And no emotion can lead an entrepreneur to the Dark Side faster than fear.
So, in anticipation of Friday's release of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," here's one of my favorite Yoda quotes that's also a masterclass in stopping fear from sabotaging your productivity and success.
"Named must your fear be before banish it you can," said Yoda, in the novel of Star Wars Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith.
He's right. Naming your fear is the first step in overcoming it. Science backs this up.
A UCLA study found that naming your emotional experience makes you more rational. The researchers found that labeling difficult emotions--like fear--increases activity in your prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for productivity enhancers like memory, planning and decision making.
Name it and claim it.
So whether it's pre-presentation jitters or cold-calling that dream client to pitch your product, the first step in managing your fear is simply stating the fact that it's there.
As in: "I feel afraid."
Speaking from personal experience, that's easier said than done. Because even though studies show embracing difficult emotions is the key to managing them, it's human nature to resist uncomfortable feelings.
If I'm afraid, rather than straight-up admit it to myself, I'm more likely to do one of two things: suppress it and try to plow through it, or procrastinate doing the thing I am afraid of.
But knowing that I wanted to write this column, and knowing that I couldn't tell you to do something I hadn't test-driven myself, I tried naming my fear.
I was in the process of writing a profile of a highly-regarded, internationally-celebrated executive director I had admired for years. This client was someone I'd interviewed back in my TV news reporting days, and now I'd been charged with writing an in-depth, magazine-length profile of her. I'd done my interviews and was in that writing zone where the time was flying and the words were flowing.
Until they weren't.
I knew how I wanted to end the piece, but as my deadline approached, the words felt irretrievably stuck in a cloud that over the course of a few days solidified as a paralyzing writer's block.
But since it manifested as a mixture of self-doubt and procrastination, that was a clue that fear was involved. Plus, at that point, I was afraid of not finishing the profile in time.
"I feel afraid," I admitted to myself.
Ask your fear this question.
Once I tried out this new tool of labeling my fear, I followed it up with one of my long-time favorite methods for helping my mindfulness students break through their blocks.
It involves asking your fear a simple question.
"Are you here to keep me safe, or to keep me small?"
In other words, what is the underlying reason for the fear? Sometimes, fear is helpful to keep us out of danger. If we're running from an attacker, for example, or leaving a toxic work environment.
But often, fear is protecting us from feeling vulnerable or inadequate, which prevents us from taking the risks we need to to grow. In that case, fear is keeping us small.
So when I asked my fear: "Are you here to keep me safe, or to keep me small?" the answer that came up was of course not that I was putting myself in harm's way, but rather a fear of imperfection and rejection. My writer's block was protecting me from finishing a piece that might not meet with the approval of this client I admired so much.
In other words, fear was keeping me small.
Once you acknowledge what your fear is trying to protect you from--in my case, rejection-- you can use that insight to make a conscious decision to no longer stay small.
I poured my efforts into making the profile sing, setting the intention to use my words to highlight the client's contributions to the best of my ability. If she didn't like it, I told myself, I'd modify it.
In the meantime, I refused to let fear keep me from being the biggest version of me.
My client loved the profile. And I moved a boulder I hadn't even realized was in the way of my success.
So when you feel stuck and have a hunch that fear could be the culprit, name it with the simple statement: "I feel afraid."
Then, ask your fear the question: "Are you here to keep me safe, or to keep me small?"
The combination of those two steps can not only supercharge your productivity, but can also help you learn more about what's holding you back.
Useful, it is.