Rhonda E. Reagh, Ph.D.
Reagh and Associates
Training, Consultation and Executive Coaching
Fear is a topic I deal with quite often in my coaching business, most often as it relates to the way it holds people back from showing up in their lives as they would like to do. It has also been an inhibitor for me across the span of my career. It held me back from “living too large”, being as bold as I would have liked to be, pursuing jobs I thought were a little beyond my skill level, and probably countless other things, like scuba diving and motorcycling (both of which I overcame with some level of difficulty).
Late in my first career, I realized I couldn’t lead others into risky, creative places if I was afraid to go there myself. I needed to change what I said to myself – and to them. Instead of “be careful!” I had to say, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Instead of “Don’t do it!” I had to say “Just try it!” Those words worked for me and the people I said them to for a long time. But as I have aged and grown in my leadership and life experiences, I have also discovered that my fear is not really fear exactly, but more a reaction to being vulnerable.
What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Vulnerability is typically at the root of anything that I want to run away from. Once I started to face that for myself, fear has become a whole lot easier to challenge on a daily basis. I usually start with being mindful of my first feelings and reactions. If it’s vulnerability, I have a whole host of physical indicators that are like warning lights for me! Feeling hot, upset stomach, blood pressure rising, the urge to run away…oh, and procrastination which is just another way to avoid.
What I do for myself in those moments (and encourage my clients to do for themselves) is to take a breath and break those challenges into little steps. I take one step a day that gets me closer to the goal that makes me feel vulnerable. I am currently working on the fear of being professionally irrelevant if I decide to really retire (for the second time) in the next couple of years. You know, the “who am I if I am not this” question! Very few things make me feel more vulnerable than that. My way of breaking it down has been to try to find the things that will help me fill the gap created by the loss of creativity I feel when I am working. So far, I have tried painting, fused glass, gardening and a few other things. I have had some vulnerability overload in trying those things too, but mostly I have had fun! Was it Eleanor Roosevelt who said something like “Do one thing you fear every day?” I think she was right!
Here are a few questions to help you challenge your fear and maybe your vulnerability:
- What wonderful thing might you experience on the other side of the fear?
- What’s the one thing you can do today to try something you are afraid to do?
- Who can push you out of your safe zone, and support you while you are out there?
Life can be rich, fun and exciting on the other side. See you out there!