I have the honour of coaching talented, dedicated and ambitious pharmacists, interns and pharmacy teams to achieve their goals. So it is perhaps surprising, that even among this cohort of the brightest and best that a predominant theme that can stop us from progressing towards our goals is ..... F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real and it can appear very real!
Fear can keep us from enriching our lives, and the lives of others. It can keep us from doing what we need and want to do. Fortunately, there’s help.
At its best, fear is an instinctive, natural ability to help us survive. Without fear we might attempt to stroll across motorways or scratch behind a lion’s ears. But given the upper hand, fear can dominate our life and make even the innocuous—making a decision, talking to a customer or answering the phone—a daunting experience.
Ninety-nine percent of what we worry about never happens, according to Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. “There’s a voice inside our heads that’s always heralding doom and disaster even before we get started on something,” she says. Overcoming fears boils down to accepting one fundamental truth: the more nervous you are is in direct proportion to how uncertain you feel. This begs the question, what causes you to feel uncertain? Think about it for a moment.
Is it that you think you need to have all the answers, but know you don't know everything about everything?
Is it that you have been trained to believe there are thousands of wrong answers, but only one right one?
Are you afraid of making a decision, in case it isn't the right one?
Is it that you have consumed a myriad of information, some of which is conflicting and you don't trust your own judgement?
Is it that you know in theory what to do, but have not put the theory into practice, yet?
Is it that you don't know what the customer will say, or how your colleague will react and fear the lack of control?
Is it that you are not sure whether you will conduct everything perfectly?
Is it that you lack certain skills e.g. IT skills, consultation skills, management skills, leadership skills?
Is it that you are unsure about your own ability to offer value to others?
Is it that you aren't clear about what is expected of you in your role?
Whatever fear cripples you, know that all have one thing in common - they are all lies - every last one of them. The fact is every voice in this world has something of value to offer others - even yours. Your personal and professional experience and training is worthwhile; it's necessary, useful and relevant. So is your customer's and colleagues. And the more you start accepting this truth, the more confident you can be while sharing it and listening to others.
But in the event that the above inspiration is not enough to help you move past ungrounded fears, there are three simple tactics you can try that will help you manage your fear and GROW your confidence more easily. Practice these, and watch your confidence dramatically improve:
1. Know Your Subject Matter
When it comes time for you to showcase your knowledge, skill and expertise, know it backwards and forwards. This doesn't mean that you must learn every line of dialogue you are going to say like some actor that's about to deliver a performance. What it does mean, however, is that you are completely comfortable with the most important points you plan to make and know the general flow of the engagement you are about to enter into e.g. patient consultation, call to a prescriber, performance review, job interview etc. It also means that even though you are a subject matter expert in your given field (e.g. pharmacy), you are not under the impression that everything you know about that subject (pharmacy) must be dumped in one go onto the other person. That's too much pressure to put on yourself and an unnecessary approach when it comes to sharing expertise. Know what is most important and stick closely to that message. Remember, sharing expertise is at least as much about listening as it is about telling.
2. Calm What's Going on Inside of You
Foremost, stop thinking about yourself. It is not all about your performance and your expertise. What matters most is that you convey your message in a way that enhances the other person's ability to absorb it. Your job is to simply share that message, in the context of the other person's life, so the message is clear and relevant to THEM. You cannot accomplish this task if you keep tripping over yourself and are preoccupied with anxiety about your own performance, rather than on adding value to the other person. As self-help expert Norman Vincent Peale once said, "Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, and give much. Scatter sunshine, forget yourself, and think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised." Calm the inside by focusing on the outside.
3. Focus on the Now
Being fully present in the now of the moment can go a long way to reducing your fear. When you allow yourself to be in the now you become less self-conscious. Self-consciousness only leads to feelings of insecurity and anxiety. But by being fully present in the moment, and forgetting yourself in the process, you can then focus on the world around you and the needs of the people in it. Taking attention off you and putting it on others will dramatically reduce self-consciousness, thus not allowing fear to even take hold.
So what does it take to overcome your fears? Simple (but not necessarily easy!). Change your thinking, and you will see how much your personal and professional practice changes, too!