Emotions are powerful, especially if we let them work in our lives without paying full attention. They can derail our goals if we let them.
In my experience there are four emotions that usually come mixed in a powerful cocktail, sure to undermine our goals: fear, uncertainty, doubt, and shame. Most of us succumb to these from one time to another. I certainly do.
Early in my career, I used to suffer from social anxiety. I couldn’t go an office party without getting clammy hands. I’d sweat like crazy. It was embarrassing. My only defense was to avoid going. But of course that avoidance meant I missed opportunities to advance my career.
Later, when I was named CEO of Thomas Nelson, I was hammered by pretty intense feelings of inadequacy, which is just another name for that dangerous cocktail. It’s only a matter of time before they find me out, I thought.
A Universal Challenge
As it turns out, most leaders are like that. Whenever I speak on this topic, they admit it. It’s a universal affliction.
And it’s natural. There’s no playbook for leaders, no manual. We’re all making it up as we go. Under those circumstances, who wouldn’t feel like they might blow it?
To this day I feel it every time we launch a new product. It’s the most natural feeling in the world. The truth is that any leader that doesn’t feel that way should probably get fired. They’re obviously self-deluded.
But just because I wrestle with these four emotions doesn’t mean I have to succumb to them. Two realizations have helped me develop some immunity to this deadly cocktail.
Two Powerful Realizations
The first is something my daughter Megan always says: “Nobody is thinking about you as much as you’re thinking about you.”
It’s a simple but powerful statement. It takes the teeth out of any fear I feel because I realize everyone is probably just as nervous as me. And if that’s true, they’re thinking about themselves, not me.
Once you get that everyone’s thinking about themselves and wondering how they’re coming off you can stop worrying. It actually makes the whole thing seem kind of comical.
The second realization is that nothing good ever happens when I’m tucked in my comfort zone. If I’m not struggling with all these emotions, I’m probably in my comfort zone—and I’ve learned that’s an unprofitable place to be.
Going outside my comfort zone stretches me. It causes me to grow and be more creative. I might hatch an idea in my comfort zone, but to bring it to reality requires the bravery of stepping out.
Fear, uncertainty, doubt, and shame can sink our dreams and derail our goals. But they don’t have to. It’s up to us how we respond. If we’re aware how they’re working inside us, we can face them down and overcome their negative influence.