Fear has a funny place in our culture – it is both sought after and it is abhorred.
As a species, we are comfortable with fear on our own terms – like when we watch horror films, ride rollercoasters, or engage in adrenaline-rushing sports. In these instances, it’s quite clear what is causing the fear and, more importantly, what we need to do to manage the fear should we begin to feel overwhelmed by it.
We are less enamored with fear when it creeps into our life uninvited, and we find ourselves awash with uncertainty and dread. This kind of fear has the power to paralyze us emotionally, to create tremendous self-doubt and cause us to live small. Why? In large part because this type of fear doesn’t render any useful data about how to proceed in a way that diminishes the fear. For instance, when we see a snake our brain yells, “step away from the snake!” But, when we feel fear and there is no snake, our brain goes into overload looking for what is wrong – fearful that there is danger outside its field of vision.
In the wake of the terror in Boston, we have been supporting our Boston clients and friends, as well as our other clients and friends, in understanding and conquering fear. We are talking about the fear that comes after the bombs and the bombers are no longer a threat. The fear that undermines our sense of safety and causes us to live smaller in the world.
One way to conquer fear in life and in work is to figure out what thoughts and actions will move you away from fear and closer to a sense of confidence. You’ll notice that we said confidence and not certainty. Waiting for certainty is useless – we have worked with executives who, in their desire to be fiscally responsible, have refused to make a move without being certain of the outcome. They come to us demotivated and paralyzed in their efforts. As we talk about what they are doing, they recognize that they are waiting for certainty but that certainty is a myth. To be effective in your life and your leadership, you have to be willing to garner enough confidence to make a decision and trust that you, and those who look to you, will respond to the ongoing uncertainty as it unfolds.
Just how do you decide what action to take? You start by looking toward the future and asking, “What one or two steps can I take that are in keeping with what is important to me? And as I’m taking those steps I will look for the next steps . . . and the next steps . . . and the next.”
With each decision you make to take action, you focus your thoughts on what you can do and you move away from thoughts of uncertainty and paralysis. This week, we encourage you to look over your life and see if there are any places where you have been living from a place of fear. If so, see if you can create just one action step that will move you into your future and nurture your confidence – if even just a little.