Does this sound familiar to you?
You've just come up with an amazing idea for your business . One of your finest yet, in fact! You start researching, planning and taking the steps to bring your idea to life...
...until suddenly, that tiny little thought pops up. You know the one.
"What if it doesn't work?"
That tiny little negative "what if" leads to another and another and the next thing you know, all your excitement is gone and what you're left with is fear and doubt.
I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been in that situation. Those what ifs followed me when I was contemplating leaving my cushy 9-5 job, when I decided to start Tiny Dog Paintings and make a business out of painting pet portraits and a year after that when I felt the desire to launch Studio TDP so I could share my experience and help other creative small business owners on the same journey.
"What if people think I have no right teaching others?"
"What if they disagree with my methods?"
"What if I put myself out there and it all fails?"
The fear is real. Self-doubt is real.
It's not the failure that scares us
I once heard this said in a talk by Brendon Burchard; "It's not the fear of failure that stops you from trying something. It's the fear of being embarrassed."
Isn't that so true? Most of us probably wouldn't mind trying and failing on a daily basis IF we knew that no one would ever find out about it. If we didn't have to explain ourselves, ignore the pitied looks or fend off the unhelpful "I told you so"s.
Here's the thing though, while our fear of being embarrassed or judged is in no way invalid, I think there's something else we should fear even more. Regret.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to look back at my life 10 years down the road and regret that I never at least gave it a shot. If you're reading this, I suspect you feel the same.
So how do you deal with your negative beliefs?
Shift your perspective
I hate to say it but those negative what if questions will always pop up every time you get out of your comfort zone. It's probably a self-protection mechanism we inherited from our caveman ancestors that prevented them from doing stupid things like arm wrestle a bear and that now seeks to protect us from the modern day equivalent. (Jumping in front of a speeding car, maybe? Also, don't quote me on my theory but I think it makes total sense.)
My point is this; you may not be able to control those negative what ifs and stop them from popping up but you can control how you perceive them. So how do you do that?
You change the questions.
Here a is the 3-question method I use whenever those negative what ifs come creeping in. Note: ask them in this particular order (you'll see why!)
Question #1: So what?
Try this short exercise with me. I want you to answer "So what?" to the each of the questions below. Ready?
"What if your friends and family can't understand why you're doing it?"
"What if you end up looking stupid?"
"What if everyone expects you to fail?"
Didn't that feel liberating?! Seriously. SO. WHAT? I love this question because it totally shifts my posture and mindset the moment I say it out. I always ask this first because it doesn't even require an answer and it immediately puts me in a better state to process the following 2 questions.
Question #2: What if it works?
Yes, that new idea, meeting, launch, partnership, (whatever it is!) could end up failing. But what if it doesn't?
What if, instead, it works and you manage to achieve whatever it was you had dreamed up in your mind?
Isn't that also a possibility? Spoiler alert: IT IS!
Question #3: What's the worst that could happen?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not asking you to throw all caution to the wind but if the worst case scenario is a couple of judgy looks, a slightly hurt pride and a tiny dent in your wallet, then is that a good enough reason to not try?
The 10-year test
I heard about the 10-year test on an episode of Amy Porterfield's podcast where she interviewed her friend and business mentor, Marie Forleo, and I think it brings the point home.
Whenever you find yourself in that position of having to make a decision about doing something that's out of your comfort zone, ask yourself this; "In 10-years, will I regret not doing ______(insert thing here)______?" Meaning, if you're 30 this year, what would 40-year old you say when you think back to this moment? If you answer confidently that 40-year old you would be totally okay with not doing the thing because it wasn't the right opportunity or time then perfect! Dust your hands off and move on.
But, if you think there will be even an ounce of regret, then that's your sign to Nike up, squash the self-doubt and just do it!