Face Your Fears Straight On

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I have never been a big fan of snowstorms. I don’t mind the white fluffy stuff but driving in it is another story. Since my college days when I went to school in Buffalo, NY, I learned to brave the icy roads by just getting in my car, turning on the ignition and moving. Slipping and sliding was par for the course and eventually I got use to enduring imperfect road conditions and insane drivers. When I moved back to the NY metropolitan area, I didn’t quite leave my complicated, irrational fears about the snow behind and as a result, I still dread the weather alerts that scream: “Snowstorm to arrive in your area. Take precautions.” What does it even mean to “take precautions”?

A precaution can be defined as an action taken in advance to protect against possible danger, failure or injury. It is a forethought or circumspection.

What that sounds like to me is there may be a way to face those snowy highways and byways by doing some thinking and planning. Maybe my random approach all these years has caused me to be “a sitting duck” ready for the next slip on the ice. Maybe I can switch my irrational fears of the snow to rational actions with a clear purpose and direction. And maybe we can do the same in our leadership journeys.

Do you ever feel like you need to identify some guidelines or precautions when you are working on a never-ending project or dealing with a difficult team member? Are you sometimes stuck in an approach-avoidance model of working? Let’s look at some ways to protect ourselves from a fear of leading:

Acknowledge there is a fear

It’s always a good idea to be honest about our fears because then we can make some adjustments. So how do we do this and tap into the challenges we fear but can’t admit? Ask yourself:

  • What is causing me so much discomfort about this experience or relationship?
  • What is the real roadblock that is preventing me from getting from here to there?
  • What doesn’t feel right or manageable?
  • Why can’t I perform at my highest levels or showcase my strengths?

Reframe the fear to make it feel more familiar

To understand a fear more effectively, think of what it may remind you of in your life experiences. When I drive in the snow it reminds me of staying alone when I was little and had no one to turn to but myself. Look at other obstacles you face and try to see a pattern.

Does working on this collaborative project remind you of a past failed collaboration? In what way?

Explore possible alternatives

There is always a way out of any box, we just need to brainstorm where the exit is. Sometimes we need to turn to other people we trust to help us see the possibilities.

  • Talk to a co-worker, boss or friend about how to best approach the obstacle without compromising your values and style.
  • Think crazy and challenge yourself to a perspective you never tried before.
  • Listen and listen some more for different ideas and suggestions. Take time to process.

Test drive the alternatives

Here’s where your bravery and courage comes into play. Choose one of the alternatives and just run with it. To drive in the snow I needed to trust my years of driving experience and my quick reflexes. And Breathe…

What do you need to do to try out your possible choices to overcome your fear?

Face your fear

Just do it! Look at that fear and knock it over!

How have you faced your fears? What leadership strategies have been most successful for you?

8 thoughts on “Face Your Fears Straight On

  1. Another great post Terri!

    I love the personal example you’ve shared and easy to relate to. At least for anyone who’s had to endure driving in inclement weather!

    One of the greatest breakthroughs for me when it comes to fear is in not having to deny it in the first place. Earlier in life, so much of my life force energy was caught up in feeling ashamed for having any fear in the FIRST place that we lose a ton of energy having to pretend we aren’t afraid.

    Once I could give myself permission to face and feel my fear, and tune OUT anyone else who was trying to shame me for having fear, only then could I figure out what the fear was trying to tell me.

    And I’ve found that as long as we feel ashamed for feeling fear or feeling like we have to defend it, we fall into resistance. And resistance is not facing the fear.

    So giving ourselves FULL permission to be afraid is the key and gateway to being able to feel it and face it.

    And ultimately resolving it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love your point Samantha that we are each entitled to feel fear and not blame ourselves for feeling a certain way.

    What I have learned is that what may be a fear for one of us is not for another. Although I am challenged with driving in the snow and have overcome it in so many ways, my husband grew up in upstate NY where driving in the snow was a way of life. So although he can’t connect with my fears, he has given me great tips to rationally approach those icy roads.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful insights and dialogue!

  3. I like your thought of reframing the fear to make it feel familiar. I’m sure there were many times, NOT driving was exactly the right and rational choice (last weekend I left my car on the side of the road and walked to a coffee house to wait out the ice along with dozens of others. That same morning there were 200 accidents within a very short radius. The coffee drinkers we the smart ones). BUT- if that stopped me from ever driving in snow, than the fear becomes irrational and a road block. Great post and examples.

  4. I am happy to hear you hit that coffee shop rather than driving in the ice. That was the rational decision. But as you point out, we can’t allow our challenges and fears to transfer to future choices and actions. If we begin to see a pattern that reminds us of a fear we experienced before, it may help us to take hold of it and discover ways to conquer it as we may have with past fears.

    Thanks Karin!

  5. Love this post, Terri!

    Another thing that I’ve found helps is to test my assumptions about a fear or problem. Often, we assume we know a lot more than we do!

    Also, I really like your suggestion to look for possible alternatives.

    Another great post!

  6. Powerful post, Terri and great advice! Reminds me of a coaching technique I often use… when we feel stuck with our fears, the way out is by finding a new more compelling perspective. You offer three great ways to do just that.

    Reminds me of the winter of 1993 when we were hit with ice storm after ice storm in Philadelphia. The roads were unbelievably bad but I had to make it into the office for a big project and would leave at the crack of dawn so i could drive 10 miles an hour or less and still make it into the office!

    Hope you’re staying home safe and warm for this one!

    Alli

  7. That’s a terrific idea LaRae to test our assumptions about our fears. Sometimes we do need additional information or understanding to address a problem that has paralyzed our actions. That analysis might involve talking to others or committing to learning something new.

    Thanks LaRae for your articulate comments!

  8. What a great way to deal with being stuck due to a fear! Taking that thought forward, I find that we sometimes need to rewrite our stories and change the capabilities of the main character-us! Writing out what the exact fear is and spending time identifying what the true roadblock looks like can be so empowering. We all deserve to create new opportunities for ourselves and tackle those irrational fears head on.

    Snow and ice storms are so paralyzing. We actually dodged a big one today!

    Terri

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