You may know that I’m an avid skier, and you can find me skiing at Big Sky, Montana, throughout the winter season. I’ve been asked to contribute a bi-weekly business column to Explore Big Sky. You’ll find my latest column below, and you can also see it HERE (I’m on page 19!).
I’m not an extreme skier, but I’m an avid one. I love skiing new and challenging terrain to tap into my potential and passion for new adventures, while staying conscious of potential risks.
Every time I ride the tram to the top of Lone Mountain at Big Sky, there’s a flutter in my stomach anticipating the moment that I’ll launch myself downhill. Snow conditions can vary considerably, the wind can be unnerving, and there is always a risk of losing an edge and sliding uncontrollably down the hill. Though I know I’m capable of skiing the terrain, I have to overcome my fear of heights and exposure.
Does it sound like I’m imposing on myself to ski with fear? I’m not. Rather, I am constantly adapting and asserting self-control to curb my fear by knowing that I can skillfully ski with confidence.
Fear can hold us back or humble us in our everyday lives and careers, and it can define our character if we let it. Fear can also be your biggest adversary in your career and business dealings. Here are a few guiding principles to confront and surmount fears:
Determine if a fear is real or a justification. Is the fear an inner voice that tries to diminish, judge and criticize you before you have the opportunity to get started? Is it sabotaging your potential? Is the fear a result of a negative experience in the past?
Be honest if you’re resisting putting energy into doing something that you can and should do. Be fair with yourself and identify opportunities that will challenge you without becoming a burden. Be humbled by what you learn about yourself, and you’ll be empowered by what you manifest beyond your fears.
Know when the risks are too great. Be honest with yourself and don’t deny fears to impress others. Make sure that what you perceive to be fearful or risky is real, and not projected by others’ fears. It’s human to have fears, and you shouldn’t deny them. It’s OK to experience self-doubt and to realize that some risks are beyond your comfort zone. Being aware of your fears and boundaries is a key component of self-leadership and self-respect. Similarly, don’t push or force others when they need you to open the way to find their own comfort.
Let go of the need for control in uncontrollable situations. When you step out of your comfort zone and learn to embrace your fears, you learn to have a tolerance for uncertainty – there is no adventure in knowing everything that is ahead. Allow yourself to be fully present in the moment without knowing the full outcome.
Whether you love adventure and discovery in sports or in business, learn to be open, not to resist, and to welcome uncertainty. If fear wasn’t a factor, what would you be doing differently right now? It’s time to find out. Allow yourself to be more at ease with the unknown and venturing outside your comfort zone. Tap into your own potential, and don’t hesitate to prevail where you know you should!
Johanne Bouchard, a former high-tech executive, is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. An avid skier, Bouchard and her husband have a second home in Big Sky. See more at johannebouchard.com.