are currently in.
The Fear of Imperfection
The fear of not being perfect and not living up to the expectations of others actually has nothing to do with other people. The person we hate to disappoint most is not someone else – it’s ourselves. The truth is that no one cares more about what we do than we do ourselves.
Take an example with a client. Recently he told me that he feared potential clients looking at what he had to offer and pointing and laughing at him. He knew this to be a totally irrational fear because honestly if potential clients didn’t like what he had to offer they’d just go on their way and say nothing. If things didn’t work out, he would be the only one calling himself “loser!” and making L-shapes on his forehead with his fingers.
The real fear in this case is trying something, making a mistake or taking a wrong turn along the way and discovering we’re not perfect.
And human beings as a whole hate being shown imperfection in themselves.
When this fear of imperfection, disappointing others or ridicule comes up for you, the best way to counteract it is to step outside yourself and pretend that you’re a completely other person looking at the actions that led to this sense of imperfection. If a friend of yours did what you did, would you ridicule them? Would you be disappointed in them? Would you care that they are imperfect?
Of course you wouldn’t care about the imperfection – actually you probably love them because of that imperfection. If you would be disappointed, ask yourself why and what “that other person” could do next time in a similar situation. And if you would ridicule them as yourself how good of a friend are you?
If you don’t judge yourself and are confident in what you are doing then the negative opinions and judgments of others won’t matter, no matter what they may be.
Preferring Comfort to Progress
The other fear I mentioned – of things getting worse and not better – is a harder one to counteract. There’s only one way I know to slide past it and that’s trusting and leaping.
Of course the more prepared you are the easier it is to dive.
Think of Olympic divers. They don’t jump off the high board and do a triple back flip spiral the first time they dive. If they did, then of course they would hurt themselves (or worse, die!). Instead they start with a normal diving board and regular head first no-flips dive.
As they build up their skills and confidence, they increase the difficulty until they reach the Olympics and maybe that gold medal.
In my own case I first took the leap of starting my own business but staying in the home I knew and felt comfortable in surround by a good strong support network. When I was ready a few years later I made the leap I really wanted to do which was change countries altogether and make writing my primary focus.
If I had gone from secure but brain-numbing job to living and writing in a foreign country, I likely would have failed, likely spectacularly.
This is why in curing Someday Syndrome I focus on the little steps that take us to our goals. When we focus too much on the end result, we only see the possible grand disaster. However, if we keep and eye on the result but stay focused on the steps that will get us there, each dive is a little one, slowly increasing in height and complexity until we reach the level we’re looking for.
Now that the Lab Rats know what they fear, they can watch out for signs within themselves that tell them the fear is lurking around the corner waiting to pounce and by listening to their gut they can then either take a different route, choose to stay where they are until the feeling of fear passes, or move forward anyway using the fear as a kind of propellant to push them through the maze.
In this chapter of the ebook, Someday My Ship Will Come In, I also got the Lab Rats to go through their list of Somedays and scratch out the ones that didn’t light a spark in their eyes. As we continue, this list will get tighter and smaller until the Lab Rats come out of the maze with only a few goals that are manageable and really excite the crap out of them.