Fear is the background noise of many people’s lives. A constant din that keeps you hyper-vigilant; always on the lookout for trouble, dealing with limitations that define your life. By identifying the fears holding you back and learning how you can overcome them, you can create the life you desire.
Now more than ever we live in a VUCA world. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Companies struggle to retain workers, workers are sick and tired of toxic work cultures, priorities have been reset, and there is no real vision of what the future of work will look like.
People don’t feel connected because we are mostly working from home, they struggle with finding meaning in the work they do. The rate of resignations has gone through the roof as more people choose not to work for companies that don’t serve their needs. There is a significant amount of distrust across all dimensions of the organizations and leadership is being called into question because too many do not have the fundamental skills to lead effectively.
Every day, employees are asked to do more with less and adjust for frequent managerial changes. This results in incredible rates of burnout where individual physical and mental health is compromised. Physical and mental fatigue is real, and a feeling of helplessness leading to depression and anxiety has become the norm for many.
So how do you get to be fearless?
The simple answer is “you don’t!”
What you get instead is the willingness to “feel the fear and do it anyway,” in the immortal words of Susan Jeffers.
Being fearless is not the absence of fear, but the courage to take the next step. To go beyond the discomfort, the negative thinking, the doom and gloom scenarios, and choose to do something different.
Start with fundamental questions.
- Are your fears real.
- Do you have empirical evidence that the worst case scenario will actually take place?
- Will you lose your job?
- Will you fail in your relationship?
- Will you catch COVID and die?
- Be broke in six months?
- Do you have evidence that these fears will become a reality?
I suspect the answer to all of this is No!
We make up stories to quell our uncertainty. We try to make sense of our volatile, complex and ambiguous worlds. We struggle to find the reason for the way things are, and we make up stories that align with our belief systems.
Fear is primarily imagination based. Fear is a feeling, an emotional response to uncertainty. Fear is insidious. It warps your mind, perverts your actions, and leads you down a path that may be fictitious.
Fear is optional.
When fear shows up it’s an opportunity to examine it, understand it, and make a different choice.
Fear matters to our success because it’s a driver. An inner alarm that tells you it’s time to change. An opportunity to embrace something different even if it feels damned uncomfortable making the shift.
The three fundamental needs of every human being are the need to belong, the need for empowerment and the need for meaning. These factors are critical for us to perform at our best, and keep us connected to people and the work we do in a meaningful way.
So what stops this from happening?
There are untapped opportunities for companies to improve performance and profitability while recognizing that the humans who operate the company are essential to their growth. If companies truly believe that employees are their best assets, then the care and support of their growth and development should be number one priority.
I have published two books on being fearless, The Fearless Factor and The Fearless Factor @ Work. In both books I focused on the ways in which we self-sabotage our best efforts and shared my own experiences of dealing with crippling fears that kept me under-performing for years.
Fear leaves an indelible impact on confidence, potential, and relationships. We downplay our strengths, and focus on the weakness, and we struggle to find value in the person we are. Fear is insidious. It keeps you playing small.
As a certified consultant for Human Synergistics International, I have debriefed dozens of 360° assessments designed to measure behavior in individuals, and organizations. These scientific tools analyze specific behaviors that help individuals and organizations make measurable improvements at work, and in their personal lives.
In all cases, I have found a degree of fear operating below the surface of the behaviors that keep individuals from living and working to their highest levels of engagement. When we think about the number of people who are not engaged (53%) in the workplace, we find that many of these behaviors work against their own interests, and undermine almost every aspect of their existence, as well as the impact on the organization itself.
Fear shows up in lack of confidence, inability to speak up, not making decisions, depending on others, playing by the rules, seeking approval, refusing new ideas, maintaining control, striving for perfection, and myriad other behaviors that keep people from fully participating in a joyful, fulfilling life.
The greatest fear of most individuals is simple. I’m not good enough, or, “I’m not lovable”, and frankly, they are both the same. Either way, we don’t merit our place in the world. With that in mind, we self-sabotage, look for confirmation bias to prove it, and generally under-perform. Frankly, it’s a waste. We are all much more than we think we are.
What would it look like if everyone brought their best self to work?
My work with entrepreneurs, senior executives and employees in large and small companies has proven one thing. It doesn’t matter what role you play in life; the underlying behavioral patterns have a great deal of similarity. The only variances are the degree to which these behaviors are impacting your potential and accomplishments in life.
The antithesis of fear is courage. The courage to take the next step.
- Will you risk that you are enough?
- Will you risk that you are smart, talented, capable.?
- Will you risk that no matter what you can trust yourself to do the right thing?
- Will you risk that you can make the right decisions?
- Will you risk speaking up for what you believe in?
- Will you risk that you may fail and not get what you want, but you will become more resilient and stronger as a result of trying?
- Will you risk looking stupid?
- Will you risk rejection, loss or abandonment by standing up for what you believe in?
- Will you risk being who you really want to be?
These are acts of courage. When you embrace the possibilities, you will surprise yourself.
It’s not rocket science. Just show up, be honest with yourself, ask difficult questions, and find the answers you’re looking for. If you can’t do it by yourself, find someone who can help you break down the barriers to your success. You deserve better. You can be better. You can start today!
Jacqueline Wales is the author of The Fearless Factor, The Fearless Factor @ Work, When The Crow Sings, and Fearless Women Leading The Way to be published in 2023.
She has explored human behavior and asked tough questions to discover hard truths for more than 35 years and is a trusted advisor to high-achieving women who helps her clients take accountability for their actions and responsibility for their decisions to achieve remarkable results.
Her programs include
- Individual Coaching
- Transformational Strategies for Success: A self-directed online coaching program
- Inner Game Mastermind: a small carefully curated group coaching and mastermind program
She is also available to speak to groups and corporate events on why fear matters to your success. To learn more about these programs click on the links or give me a call.