Part 8: The Uneven Playing Field in South African Business

We All Have Fears but Don’t Let Them Control You

Coach Asanda

“I’m scared!” How many times have you heard this sentiment? I bet not that many times. The strange thing is that we often have to deal with fear on a personal level and yet we rarely attribute our feelings to this fear. I am fascinated by how we want others to perceive us as always being confident, always able, always on top of our game, when in actual fact we are constantly dealing with thoughts that are not helpful for our own development and growth. When I first started my business, I was convinced I’d make strides never seen before. I thought a significant amount of attaining the success depended on my muscle. I underestimated the number of role players that affect my ability to achieve my business goals. I guess the same principle can be applied to all part of our lives.

I am big on setting well thought out goals that go through a very rigorous process of elimination. For me not to achieve any of those goals can be a dent on how I view my ability to achieve all my other goals. I have realised that there have been times when I wasn’t moving at the rate I would have liked to and yet instead of attributing the reason to fear, I, like most people, would attribute my lack of achievement to external factors such as lack of resources, time; etc. At the best of times, external factors are contributory. However, fear tends to play a bigger role in determining how far I go in my endeavors. The causes of fear are variable; fear of what others may say; fear of failing; fear of disappointing loved ones; fear of not being able to deliver etc… Fear is the grandest obstacle we are faced with daily and unless we acknowledge its existence, it can cause turmoil as we work towards achieving our goals.

Obstacles are inner and outer barriers to progress towards a goal. Most of the time we are too preoccupied with outer barriers like context, and circumstances, when in actual fact the ‘joy thieves’ we should confront are our inner obstacles such as stress, procrastination, avoidance, fear etc. These are so powerful that unless you face them head on they may consign you to an average life. Not that there’s anything wrong with an average life. It’s just that knowing what could be and choosing to settle for average is a waste of potential.

You’ll agree with me that it is easier to admit that you are procrastinating than to admit that you are afraid. I have never encountered anybody who at first ask attributes their lack of progress or failure to fear. Why is this so? Human beings have a very skewed relationship with states of mind that they believe diminish their ‘self-worth’. I have heard people say that to admit fear is cowardly. I beg to differ. I for one cannot remember a time I embarked on a life changing experience or did something that mattered without fear as a close companion.

In the final analysis, I have come to accept that fear is a fact of life. What matters most is not the fact of its presence, per se. Rather, it’s what you do with it that determines whether it plays a positive or negative role in driving you to achieve your ambitions. Fear of failure has propelled some of the greatest leaders in the world to achieve great things. This is an example of fear serving a greater purpose. Unfortunately in everyday life, it does the complete opposite.

When I made the decision to be self-employed, I knew I was entering territory full of uncertainty. It is that uncertainty that breeds fear: fear of the unknown. As for all aspiring entrepreneurs, financing, sustainability, differentiating traits, ownership, etc. were top of my considerations. I feared what would happen if the business did not make enough to support my needs. Two choices were available to me; desert my dream and help achieve another persons’, or harness the fear to be the fuel for my ambitions. I chose the latter.

I acknowledged the fear and took ownership of it. I was amazed how empowering it was to do this. My fear of not being able to provide for my children drives me everyday. This does not diminish its power to destroy my dreams; it just means I have a far greater say in what happens in my life than it does.

Fear controls us; it limits our potential and inevitably makes us unhappy! I challenge you to own up to your fears. You don't have to tell the whole world about them; just acknowledge them and it becomes easier to challenge them. As Sheryl Sandberg puts it, “what would I be doing if I weren’t afraid?” Answer that and you've got your wings!