Fear is one of the biggest stumbling blocks people encounter in managing change and moving forward. It heightens your stress level, activates your fight and flight instinct, and can cause you to wake up at night worrying. Your capacity and ability to pay attention is being limited or shut down. You have probably experienced frightening situations yourself and observed your staff trying to stay safe, thus, not fulfilling their potential.
Fear rears its head when people attempt to move beyond their comfort zones. Each of us has a comfort zone – a set of boundaries within which we live. These are the situations and circumstances that we know that give us a sense of security because they represent what’s familiar. Fear can paralyze us, keep us safe or from our dreams, and fear tells us we are in danger.
Fear can either shut you down or help propel you to new heights. The choice is yours. Real change always triggers fear at some point during the process. If your brain is preoccupied with avoiding failure, rejection, emotional pain, as well as people, places, situations that trigger your fears, you’ll loose sight of your goals and dreams, and will not be free to take calculated risks. Therefore, avoid avoidance: The only way to deal with fear is to face it. Your willingness to expand your comfort zone will then allow you greater experiences and freedom.
The CEO of an Asset Management company faced a really hard challenge: He had to deliver some difficult messages to his entire staff and to announce a major restructuring of the firm. A lot of jobs, incl. the CEO’s position, and the long-term success of the company were at stake. It was a tough spot to be in, and he could feel the pressure. Yet, he wanted to get it right and step up. We not only worked on designing the change management process but also on his introductory speech to all staff. By recognizing his fear, focusing on what he wanted to achieve for the firm and being true to his values, he was able to move forward.
“Every time your fear is invited up, every time you recognize it and smile at it, your fear will lose some of its strength.” Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk and peace activist, *1926
F.E.A.R. could be an acronym for “Fantasized Events As Real”. To move outside your comfort zone, you need to be able to manage your fear. To help your direct reports develop the skills required to successfully transition to the desired future state, you need to identfiy what’s in their way and coach them through this block. Below are seven steps you can take to move beyond the shackles of fear, and create the experiences and circumstances to which you aspire. It is important to spend time and energy strengthening your internal resources, so you can feel safer and more competent in dealing with difficult personal and societal events.
1. Accept your feelings. Acknowledge your fear instead of resisting it. Give yourself time to feel sad or introspective. Ask yourself: What am I feeling right now? Where am I feeling it in my body? It is critical to understand the message of your fear. Connecting to how you feel, can help you make better decisions.
2. Get physical. Locate the sense of anxiety and uncertainty in your body, and try to be present with it – you will see it dissolves and becomes something different. The “stress hormone” cortisol helps the system react and return to its normal state once the threat has passed. However, chronic stress causes elevated levels of cortisol, which has many adverse effects, including impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood-sugar imbalances, higher blood pressure, and increased abdominal fat. You can actually lower cortisol levels in your blood through physical exercise. Understanding your feelings about issues and situations, can lead to heightened body awareness.
Tip: Meditation is a real executive “super-bullet” that actually works – a regular mindfulness practice leads to more calmness and helps you put things into perspective. In your meditation, mentally create a peaceful and relaxing setting in your mind to help you de-stress. Deliberately focus on each sense at a time. What do you see, hear, smell, and feel in this real or imaginary haven of peace? Read more about an effective mindfulness practice in one of our recent blogs.
3. Do a reality check. Most of our fears are not based on our current reality. The cloud of anxiety has a small amount of data. Hence, figure out if your fears have any real basis in fact. Be as methodical as you need to be. What’s the data? What do I know to be true? Understand what’s at play, what’s true, and what am you are making up.
4. Focus on the desired future. Replace the gloom and doom movie with one that supports your goals – concentrate on the movie of the future state you want to achieve.
5. Find meaning and recommit to your most important values. Think about your most important personal or spiritual values. How does your current job or life reflect these values? Make a list of your values and some concrete things you can do in the next week or month to make them an even more important part of your life. Make a poster, list, or vision board reflecting these.
6. Do something constructive. Channel your anger, stress and outrage into constructive activities to help improve the situation. Stress is fear-based and induced by our thoughts about what is happening. Taking action can combat feelings of helplessness or guilt.
7. Develop a healthy sense of personal control. Stress-hardy people focus their energy on those events that they have influence over, rather than situations beyond their control. If you cannot control it, let it go.
Adversity, setbacks, and challenges can throw any leader off-balance, which can lead to cascading difficulties. The ten quick tips for managing stress are intended to make you realize to bring yourself intentionally back to an emotional and physical state where you can constructively confront your problems.
If you are feeling fear and want to stay in you comfort zone – enjoy it as much as you can. If you want to take the courage and face the challenge – contact me and learn to enjoy growing and developing new skills. Coaching helps you generate breakthrough moments and live your full potential.
Keep leading fearlessly,