You want to start your venture one day. You make plans, discuss with friends, and stay awake all night. You pump your fists and gear yourself up.
When it comes down to making the decision, you start sweating. Various thoughts and worries loom in your head.
Your fear wins over your excitement, and you postpone your plans again and again. Over time, you accept the reality that you do not want to risk taking the plunge and give up altogether.
Have you badly wanted to do something, yet a psychological barrier stopped you from trying?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. You might assume that successful people do not face any such mental barriers. But that isn’t true. Everyone faces their demons, but successful people learn how to overcome them.
- 6 Most Common Psychological Barriers
- 1. Fear of uncertainty
- 2. The comfort zone
- 3. Sticking to the norm
- 4. FOMO(Fear of Missing Out)
- 5. The fear of failure
- 6. Fear of not being good enough
6 Most Common Psychological Barriers
Here are the 6 most common psychological barriers you will face while taking risks. Each of them contains tips to come out victorious should you face it.
1. Fear of uncertainty
The most common fear associated with risk is the uncertainty with the outcome.
If you plan to start your venture, you grow anxious thinking if you will end up successful. If you want to switch your career, you worry if you can master the skills required for the new profile. If you’re going to ask a lady out, you fear she will turn you down.
Not knowing the result scares everybody. Mother nature has imbibed such fear in your brain as a part of evolution. When you enter any unknown territory, fear forces your mind to switch into fight or flight mode. Back in the days, this was a system that kept us alive.
When our ancestors heard an animal growl, his body would turn into high alert to respond to any predator in the bushes. The legs would do more work than the brain in such cases.
Our body still responds in the same way. But, from the last few centuries, we no longer face such risks. Because evolution occurs over thousands or millions of years, such behaviors have carried forward even today.
When you plan on taking a risk, your brain starts inducing fear to keep you safe.
How to overcome the fear of uncertainty:
Often, when you have to take a risk, you postpone the decision, thinking you will come back to it later. But you never do. Even if you do, you push the decision again. The cycle repeats again and again.
One of the most effective ways to overcome this fear is to consider the cost of inaction. For example, let us take the case where you hate your job but cannot muster the courage of starting your venture.
Ask yourself how would your entire life look like if you never made a decision. Would you tolerate a life of mediocrity and Monday blues for the next tens of years?
When you postpone your decision, you do not feel the pinch of inaction because you plan to revisit the decision. But stop telling yourself that you will come back and rethink the decision. Decide a timeline and tell yourself, “Now or never.”
2. The comfort zone
A simple visual explains how comfort zone hinders the growth you can achieve.
It is named the comfort zone because you feel cozy and relaxed. It is a place where you get average results without any discomfort. It is one of the sneakiest psychological barriers.
You prefer to remain within your comfort zone for 2 major reasons:
Stepping out of the comfort zone brings in better rewards at the expense of higher effort. But you have to go through the pain of the extra effort today for a return in the future. Reducing the current effort seems like a more comfortable choice for now and you give in.
The emotional threshold:
You and I have a point until which we tolerate a discomfort.
You will tolerate a few differences in a relationship. When it reaches a point of physical assault, you decide that you cannot take it anymore. Your emotional threshold lies somewhere between minor differences and physical attack.
You may have a higher or lower tolerance level than I do. It varies from person to person.
You will have a different threshold for each aspect in your life like tolerating a job, a neighbor, a relationship and so on. Until the discomfort is below your threshold, you do not find a significant reason to step outside your comfort zone.
How to get out of the comfort zone:
The simplest way to step out of the comfort zone is to add changes incrementally. If you introduce massive changes in one go, your body will give up before you start.
How would you approach the challenge of doing a 200 kg squat a year later? Your best bet is, to start with a lower weight and increase it little by little.
Likewise, if you believe the work associated with your goal is too much, break it down. Instead of planning to run 5 miles the day you start working out, aim to jog for 10 minutes.
The hardest part of the comfort zone is getting started. Once you gain a little momentum, stepping it up is much more comfortable.
3. Sticking to the norm
Do you feel uncomfortable if you jump a red traffic light? Yes, you do. Breaking a rule pinches you a bit.
How about something which isn’t a rule but a norm? Like a friend acting funny in a restaurant. It makes you feel uneasy, doesn’t it?
Similarly, you tend to stick to many unsaid rules around you without your knowledge.
- If you plan to switch into a different career profile, coworkers bombard you with hundreds of questions
- If you stay single until you middle age, friends start asking you to find a partner
- If you wear a green shirt and pink pants, people stare at you
Though these aren’t hard and fast rules, you stick to them as much as possible to avoid the discomfort of consequences.
How to break out of the norm:
Unfortunately, to achieve huge dreams, you have to buck the trend. I am not saying you must wear strange clothes or scream at a restaurant. But make an effort to be different. All great things started with one person challenging the usual line of thought.
You can use these 5 tips to stop sticking to the norm:
- Before making a decision ask yourself if you’re ready
- Before making a decision ask if it will make you happy in the long run
- Stop comparing yourself with others. Instead, compare with a younger version of yourself.
- Be curious and seek clarity. Ask the question, “Why?” to understand if following the norm is a good idea.
- Start with small changes. If you find it hard to make a drastic change, check if you can break it down into smaller steps.
4. FOMO(Fear of Missing Out)
FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is now an official word in the Oxford dictionary. You and I experience the temptation of the effect quite often.
Whenever a new business opportunity came my way as a shiny object, I would find my palms itching. The thoughts that would run through my head are:
- This is a once in a lifetime opportunity
- I must jump into the bandwagon. If not, this will pass by.
- I will miss out on the rewards if I do not grab the chance
Often enough, I have tried to act on such thoughts. What happened was I distributed my focus on multiple areas and failed in all of them.
In another version of the same effect, you face decision paralysis due to FOMO. Let us say, for example, you plan to buy a phone and have narrowed down to 3 models.
The first provides a long battery life, the second has a high-quality camera, and the third comes with a large amount of storage. You fear losing the benefits of the others by picking one.
FOMO causes a fear of making the wrong decision. The craving to make a perfect choice prevents you from making any decision at all.
Related article: How to calculate opportunity cost
How to avoid FOMO:
You cannot get rid of FOMO altogether because it is an emotion that will keep popping up. What you can do is, curtail the effects by controlling your responses.
When you’re pursuing a goal, many other possible opportunities will seem exciting to chase. If you go after them all, you will end up like a wolf chasing a different rabbit whenever it spots one.
Yes, you might fail to capitalize on some opportunities by keeping your eyes only on specific goals. But you have a better chance of success by targeting a few things than too many.
Warren Buffet purchased stocks whose fundamentals he understood. Were there other stocks that could have given him a better return than the ones he picked? Sure, there were. But Buffet stuck to the areas he knew well and ignored the others.
You do not have to reap the rewards out of every single opportunity. You have to make sure you achieve success in a few goals that you’re chasing. Stop worrying about making the perfect choice and learn to love a good one.
5. The fear of failure
The fear of failure is the tendency to do nothing due to the worry of failing. The fear stands like a tall wall between you and your goals, preventing you from taking any action.
The fear of failure is the biggest reason why dreams go unfulfilled, leaving people with a life of regret. The anxiety of things going wrong prevents most people from taking the first step at all.
- What if I lose what I have?
- What if things go south?
- What will people say if I fail?
- Will I have the comfort that I have now after failure?
You might break your head thinking how successful people do not have such thoughts. The truth is, everyone has such fear. If you think successful people don’t, you’re mistaken. Yet, they take a calculated risk and do it anyway.
Fear of failure has killed more dreams than failure actually has. It is one of the hardest psychological barriers to overcome.
How to overcome fear of failure:
As an instinct, you will face the fear of failure often. Overcoming it lies more in the mind by preparing for failure. Here are some tactics you can use to reduce the fear of failure.
1. Identify the reason behind the fear
Fear seems like a never-ending problem if you do not think about it enough. Sometimes identifying the reason behind the fear of failure helps you fight it better. Ask yourself which consequence of failure bothers you the most. Knowing the answer can help you mitigate the damage.
2. Differentiate simple consequences from serious consequences
In most cases, fear of failure manifests itself into a size so large that it can scare the shit out of you. The consequences of failure are not usually as massive as they seem like.
You have less to worry about “What will people say if I fail?” compared to “What if I lose what I have?” When you fear only the things that matter, finding an answer becomes easier.
3. Practice Failing
Until you fail the first time, the fear of failure looms large. Once you fail a few times, dealing with it becomes easier.
You do not have to fail on purpose to gain practice. But fear impacts you the highest when you haven’t experienced failure on a similar scale before. In most cases, if you anticipate all angles of failure, dealing with it is far more straightforward than you think.
6. Fear of not being good enough
Many believe that working on their dream job is beyond their abilities. James Allen has rightly said in his book As a Man Thinketh, “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”
Those who are already working on their dream job did not do so because they were born with talent. They believed in their ability and went for it.
If you have convinced yourself that you are not good enough, you will find it almost impossible to achieve the goal you want. The barrier is more in your head than in your abilities.
How to overcome the fear of not being good enough
1. Do a trial and see how it works
For example, if your goal is to bag a different job profile, try attending a few interviews to know how you fare. If you need more preparation, do so before you show up at more.
If your goal is to start your own business, start working on it today after your working hours. Most people assume that it is absolutely necessary to quit their job to open their own business.
2. Are you well equipped for the change already or need time?
Be honest to yourself if you have the skillset to achieve your dream. Do not overestimate your abilities. If you are not prepared, take the time to build the required skills. Unless you are really thick-skinned, the failure and rejection can disappoint and demotivate you.
You will only achieve what you believe is possible. Only on rare occasions do people achieve the success they never imagined.
Successful people might mention in the interviews that they never expected things to turn out the way they did. But most of them would have aimed at a goal and fought all psychological barriers in their path.
Sure, some of the outcomes might have come as a pleasant surprise. But that doesn’t mean their achievements were a stroke of luck.
You can only go the distance you see with your mind. So look far and high. Only then will you get there.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”Henry Ford
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.