I woke up very early one recent morning filled with fear—not as an emotion, but rather as an idea to write about. I’m certain this was a little because of being on “East Coast Time”, and more so from spending a day recently in Santa Barbara working with friends and colleagues at the Hudson Institute of Coaching. This was much better than the many times in the past I’ve awoke with fear as an emotion
And so I offer you these thoughts. Over my life and coaching work I’ve seen fear arise for many reasons: perhaps the fear of going to school, or graduating and leaving school; perhaps the fear of getting into a relationship, or getting out of one; perhaps the fear of moving into a new job or a new neighborhood. Whatever the catalyst for fear, it is many times associated with change—and movement into the unknown.
When faced with fear there seems to be three options available for us. We either do nothing and freeze; taking no action. We fight through it. Or we retreat from our movement into the unknown (often called ‘flight’)—we simply stay where we are or we backpedal.
So I offer these 3 steps to move through fear:
- Expect it – Don’t wish for it not to show up, it almost always will. I’m not certain how we evolved to this point, I’m sure there’s a ton of research out there on this. What I do know is that when we are born and we are just little tiny people we are afraid of two things…loud noises and being dropped. Not sure about you, but these two still linger for me, and I’ve come to accept them. I also know that when fear shows up I recognize it and acknowledge it; and trust me it then becomes more workable. Think about the first time you ever went through a haunted house and a guy in a hockey mask with a chainsaw jumps out at you…yes, a good scream and “flight”. If you go through again this guy will almost certainly jump out again, but now you expect it, and are more in control of your emotions. The third time you will likely jump out at this guy before he gets to you—turning the tables and giving him a good scare. So don’t resist the arrival of fear, expect it.
2. Fight it – Fighting fear is seldom done alone. I recommend you seek support (a wonderful jckrbbt principle) from some strong friends and allies. Talk with them about the fear…where you believe it’s coming from, how you feel when it shows up, what you’re saying to yourself about it. I’d invite you to think back to a similar situation where you overcame fear and created a wonderful outcome for you, your family or team. It can also be a great idea to engage with a professional coach from time to time.
3. Develop Vision (another jckrbbt principle) – It’s been my experience both individually, and as a coach, that fear is often the result of us developing a vision of all the negative outcomes that might arise as we cross the threshold into our unknown. It could be, “What if the other kids don’t like me.”, or “What if I cannot find a god job.”, or “What if this doesn’t work out?, or “What if I don’t like being married?”, or “What if I get stuck in this job?” or “What if my coworkers are not what they seem to be?”, or “What if we don’t like the house?”, or any number of the negative things that may get our focus. Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about….yes, there you are. And I’m with you. This vision thing is powerful. Vision—for me—is the ability for us to imagine something that is not real…yet. So experiment with this the next time fear shows up at your party….stop, acknowledge the fear, and then imagine everything working out. Go a few months into your future and see in vivid detail the unknown, now known and familiar…and it’s really good and enjoyable. You’re happy; it’s all working out. Do not let fear be the result of your being focused on the wrong side of your vision. Turn it around…as George Bernard Shaw offered us, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”