Fear of failure, of loss, of change--this emotion in its many forms can be the biggest obstacle to personal success. Our fears can stunt growth in ourselves and others. So how can we move ourselves through fear?
Whether you're the leader who is seeing a fear-based pattern of thinking, or the employee who is feeling fear, follow these steps:
1. Acknowledge what you are feeling and name it. "The recent announcement about a merger makes me afraid that I will lose my job." "I am afraid my speech will bomb and no one will be inspired by my remarks." There. You said it. Putting the fear into words won't make it go away, but it forces you to confront rather than ignore your emotional state.
2.Think of a previous time you felt fear and handled it well. What did you do in that situation? Did you talk it out with a confidant who asked you great questions? Develop a plan to learn new skills? Ask for help from a mentor? Gather information to inform decision making? Think through the steps that helped you in the past and see which ones you can apply to your present situation. Then remind yourself: if you did it before, you can do it again. Make this your mantra: "I can handle this!"
3. Imagine a reward for conquering the fear. This step accomplishes two things at once: first, it requires you to focus on a positive outcome that will feel great, and second, it starts to shift you out of a negative emotional state into a more positive one. If you imagine rewarding yourself with a day at the beach for delivering a keynote presentation at your company's conference, then you will start to feel the joy associated with ocean waves and warm sun. You are also more likely to seek out a guide to help you navigate through the next steps to reach your goal.
If you're a team leader or project manager who suspects that fear may be the root cause of some office-related issue, follow these steps for moving team members forward:
1.Invite people to speak openly about their concerns and goals directly with you.
2. Listen attentively. Don't interrupt. If necessary, repeat each person's words to make sure you have understood the concerns.
3. Acknowledge the task and name the fear associated with it. "It is emotionally difficult to manage a department of people who are anxious about the changes that will come with a merger. You are afraid people will be angry with you because they will think you are withholding information from them. I can imagine that you are concerned about how you will respond to questions."
4. Provide clear guidance, support and if necessary, resources. "Be honest about what you don't know. Promise to communicate as soon as you are able to do so."
5. Share inspiring stories about working through or overcoming difficult situations. Communicate a clear vision of what lies beyond the hardship. Remind yourself of the times you have been resilient.
Fear begs us to learn new ways of thinking and behaving. We do not want to turn it off; instead we want to channel it in a healthy way that keeps us growing.
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