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This year I’m exploring and attempting to understand what drives fear(s) more. I know what a topic to pick. Maybe something smaller for next year 😆
However fear is a powerful emotion. It stops us in our tracks, influences our thoughts and the words or actions we take.
Let’s take Psychological safety – so important in any relationship, work or personal. Fear is a significant component that reduces this.
So I’ve been asking myself questions like:-
- As a leader how do we reduce the amount of fear present?
- Is fear ever healthy?
- What’s the toll on our health, productivity and creativity?
- How do my fears determine what’s possible for me / the group / business?
Big questions, and hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have more answers to these.
Did You Choose Your Fear?
An email from Thoughts From The Universe dropped in to my inbox.
If you don’t subscribe yet go to TUT.com
A particular sentence jumped out at me
….Even your fears and challenges are admired, along with the courage it took to choose them. (Yeah, you chose them.)…
It stopped me in my tracks and I reflected.
And here’s the magic or the power. I did choose my fears. All of them. In a nano second there was a conscious choice. After that my fears run on autopilot which makes it feel like I didn’t choose them.
Some fears make sense, there is an event and you can correlate it to the fear.
Others, well they’re there, and yet the event that started it all is forgotten. And we wonder why, and did I really pick this one, because it makes absolutely no sense at all etc.
After all, who’d choose to be scared of steps. I mean I’m 52 for goodness sake and still when I walk up or down steps I have to talk to myself – hilarious. Really, I do see the funny side of this. I was in my 40’s when I almost fell down a flight of stairs, but I’ve had this, what seems like an irrational fear, forever.
I know the saying feel the fear and do it anyway.
And sometimes that works. We grow, our fear shrinks, or we just find a way of managing the fear, keeping it in proportion or at a level that it doesn’t change our actions. In other words if we didn’t feel the fear we’d still do this same action.
And we should feel proud of the fact we’re taking the same action, even though we feel anxious or whatever. It’s true, every time I successfully navigate a set of steps, I acknowledge that I didn’t let my fear make other choices for me. Because sometimes there is a voice in my head shouting there is a lift over there you could take that, who cares that it’s just one floor.
Is It Fear?
There is another possible outcome to feeling the fear and doing it anyway. We feel elated afterwards. In other words at times we get confused between the feeling of fear and excitement; as they can produce similar sensations in the body. It’s all a matter of how we label them. And more often than is useful we’re quick to label the sensation as fear.
Butterflies in the stomach is a sensation commonly present in both emotions.
The fear of presenting is a very a common fear. It’s another one I had. Now notice I use the past tense with this fear. That’s not to say I don’t experience a few nerves occasionally. It’s an alert telling me there is something else going on, another fear. A fear that has usually has nothing to do with presenting perse. What is normal for me to feel is a few butterflies, a slight buzz, it is a feeling of excitement.
Years ago I had the pleasure of chatting with an actor and we were talking about walking out on to a stage. I was describing how I used to be…. aka, a nervous, shaking wreck that spoke to either the floor or the ceiling. And how I now felt, which meant I was speaking to my audience’s faces, phew. Anyway I wanted to know how do I get to feeling nothing and being confident. He smiled and said if he walked out on to a stage and felt nothing he knew he was in trouble. We had a great conversation. And whilst I worked on reducing the fears and their effects. I stopped trying to get rid of my excitement.
What’s more there are some situations in which you really don’t want to give me the microphone, or you do but with a clear time limit 😊. And if you’d told me this all those years ago when my heart was about to burst out of my chest I’d have said no way, that’ll never be me. Just goes to show.
Keep The Fear…Or Lose It?
I think sometimes the important question to answer with yourself is do I want to get rid of this fear or manage it?
An inverse question might be what’s this fear costing me?
I’m quite happy talking myself through a set or two of stairs, so my anxiety is manageable.
I wasn’t happy with managing my fear when presenting. Consequently I looked at what I could do to reduce it significantly.
Learning or improving our skills can be one way. We can also look a little deeper as to what else is going on. What beliefs or stories are we running.
A Dialog With Fear?
Here’s something we can do to help us; talk with the fear. Having acknowledge what the specific fear is, then we can explore more.
Remember when I said that the magic or power is in realising that we choose the fear, even if it happened in a nano second.
Entering the conversation with the fear from the perspective of having chosen it, results in the exploration being more potent and effective then if we’re still feeling like it chose us, or happened to us.
If I felt that my steps fear was something out there, that picked me, then for a start I’d be unlikely to see the funny side of it and secondly, I doubt very much I would be sharing it with you.
Of course sharing it with you, does feel slightly scary, and if I tap in to what that particular fear is, then it’s that I’m being vulnerable and sharing something I can’t completely explain. Which of course isn’t the actual fear. The fear is that you might judge me in an unfavourable way.
Which in continuing my dialog brings up a belief I have and a question
The belief – what someone else thinks of me is none of my business. Your mind and therefore your thoughts are yours, just as my mind and my thoughts are my own. In which case how you judge me is up to you.
And then there is the question, how am I judging me in relation to this fear. Eg Do I think any less of me? And in that moment I have my answer, I’m grinning from ear to ear. And poof, the feeling of fear has gone.
Now we can do this with ourselves and at other times it’s useful or faster to have this conversation with an external. I love seeing clients have those ‘poof’ moment when a fear vanishes.
Whatever route you choose, it’s good to talk.
Let’s Get Practical
We all have fears, explainable or otherwise. Our power lies in our choice in this moment. To keep the fear, to manage the fear, to avoid the fear, to reduce or remove the fear.
Which brings me back to one of my questions at the beginning of this podcast.
How do my fears determine what’s possible for me / the group / the business?
So a version of that question might look like this. “How does this specific fear in its current state determine what’s possible, and am I OK with that choice right now”?
If you fancy some fear busting, or want to make different choices, then do get in touch.
In the meantime, go and be the difference in leadership