Embracing Fear

My client, Paul, had a voice of a news broadcaster- strong, powerful, and pleasant.  He had engaged me as his coach because he had been passed over for promotion several times and he was frustrated.

Because Paul had such a wonderful voice it surprised me when in the course of our coaching Paul admitted that he was afraid to speak in large groups so at meetings he was often silent.  When asked to speak at a conference Paul found logical reasons why he could not do it.  He suddenly realized that his fear was holding him back.

How and where do you experience fear?  I am not asking what causes fear.  I’m asking where you feel it.  For example I feel fear in my stomach.  I lose my appetite and feel nauseated.  Sometimes my heart pounds loud and fast.  It is the same feeling I experience when I am worried, discouraged, or anxious about something.

In his book The Fifth Discipline Peter Senge talks about creative tension.  He says, “The juxtaposition of vision (what we want) and a clear picture of current reality (where we are relative to what we want) generates what we call “creative tension”:  a force to bring them together, caused by the natural tendency of tension to seek resolution”  He also tells us that creative tension often leads us to feel the same emotions associated with anxiety. Those emotions are not creative tension itself.  They are the emotional tension.

Since our natural tendency with tension is to seek resolution, when we do something to generate “creative tension” and feel those emotions many of us will just stop what is causing the tension and do something else.  Thus Paul often considered speaking in a group but felt that tension and made an excuse that the time was not right or he did not need to do it.  In a sense he was lowering his vision – not a way to grow professionally.

So what can you do to accept that fear will in fact be with you as you try something that makes you tremble?  Maybe just knowing that it is normal to feel it and move on.  For me the suggestion made by Susan Jeffers in Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway makes sense.  She says, “What matters now is that you begin to develop your trust in yourself, until you reach the point where you will be able to say, WHATEVER HAPPENS TO ME, GIVEN ANY SITUATION, I CAN HANDLE IT!”

Knowing you can handle it will not make the emotional feelings go away.  Hopefully it will however give you the resources to go for it!

My client discovered that his real concern was that his comments or presentation would not be perfect.  Once he realized that even if he made a mistake he could handle the resulting questions or suggestions he was able to move forward.  Finding what your fear really is about and then realizing you can in fact handle whatever comes up is the key to moving forward.

Action Steps

1.   Select something that you fear doing.

2.   Look at it objectively.  Is it worth doing? Will it move you toward your vision? Can you pinpoint the real fear?  How will you handle it?

3.   If possible break it into simpler steps.  (My client spoke in small meetings before he got up to present in front of a larger department.)

4.   Find your own special ways to alleviate the emotional tension without giving up on your goal. (Some ideas: meditation, exercise, deep breathing, getting support from friends, remembering other times that you have overcome fear etc.)

5.   Watch your language – saying ‘I can’t’, ‘I hope’, ‘I should’ or ‘if only’ is language of the victim.  Use powerful language that shows you are in control.  For example: I won’t, I know, I could, or next time.

Need some help overcoming your fear?  A coach can help.  I have worked with many clients on a variety of fears.  Some examples of fears my clients have had are:  fear of making a presentation, fear of cold calling, fear of changing jobs, fear of starting a business, fear of making a bad decision and many others.  What do you fear that is getting in the way of your success?  Call me at 781-598-0388 to discuss working together.




Comments are closed.