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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Moore

Successful leaders always do this one thing

Now that you have some understanding of how you may be unconsciously sabotaging your Getting Unstuck journey, what are you going to do about it? Yeah, I said it. As long as you’re uncomfortable with the idea of success, you’ll keep getting in your own way.

As you clarify what you want and start do your research one of two things can happen:

You can let your ego get ahead of your knowledge/experience and assume you know everything. That ignorance can lead you to start skipping steps.

Or, fear can make you stuck, knowing what you want but keeping you from taking action. If you are feeling afraid, stuck worrying, try thinking differently. Most leaders you admire have overcome their fear of failure.

The truth is, fear is not all bad. Fear of failure can help you make better choices. Fear can inspire you to research an idea longer to better understand the risk or contemplate your strengths before committing to action. Fear can mean that you are fully present and aware of the risk meaning you'll take longer to consider all angles and possibly apply better thinking.

You might be thinking, “Meredith, if fear can be good, why not stay afraid?” Listen, I spent a good amount of my life afraid. When I started working in philanthropy the issues were so big from the environment, education, human trafficking, women's rights, or disaster relief efforts I worried constantly about the safety of people I loved and never met. The fear was so overwhelming I developed breakthrough questions to coach myself through difficult situations.

Tony Sanneh, professional soccer player holds small boy with a camera taking a photo
During a site visit to Port-au-Prince with Tony Sanneh and the Haitian Initiative

In January 2018 I visited Haiti led by Tony Sanneh, retired professional soccer player and CEO of The Sanneh Foundation. In preparation for the trip, I avoided reading all of the stories of the danger, political instability and resulting challenges from extreme poverty and lack of international aid. I knew there was nothing I could read that would make me less afraid of failing the children, and I decided to avoid forming a vision until I saw the country for myself. I decided to trust Tony and believe it was safe.

On the second night of our Haitian visit, after traveling across the countryside to meet the children and families in Cite Soleil, an extremely impoverished part of Port-au-Prince, we returned to the compound and received word that due to protests against demeaning comments about the Haitian people from the U.S President, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti was closed and the staff had been evacuated.

The closing of the U.S. embassy was one of my worst fears because it meant that if we had any issues or we impacted by the protests, our government wasn’t present to help us, we were on our own. Many in the group didn’t think twice, laughing off any fears they had and continuing with evening plans to watch the soccer game at a local U.S. hotel. I listened to my fear, I’d pushed through it to travel to the countryside during the day and I felt my limit on overcoming the fear of all the things that could go wrong. My fear inspired me to choose to stay in the compound in Haiti rather than venturing out that night.

Thankfully the group had no issues and everyone returned safely but I always remember the example of letting fear motivate me to action and protect me from making poor decisions. You have a choice to let your fear stop you from taking action or impact how you make decisions.

Beautiful Haitian waterfall
This view from the Haitian waterfall was worth pushing through my fear

Successful people are able to harness the fear of failure as motivation to do our best work. But, do you know how to use this fear in a positive way?

Instead of allowing fear to change your plans completely, consider how to find an alternative that feels safer. Like my decision to travel to Haiti but not choosing to leave the compound at night, how can you compromise without giving in to your fear? Shifting your mindset to getting unstuck will allow you to overcome your fear by focusing on your purpose, goals, and results to avoid the feelings of regret that happen when you limit yourself.

Here are my Getting Unstuck tips to putting the fear of failure behind you:

1. Accept that failure is part of the process. You’re very lucky if you figure out the right way to do something on your first try. Short-term failure is much more common. Anytime you want to accomplish something significant, you can expect failures to be part of the process. Keep improving your process until you’re successful. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

2. Acknowledge failure is only a temporary condition. The best athletes of the world have suffered from an injury or lost a race they believed they could win. The difference is, professionals know failure is not who they are, it’s a moment in time. They don’t lose sight of their strengths and start to think that failure is a permanent condition. Failure is like turbulence on a plane. BELIEVE there are clear skies are ahead.

3. Focus on your why. Having a clear vision and intention for your life gives you the confidence that you are experiencing an important part of your journey. Your motivation can overpower your fear. For example, when I was in Haiti, I was so excited to see the faces of the kids and understand how I could help, I didn’t worry as much about my comfort or have time to think about the possible negative outcomes.

When you have enough passion for something, fear is much easier to overcome.

4. Don’t take anything personally. Write this down: EVERYBODY FAILS. Don’t read more into the fact that your idea or approach didn’t work this time. It might not be because it was you, it could be that it wasn’t the right time or you didn’t know a critical part of the solution. Failure doesn’t say anything about you as a person, it’s normal. Failure is common for even the most talented people. Making the wrong choice isn’t the end of the world. Believe you’ll survive whatever you are going through because it’s not about you, it’s simply another problem for you to solve.

5. Take it one minute at a time. Don’t let your mind wander too far to examine all the potential negatives or the longer-term implications of failure. Stick with the truth. Avoid feeding your anxiety, your reality is happening right now. You can control your future by believing your decisions can shape it. Stay positive and see yourself overcoming your obstacle and achieving success. If you have the time and ability to read this article, you’re likely okay. If you can survive this moment, you can survive the next second, too.

Children in The Sanneh Foundation shirts wait for their English lesson to continue.
The children of Port-au-Prince taking a break at the Haitian Initiative

6. Embrace the feeling of fear. There’s a reason people make a career out of something dangerous, many have adopted a belief that if you aren’t afraid you aren’t living. As you develop a track record of pushing through your fear successfully you’ll change your life. Soon you might get addicted to the thrill of laughing in the face of fear to achieve your bigger goal.

7. Shut down fear with action. Fear can paralyze you if you let it. In Haiti, I wrote down all the people I could call if the situation didn’t get better. Taking the step of writing down an action plan reminded me that I could release my fear. Relief didn’t come until I was willing to do something about my fear. What would happen if you teach your brain to fight instead of fleeing or freezing? You can change how you react to feeling fear. If you give in and let it stop you, you’re reinforcing a limiting belief that fear is an effective way to control you and change your behavior.

I can tell you from personal experience, your anxiety will use your fear of failure to keep you stuck and make it harder the next time.

You can change your behavior at any point in your life. Even if something stopped you before, you can take action now. Every step you take to overcome your fear is retraining your mind and reinforcing a positive belief that your fear doesn’t define your course of action. When you consistently take action you’ll feel more fearless.

8. Set a bright vision for your future. Do you want to be motivated by joy or fear? What will your life look like if you encourage fear to set your course? How will your goals be impacted if you are stopped by every roadblock or challenge you face? Now shift your mind to consider what is possible for your life if you don’t allow fear to control your actions.

See yourself exceeding your expectations and allowing fear to motivate you to make bigger moves faster.

I have a few go-to movies that motivate me when I’m feeling fear. One of my favorites, Inception is about controlling your dreams and vision. The story follows characters navigating the dream space while struggling to avoid falling into limbo, a place between your conscious and unconscious where you are stuck. To challenge each other to get out, they ask “Do you want to become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?” If fear could be holding you back, ask yourself is this fear worth limiting your vision for your life?

9. Fail forward. Failure might be embarrassing, even painful, but it can teach you an invaluable lesson. What if you could train your mind to figure out how to turn a failure into a success? If you're an overachiever, failure is usually a sign of something else. If fear is holding you back, consider your priorities, how you’re managing you’re time and delegating tasks or building trust with your mentors. Search for the lesson and apply it the next time. Don’t give up, get better.

Everyone gets stuck. When has the fear of failure held you back? Everyone faces situations that make us want to run and hide but the most successful people learn to overcome it, even craving the feeling. You decide how big of an impact you’ll let your fear have on the trajectory of your life and your goals.

Successful leaders make the choice daily to shift past limiting thoughts and excuses. They risk failure and recognize that they are the inventor of their own worse nightmares. Your mind is incredibly powerful and you are choosing your reality, embrace failure and move forward. What’s stopping you?

Take Action!

Celebrate your failures. Make a list of every failure you’ve accomplished in your life.

Yes, I said – accomplished. Remember to look for the lesson in each failure and jot down a note to yourself. If you can't find a lesson, try asking a trusted friend if they observed in changes in your behavior

Journal it! Take time to reflect on these questions:

What will you do differently now that you are aware of your failures?

What can learn from your failures if you embrace them?

Want support for your journey?

If you are feeling stuck, take time to go deeper into your strengths by signing up for the Getting Unstuck Career Package. Get three one on one coaching sessions to explore your career narrative, refresh your resume, and update your LinkedIn profile. You'll get the confidence to apply for the job you want.

If this content has motivated you, share this post, and invite your network to follow for more. You can order your copy of Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Moving Your Career Forward, now available on Amazon. #gettingunstuckguide

Interested in supporting Haiti?

The Haitian Initiative (HI) is a collaboration of partners working together to bring sustainable programs to Haiti using soccer as a catalyst to combat the cycle of poverty. The program is designed to motivate kids to stay in school. Regular school attendance and passing grades are a requirement to participate in the program. Practice and games occur six days a week. After every practice, the players receive a hot vitamin-fortified meal provided by another Minnesota based organization known as Feed My Starving Children. For the vast majority of HI participants, this meal represents their only meal for the day. As a result of this program’s sustained success, The Sanneh Foundation is one of only nine organizations worldwide chosen by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to lead and implement an International Sports Programming Initiative (ISPI) reciprocal exchange program on behalf of the Department of State’s SportsUnited program.

Where We Work: Cite Soleil Cite Soleil has an estimated 200,000 people - with 29,000 people per square mile and close to 400,000 people overall. Most of the residents of Cite Soleil are unemployed. Some people are able to sell small amounts of produce and other products at street markets.  A majority of Cite Soleil residents are children.  In fact, 65% of Haiti's population is under the age of 25. The children we work with are sometimes homeless and parentless. They face extreme hunger, gang violence, and a high risk of AIDS/HIV. Some children lack access to school, education, and safe places to play sports. Youth in Cite Soleil rarely have the opportunity to just be children.

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