“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” In my coaching engagements, I often pose this question to a client facing a challenging decision or vexing problem. By facing fear head on we can often muster the courage to move beyond whatever real or imagined outcome we anticipate.
As a child raised on a farm, I was mostly oblivious to the dangers. I climbed haylofts and silos, got up close and personal with animals much larger than me, and drove farm equipment without a valid driver’s license.
Starting school and developing new relationships changed my ideas about fear. Faced with the need for acceptance and approval, I experienced fear but tried hard not to show it. And yet I was afraid.
Fear wields significant power in the workplace. Threats of layoffs, retribution, or being criticized prevent many of us from speaking up, trying new things, or acknowledging our anxiety. The emotional cost for this level of fear is often devastating.
My current fears likely have childhood roots. To move beyond this emotional barrier requires separating the energy of fear from the content of my experience, as Deepak Chopra suggests in his book, “Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul.” I can choose to believe the past or let it go and experience a different outcome.
Perhaps leaders should more frequently ask themselves and those they lead my earlier question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” We all need safe spaces to examine the fears that haunt us. Leaders can model vulnerability by talking openly about their own fears.
Freedom from fear may seem more aspirational than practical.
We are assailed on a daily basis with enough disturbing news and images to lose hope in ourselves and humankind. Perhaps only God can instill in each of us the courage to trust in a larger plan and purpose.
When we realize and believe that truth, we may finally have nothing to fear.