The conversation goes like this. You just made an important change to your team or how it operates. You tell your coach, “I wish I had done this six months ago when I first felt the need.”
I always encourage leaders not to brush such moments aside, but to learn what held you back. “It was my fear” a CEO client recently revealed, as we explored how to make sure next time the fear doesn’t stop her so she can act on that kind of decision way earlier in the future.
She told me I should write a blog about this. So here we are with two steps that can help you act six months earlier: normalize the fear and use it to increase skill.
Almost everyone I speak with about their fear believes it to be a flaw. Yet, I have never yet come across an instance when a person was actually held back by admitting to a worry or resistance. It is the unexamined that spooks us into paralysis. Not the fear itself but the avoidance of facing it that imposes delays on our clear insight.
We suggest including a fear inventory in your weekly practice. Write the heading “What Am I Avoiding” and make a list of the top few things about which you are perceiving risk, danger or threat that may be deferring your action. You might feel the avoiding as a subtle recoil in your body or distraction in you mind. Decide to lean into and explore each of these topics, one at a time.
Use It To Increase Skill
The idea is not to override our fear. I have enough respect for this particular emotion to know that, if I get into a battle with another person’s fear, or my own, I will lose. However, as I am sure you have noticed, in the very moment we bring a fear into awareness a flow of content comes right along with it. This flow of content usually includes glimpses of catastrophe that might ensue, tight or empty sensations and premonition of hurt feelings.
It can be a lot to hold.
It is completely understandable that a person would want to avoid all that. Avoiding and delaying… darn it… rarely make the ultimate action any easier.
To the person who has already made the decision to lean in and no longer to avoid, all this content that surfaces starts to be useful. As you review your notes, write down the most real of the projected catastrophes. Make a plan to navigate those risks. Open to the tight or empty sensation in your body and let this activate the courage to keep moving forward. Empathize with those potential hurt feelings and use them to approach the other people involved with understanding and precision. While you may not be able to anesthetize your world so all your actions only ever feel good to everybody, you can speak and act in ways that lift shame rather than adding to it.
If you feel fear enough and use it to become more aware, you will trust yourself to act earlier, you will bring change before issues get stagnant, and you will do so in ways that leave the people around you inspired.