This article first appeared on Happify
An opportunity comes up at work. You know it’s what you want. You know you can bring value to your organization. But if you’re like many people, the excitement soon melts into fear. Catastrophic thoughts and images intrude your mental space, with rejection and ridicule leading the way: “Why would they want me?” “There’s much better talent around.” “I’ll just make a fool of myself.”
When we let our fears speak louder than our dreams, we let them drive our decisions. And then we pacify our dreams by justifying our decisions: “It wasn’t the right time.” “The opportunity wasn’t the right fit.” “I’ll do it when I get a new skill or a new degree.” “I’ll be ready when the kids start school or leave home.” The rational mind is a rationalizing mind—it may make us feel better in the moment, but sets us up for a lifetime of regrets.
Some of us get so used to living small that we don’t even hear the voice of our dreams anymore. We live on autopilot, staying away from great opportunities because we’ve convinced ourselves that we don’t have what it takes. For some of us, this convincing happened a long time ago, and we’ve fed our inadequacy by avoiding opportunities ever since. We’ve handed over our lives to our fears, never realizing what a ride of a lifetime we missed—literally.
Then there are those of us who challenge our fears and approach opportunities despite those fears. We spend painful days and sleepless nights fighting with our minds and mustering the courage to show up. By the time we do—if we do—we’ve lost much of the excitement we once had for the opportunity. Instead of speaking from the heart or finding joy in our work, we judge our every word and watch out for every sign of rejection. (And we invariably find it!)
Here are 3 ways to show up (for the interview, the meeting, or the talk) with the same excitement that drew you to it in the first place.
Connect to Your Why
Our fears keep us focused inward. After all, we’re trying to ensure our survival—even though it’s not under threat! Instead of wasting energy convincing yourself you’re safe, you’ll find it far more energizing to focus on how the opportunity helps you help others. What difference will you be able to make to their lives? How can your skills and talents answer a pressing need of theirs? This shift from “ego to eco,” as Professor Jennifer Crocker at the Ohio State University calls it, is an excellent way to show up with confidence.
Befriend Your Stress
It’s practically impossible to not feel stressed when we step outside our comfort zone. There is uncertainty about what may follow, which initiates a physiological response that is outside our voluntary control. You have the choice of bringing your body back to a state of homeostasis through breath work, but this is not always practical in the moment. It’s far easier to channel the stress response toward desired action, given that neurochemicals like adrenaline are already present in your body. You can do so by telling yourself, “I can do it!” or, “This is great,” before or during the experience.
Pretend a Little
When something excites us initially, it’s because our imagination has come on board. We see possibility and we’re curious about the potential that lies ahead. And then…fear kicks in. Professor Dan Cable at the London Business School has found that we can reconnect to the initial excitement by being a little playful—something we don’t normally associate with work. This may mean pretending you’re a star just before your talk, striking a “power pose” before your interview, or even thinking of your boss in his or her pajamas before a meeting. By engaging your creativity and bringing some fun to the experience, you can happily keep your fears at bay.
Life is restrictive and continually shrinking in a comfort zone. If you want to live it to its fullest, seek out the many opportunities it offers. I love this line by author and educator Parker Palmer, in his commencement address to the 2015 graduating class at Naropa University: “This world is a surprising, startling, beautiful place. Don’t get to the end of your day, or week, or life and say, ‘Dang, I missed it.’”