Overcoming fear is an important theme for Bo Parfet, real estate executive, business leader, motivational speaker, and mountaineer. During his extreme climbing journeys, Bo learned essential lessons about leadership that he now applies when mentoring others on how to be successful in business (and all areas of life, really). Climbing is the catalyst for his success and the perfect metaphor for the struggle against fear. Challenging our limits and what’s possible makes us stronger and allows us to achieve more. This article dives into some of Bo Parfet’s key tips on breaking out of your comfort zone at work and facing the fears holding you back from reaching true career success.
Identify your Main Obstacle and Express It
In their book, Immunity to Change, experts in the field of adult development Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, note that most people experience feelings of fear regularly. Since these fears are often unconscious, we may not even be aware that they’re holding us back from achieving our goals. While sometimes, anxiety can help protect or motivate us, it’s important not to let them continue running unnoticed, or they will become dysfunctional.
Take some time to reflect on which aspect of your life feels stuck. Working with new business ventures on a regular basis, Bo Parfet is familiar with many of the anxieties people have around success. Maybe you’ve been wanting a promotion and haven’t been able to get there for a long time. Maybe you question whether you’re deserving or fear asking your boss because you don’t want to be a burden. Psychologists have identified a few common underlying fears that most people experience. For example, it’s common to be worried about disappointing others, being a failure, ruining one’s reputation, losing control, or becoming poor. Being able to name the feelings will help you tackle them piece by piece.
One of the best tactics for relieving fears around work is to speak out loud about them. Try speaking with a friend, a spouse, or a business partner. Talking through your concerns can help to clarify exactly what you need to work on. Getting an outside perspective can challenge the dominant narrative underlying your fear and give you much-needed reassurance. You may be surprised to find that many of the successful people around you have similar feelings. For example, studies have found that as many as 7/10 of adults have experienced impostor syndrome. This common cognitive distortion causes a person to feel like a fraud no matter how much they accomplish. Impostor syndrome is even more common in highly accomplished people. This example shows that it may help normalize what you’re experiencing.
Breathe Through the Panic
Bo Parfet is one of the few who conquered the seven summits. During these dangerous climbs, Bo faced death head-on. In a recent interview with explorer Richard Wiese, Bo shares how facing death pushed his mental and physical limits.
The importance of practicing breathing cannot be overstated with its impact on your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When feeling anxious, take a moment to check in on your breath. Better control and breath awareness will help you regulate your emotions and improve your performance when speaking and presenting. There are countless free resources available online, but learning any (or all) of these eight breathing exercises will be indispensable.
Compartmentalize Your Worry
For some, compartmentalizing fears about work helps them continue being produced daily. Bo Parfet suggests designating” contemplation time.” You might set aside 30 minutes each day to contemplate your worries and consider how you can better prepare for them. Allowing for compartmentalized exercise can help alleviate your fear by exposing you to it in small doses, without the actual risks associated with the event. So, if you’re really afraid of presenting to your boss, perhaps you might spend some time each week practicing speaking with a friend and thinking through the difficult questions you hope to answer.
Working through your greatest fears is not an easy task. It’s crucial to maintain realistic expectations and practice self-care habits regularly. You’ve probably heard the expression “you are your own worst critic,” – and it’s true. But if you don’t stand up for yourself, who will? Self-criticism only makes it more difficult to meet your objectives. Self-care means permitting yourself to make mistakes. It can also include stress relief practices like going for a walk, exercising, or taking time to enjoy a fun activity. Talking to a friend or family member for support is another method of self-care that will ease your nerves. Consider finding a mentor who understands your professional aspirations and can relate to your challenges. Among the most successful leaders Bo Parfet has met, he says one thing they have in common is that they employ these tips and hold themselves accountable for them.