Updated: Mar 1, 2020
No matter the challenges any of my clients bring to me, there’s one thing at the root cause of just about all of them.
And I can tell you that all of my own coachable moments spring up from the same thing.
So, needless to say, I study this topic a lot.
Most of the time we think fear doesn’t really affect us because maybe we’re not really reaching for anything that really, truly scares us. But I’m gonna guess you had to face fear in some way today, even if it was just a tiny sliver.
Maybe you delayed responding to that email because you were concerned about being misunderstood.
Maybe you didn’t take that new gym class because it you’d feel silly doing those dance moves.
OK, but those are just table stakes, right? Fear is still at the heart of these hesitations that we face every day. And if we can’t muster up the courage to face down something like this, how could we master something more daunting? Like...
Maybe you didn’t speak up for someone who was bullied at work because you didn’t want to get on that bully’s bad side.
Maybe you didn’t comment on your grieving friend’s Facebook post because you weren’t sure what to say.
Dang. Don’t even get me started on these…
Maybe you aren’t empowering your green but hungry team because you’re worried they’ll fail and put your company or your job at risk.
Maybe you won’t ask for a few extra months of maternity leave because you think they’ll view you as less committed to the job.
Maybe you didn’t go for that C-level promotion because you aren’t sure they think you’re qualified.
When I made the decision to become a coach, I stepped into a complete sh*t storm of fear. I quit my high-paying, high-profile job in advertising, moved to a different state, committed a small fortune to hone my professional skills and gain a credential, and started my own business from zero using said newly polished skill and credential.
People think this makes me fearless. I can assure you it does not. What it does make me is willing to live with fear.
Fear shows up in our everyday lives, in so many different forms - tiny and monumental. And we avoid it at just about any cost. And then we beat ourselves up because we’re supposed to be fierce, dang it! We’re supposed to be fearless! And we don’t even know why we’re so afraid.
Well, I’ll tell you why. Actually, I can show you why: Check out this video that a friend shared with me from author and pastor Andy Stanley.
Andy says that fear is just a manifestation of our ability to remember the past and project it into the future. It’s our ability to imagine what could happen that gives fear its energy. Because it’s pretty easy to let all those past experiences of stories we’ve heard paint a vivid picture of epic failure or disaster on the other side.
But this ability to imagine, to wish and dream, to anticipate…we would never want to give this up. And so, we can never let go of our ability to fear. We would never trade the ability to hope and dream for a fearless life.
So we’re kinda stuck with fear. If that makes you feel, well, a little afraid, let me first say that it is a completely natural and valid response.
But, just as Andy Stanley tells us, we can learn to fear...less.
When your faith in yourself exceeds your fear of something, fear loses its power.
Let that sink in for a minute.
When you actually start to believe that you are a powerful and capable creator, and that you already have everything you need to succeed, you will realize that fear can’t really stand up to that.
When you actually do the thing you fear, and you start to see that all those scary things you imagined really aren’t happening - or they are happening, but they’re not as bad as you feared - then fear is put tidily in its place.
So what can you do, starting right now, to fear less? Here are my three favorite approaches. They will work on everything from quitting your “stable” career to open up your own cafe, to having a difficult conversation with the work bully.
Think of a Past Success
We humans have a tendency to focus on all the reasons we can’t, or all the potentially bad outcomes of taking action. This is completely natural, so no need to beat yourself up about it, if you, too, are human.
The thing is, every one of us can look back on a time in our lives when something scared us and we pushed through that fear and did it anyway. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental.
I learned to ski when I was 40 years old. Talk about scary! Very bad things could have happened. I tried to talk myself out of it a million times. But I rented my gear and showed up at ski school anyway, heart pounding out of my chest.
Why did I do this? Because my husband is an excellent skier. And I wanted to be able to be part of something about which is was so passionate. I had a dream, albeit a tiny one, and I had this one shot to go for it, or let it go and call myself a non-skier.
I’ll never be the kind of skier my husband is, but I can now hold my own down a blue run. And how amazing does that feel? It’s a true adrenaline rush, and I love it! And every time I clip into my skis, I feel a surge of pride that I pushed myself past my fear.
You have a story like this too. Use it to propel you through the fear.
Remember the Reason
If you have a really big goal or dream, but achieving it will mean taking a dance with fear, then here’s a little secret for you. If you want it badly enough, some day the fear of not accomplishing it will far outweigh the fear of staying where you are.
And - this may sting a little - but that day may actually arrive when it’s too late. How willing are you to look back on your life and regret not going for it?
Here’s another thing. Whenever that day does arrive, I can all but guarantee that you’ll wish you had started earlier.
Look, I’m not here to make you feel guilt or regret. Eff that! Just to remind you of the inevitable. This day is coming, so why not just start moving toward this goal now instead of staying stuck in inaction?
Sit down and make a list of all the reasons why you want this dream or outcome. Every single one. Then, make a list of all the reasons you believe you can’t achieve it. And with every one of the reasons on that second list, ask yourself the question: How true is this really? Or, if it represents an outcome you fear, ask: What’s truly the worst that could happen? Answer these questions honestly and reflectively. Stand up to the fear and show it how impotent it really is.
Get an Accountability Partner
As you start to move forward, you’ll face obstacles in your way. Your fear will try to rise up and take the wheel. And this is where you need someone in your camp to encourage you to keep going.
Maybe you’re starting this new venture with a partner. Maybe you have a coworker who struggles with some of the same things. Maybe your best friend is your true champion. Maybe a coach or mentor can help you set goals and keep you accountable to accomplishing them.
No matter what form this partner takes, find one. It’s often the difference between achievement and just wishing for something to come true.
It’s time to stop letting fear keep its choke hold on you. It’s time to step into what you want to think, be, do and become. Try these strategies starting today, and share with me what you’re learning.
And as always, if you feel a little stuck, I'm here for you.