As a leader, you can’t avoid taking risks. Some decisions pan out; some don’t. When they don’t, you may form an illogical fear of making the same mistake again. When that happens, you get stuck in your leadership.
My best friend is a sales executive in a high tech firm. When the CEO promoted him, he staked his job on my friend’s success (but didn’t tell him). If my friend hadn’t single-handedly saved the company, the CEO would have lost his job.
How do we make these kind of high stakes decisions that pay off?
Fear usually plays a part in the decisions we make. Probably the biggest fear that you will have to face when making a decision is that of failure. Obviously, the bigger the decision, the greater the downside if it doesn’t pan out.
Here are three strategies for overcoming fear with regard to decisions:
- Face your fears. Tim Ferris talks about how he faces fear in his TED presentation. The first question he asks is, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Be specific, and as detailed as possible. In doing this, you’ll know exactly what you’re up against.
Tim also says that fear is your friend. Sometimes it shows you what not to do, but often it shows you exactly what to do. Fear loses its power when you confront it.
- See the value in failure. Children learn to walk as they grow up by trial and error. They usually experience many tears, bruises, and cuts before a they learn to walk. Why? Because it’s a process of learning how to do it best.
The same is true of decisions. The Bible says that “perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18). Fear of failure is wrongly associated with punishment.
Inventor Roger Von Oech says the benefits from failures are twofold: first, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.
- Beware of “once bitten, twice shy.” In relationships, when we have been wounded by someone in the past, it will affect the way we react when we find ourselves in the same situation again.
Sometimes, overcoming our fear isn’t about trying a different approach to failure, it’s about looking at the root of where the fear took hold, and dealing with it. Usually when we’ve been hurt by someone, (including ourselves), it requires forgiveness as the first step.
Without this necessary first step, you are likely to repeat the failure, because now you have even less confidence you will succeed. Instead, you have to realize that you are now likely wiser and actually more likely to succeed on the second go-round.
Perfect love drives out all fear. What is perfect love? It’s being able to completely trust. That only happens when you are confident that nothing happens by accident—that even failures are part of God’s ultimate plan to help you accomplish His will for your life.