I was preparing for two very important presentations this week. Each one could lead to a great business opportunity for our Free Enterprise Warriors team. I was anxious about them. In my life, as an aspiring person, I have often had a bad case of “preparation anxiety.” I want so badly to do well that I stress out. Often this causes “preparation paralysis” or worse yet “preparation procrastination.” I don’t like the feelings of fear, so I just try to ignore them and distract myself doing something else. It doesn’t work. I end up not enjoying the avoidance activity, even if I normally would, because my subconscious knows and keep reminding me that I should be doing something to get ready.
I have often taught people to “let fear be your compass.” Meaning: if you have a fear about doing something it means you care about the outcome; therefore, it is a sign that you should do it. If you didn’t care you wouldn’t have the fear. So, doing what you fear is the right thing. But, how do you not let that fear overwhelm you, cause you distress and interfere with your preparations.
People say, “don’t worry, just do your best – if you do your best, then that’s all you can ask of yourself.” That sounds like good advice. But, then I’m worried about doing my best. What does that mean? How would I know? Can’t I always find some way in which I might have done better? What if I don’t really do my best – what if someone else points out what I should have done better? Isn’t “doing your best” just another form of mental pressure?
Yes, in my experience it is. So, I have learned not to do it. It took me a long time to come to a very simple self-awareness: I am always doing my best. That’s just what I do. Actually, that’s what we all do. If we want to sincerely have things work out, we try to do whatever we can to have it work out. We simply do our best. That’s how we are motivated, that’s how we are built.
How well we do is determined, not by driving ourselves with critical or fear-based self talk, but, by preparation for the task. Then, we just act, we just do. We give it a try. Sometimes it works out as we intended, sometimes it doesn’t – in which case we now have a great learning experience.
I’ve learned to not be attached to the outcome, but to enjoy the preparation. I know I want to do well, but the only difference I can make in what I do, is how I prepare. Steven Pressfield says “Do the Work” – in fact that’s the title of his latest book. And, I loved it. He says that if we are artists or entrepreneurs, the most important thing we have to do is the work – the preparation, the practice, the study, the rehearsal, the building of the skills. Then we just create, we do, we act, we show up, we ship.
For me now, having pretty much left “anticipation anxiety” and “fear of failure” behind, I simply enjoy the game. And, I get ready to play the game – I just prepare. I remember that the definition of worry is “stewing without doing.” I have actually returned to my childhood Mad Magazine anti-hero Alfred E. Newman who always said: “What, me worry?” Now, I just ignore the fear, detach from the outcome and do the work.