If I could have one superpower, it would be the ability to turn fear down in people, so they could more easily lead authentic & meaningful lives. What is your poison of choice when it comes to internal fear - fear of failure? Fear of being wrong? Fear of what people will think? Fear of leaving a job you hate because the alternative is unknown?
Imagine what kind of place our world would be and what would be achieved, if we were all able to be free of the inner critics that reside in our head.
Without doubt, the number one thing I work with people about is fear, and I get to see first-hand the impact that these doubts & anxieties can have on your life – holding back from saying what you need to (or know is right to say), doing what you are passionate about, making a real impact.
Of course, I have also been witness to how fear has played a role in my own life (just because you work with these challenges doesn’t mean you always have it nailed yourself!). I think back and can clearly pin point decisions, big and small, that were made from the starting point of fear.
Our community places great emphasis on heroes, and celebrating acts that are about being strong & brave. This can make the rest of us that are not out saving the world and thumping our chests about it feel small in comparison, particularly when we are alone with our fears. But I have never met someone without fears – have you? We all deal at some stage with the enemy within.
A useful starting point in understanding fear is to get informed about what happens to our brains around fear.
One of the first things our brains do when presented with new information is to put the shutters up, retreat, and get anxious about what the fresh news might mean – a response that works like an alarm clock, gaining your attention. Evolutionary speaking, this reflex was once very useful, as chances were if you were feeling fear, you were probably about to be eaten by a bear. However, most of us living in the modern world now don’t need this reflex to be so present, but it is still there. If we can use logic to see that fear is controlled in our brains (and is a neurological response), we also have the power to shift the thought process from fear to something else more productive.
It also helps to identify what your fears really are. Name them. There is no point denying that they exist – even the most courageous people feel fear – they just learn to turn the volume down and manage their emotions in a way that it doesn’t stop them doing what they want to do. It’s easy to deny fears exist, it’s harder to be honest with yourself, reach inwards and work out what you really are dealing with.
Then, ask yourself five questions to really understand your fear (and then be able to do something about it) much more productively:
Once you have a better idea of what you are dealing with, add the fourth, big kahuna question in –
This is incredibly important, because it starts to put logical thought processes alongside the emotional ones. Most of the time you will find that there is no evidence base for your thinking, rather it has been built up over time without a strong reason.
Take for example the popular fear of public speaking. You have a big presentation coming up. You are fearful you will stuff it up, and making an idiot of yourself. What is the evidence that this will happen? How many presentations have you stuffed up before? Chances are, you have illuminated this fear without any credible basis.
Finally, add my favourite coaching question of all time:
This helps us to think about our fear in a very conscious way, rather than allowing ourselves to get away with paying it lip service. And by paying conscious attention, we can work with the emotion and alter the impact it has on us. Really, what is the worst thing that can happen? Can you live with that? What are the chances the worst will happen? Flip it around – what is the best thing that can happen as a result of you overcoming this fear?
Vision the best things that can happen, and work with your fears. I promise, it is one of the most worthwhile exercises you will ever do on the path to nailing your ambitions.
Leigh Russell - More Tea Collaborator and Chief Inspirer at http://www.inspiredheads.com.au