Faith in your abilities is a necessary ingredient in the recipe for success when starting a new business. But fears - those emotional responses we experience when we perceive a threat - can cause actual changes in our brains, and can prompt us to behave in specific ways - good or bad.
Fear can cause us to hide (physically or emotionally), run away, or be emotionally paralyzed into inaction. Some causes of fear are obvious, such as sudden confrontations, while others are subtler, like when we avoid certain situations out of fear of fear itself. And there are those unexpected fears that grab our attention, if we, for example, happen to meet a rattlesnake.
Fear is real and it serves a purpose, but it should not dictate your life. When you understand the potential positive results of fear (like getting away from that rattlesnake), and where fears originate, you can learn to deal with them, which is invaluable when starting a new business!
The Positive Side of Fear
Fear is an adaptive behavior. It directly assists with survival in some situations. But we're only born with two innate fears: fear of falling and fear of loud sounds. Avoiding falling is important to the survival of the species, as is avoiding sources of loud noises (like lightning). Without fears emerging at appropriate times, we could put ourselves into dangerous situations that we would be better off avoiding. Clearly fear isn't only a bad thing, because it helps us survive.
The Fears We Learn
Though fear of falling and loud noise is "hardwired" into us, most of our fears are learned, and many of them develop over time through association. If your last two fender-bender accidents were caused by drivers in the same color, make, and model of car, you could "learn" to wince, or to be extra careful whenever you see that type of car, even though it doesn't make practical sense to do so. But, just because some fears are learned doesn't make them irrelevant. When we can identify why we fear something, we can learn how to confront it constructively.
Think about when someone's warning came true. Say an earlier attempt at starting a new business failed. It could cause you to needlessly fear that the same thing will happen again. Keep in mind that nobody knows the future, even if they guessed correctly a time or two.
Why Fear Shouldn't Drive Business Decisions
While ignoring all fears or warnings is foolish, fear should not control your business decisions. Acknowledging our fears and facing them is the very definition of courage, and courage is the launch point of skillfully using the control you have in a situation.
If you're determined to wait until conditions are perfect before starting a new business, changing vendors, or adding new products, you'll wait forever. Perfect conditions rarely happen. When a parent teaches a child to ride a two-wheeler, running alongside and surreptitiously letting go, it's a way for the child to discover that, even when things aren't perfect, they're capable of more than they realize. Starting a new business requires a similar leap of faith in yourself.
Don't Underestimate Persistence
Courage is one key element in moving forward with a business, but another is less glamorous. It is persistence. Persistence is clearly necessary in things like invention and scientific discovery, because trial and error is expected. But persistence is every bit as important to the person who wants to succeed in a creative endeavor, like starting a new business. One 2015 study concluded that "persistence is a critical determinant of creative performance and that people may undervalue and under-utilize persistence in everyday creative problem solving."
Sometimes the difference between success and failure is simply not giving up.
Finally, it's important to remind yourself that when starting a new business, failure does not have the final say. The business owners you look up to have more often than not led failed enterprises in the past, and it hasn't stopped them. Courage, persistence, and not letting failures stop you in your tracks are essential to entrepreneurial success. If you're considering starting a new business, I invite you to download two free chapters of my book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. Yes, you can succeed in business, because you're courageous, persistent, and youget the last word when it comes to success.