Dread is a complex emotion that stems from the fear of anticipated negative outcomes. It’s that fear of failure, a relentless beast that gnashes its teeth at our ambitions. Various sources instigate feelings of dread in professional settings. Understanding the roots of dread and finding ways to overcome it will help you get past the heavy sensations dread brings.
Often, dread arises from a fear of the unknown and an excessive focus on negative outcomes. Our minds tend to amplify potential risks and losses leading us to seize up and become paralyzed with fear. Dread is a depleting feeling that leaves us de-energized. It’s a response that can be managed. Dread is like a traffic light, except when the light turns green you don’t move; its like a holding area where we think we’re avoiding our worries only to discover they are already deeply burrowed contributing to inaction.
Fear of Failure
One of the primary reasons for experiencing dread in business is the fear of failure. I’m anticipating a negative outcome, I don’t act, why try? Fear of not achieving desired outcomes or disappointing stakeholders can create a sense of dread that hinders decision-making and progress.
Uncertainty and Risk
Business environments are loaded with uncertainty and risk and sometimes these variables seem like too much causing us to freeze in a state of inaction. Market changes, evolving customer preferences, and unforeseen challenges can all contribute to feelings of dread. In this setting the executive or entrepreneur may hesitate to act, fearing unknown consequences and potential losses. Perfectionism creeps in here: if I know enough, I’ll get it right. Many executives I work with have said their CEO has told them 70% is enough to decide and act, you don’t need 90%.
Dread can also arise from imposter syndrome – the feeling of inadequacy or the belief that one’s achievements are undeserved. The pressure of measuring up, of proving yourself, weighs heavily on your shoulders. Business leaders, especially those who have rapidly achieved success, may feel like they are “faking it” and fear being exposed as frauds. Fear of not being competent enough can lead to procrastination and a reluctance to seize new opportunities.
If this one resonates, read our prior blog series on these subjects under Imposter Syndrome and Procrastination.
The financial aspects of running a business can be a major source of dread ranging from cash flow to the responsibility of managing employees’ livelihoods. You may be dreading a financial review or punting on a budget cut hoping it will resolve itself.
Where do we go from here?
Dread in business can be a natural response, most of us are prone to it. This dread can be redirected into action or self-knowledge, either way you learn about yourself and discover it can be reprogrammed leading you to feel lighter because you acted.
The first steps to getting the upper hand on dread and loosening its grip is to observe. Over the next three days observe any feelings of dread, nothing to fix, only observe, then see if it fits in with one of the ‘roots’ outlined in this blog post.
TIP: It is easy when dread comes up to seek distraction, to avoid it – instead perk up and feel it, don’t push through to the next distraction, and say, I’m feeling it, I’m feeling dread right now. Then move on. With the right approach, dread can be a catalyst for professional growth.
We’ve covered the primary roots and causes of dread; next week’s blog - part 2 - will explore proven ways to overcome this debilitating feeling that can leave us stuck or frozen.