In the best-selling book The Gift of Fear, author Gavin de Becker explains how every individual should learn to trust the inherent “gift” of their gut instincts in order to avoid potential trauma and harm. He explains that women especially tend to deny their gut instinct in certain situations, not wanting to appear unkind or insensitive. This instinctual gift is important to pay attention to and act upon when appropriate but more often than not we are using the feeling of fear to avoid taking positive action.
Of all the things clients want to be coached on, fear is the most common. They’ve taken fear to an extreme that doesn’t serve them. It makes them play small. Things like the fear of imperfection, of judgment, of success or failure, not being good enough, losing control or fear of what might happen in the future are just some of the fears that we carry around like a super heavy backpack.
The feeling of fear has become a mental “Warning!” sign to our brains that we just take for granted is trying to protect us. We don’t stop to question if the fear is logical or necessary.
This week I’m going to discuss the truth about fear, how it affects us personally and professionally and an exercise to take control when fear shows up.
The truth about fear
The truth about fear is that most of it comes from thoughts we have in our minds and most of our thoughts are illogical. Most fear comes from a mismanaged mind that we have used as an excuse to not take action.
The exception to this truth is the fight or flight response to something that threatens our survival. In situations like that, we are so frightened that there is no time to think. Our brain bypasses thinking and immediately goes to into action to ensure our survival.
For example, if you are crossing the street and a car comes out of nowhere speeding towards you, your brain doesn’t stop to think. It kicks into an immediate response causing you to run out of the way to keep you alive. It doesn’t think about it; it just does it.
When I work with clients around fear, it’s the fear they have created in their minds that stops them from taking actions that will get them their desired results. The fear that keeps them from putting that online dating profile up, offering to do that presentation at work, having that conversation that they’ve been avoiding, signing up for that trainer at the gym or simply wearing that blouse that makes them look younger.
We have certain circumstances in our lives that we believe are just facts, but those “facts” are most likely just thoughts. We have thoughts that we have practiced overtime which then become beliefs and assumptions. Those beliefs and assumptions create the feeling of fear without our awareness of the cause.
How fear affects us personally and professionally
One of the most powerful exercises you can do is to list your fears. You may think you don’t have many or that the ones you have are completely logical but I bet you would be surprised.
As a working mother, see if any of these fears resonate with you:
- Your child not doing well in school
- Not doing a good job as a mother
- Someone getting sick
- There won’t be enough money to pay for college
- That you won’t be able to protect your children
- That you will be judged for not wanting to advance in your career
- That your child will be bullied
- Someone will break into your home
- That your children won’t get along when they are older
- Someone you love will get hurt
There are so many fears we carry around as mothers that appear to be understandable on the surface. We may even believe that part of the job of being a working mother is to have certain fears because it seems like “everyone else has them”; as if the job of being a mother means you need to worry or else you aren’t doing a good job.
What “everyone else” is not addressing is the actions,reactions and inactions that are caused by their fears. In the Manage Your Mind Model, I teach my clients that their feelings create their actions. By bringing awareness to how their fear is causing them to behave, they can then choose differently (for help with the Manage Your Mind Model get your free copy here of “5 Simple Steps To Reduce Overwhelm Today”).
- If you constantly fear that your child will not do well in school, that feeling of fear may cause you to be overly involved in their school work, push them to do better, question them about how they choose to spend their time or get involved with scheduling their free time and not focus on your own work.
- If you fear being judged by your bosses because you really don’t want to take that advanced position in the firm, you may cutback your productivity, avoid conversations about advancement in the firm or look for another job because you believe you have no choice even though you like where you currently work.
With the awareness of the effect that fear has on our actions, we can use the feeling of fear as an indicator to start managing our minds.
The unmanaged mind exercise
As a coach I am excited when a client has a fear that is creating a negative result for them because I know how incredibly powerful it will be to be coached on it. The feeling of fear has such a powerful ripple effect in many areas of our lives. Working through fear can create amazing results.
Here is an exercise to start working on one of your fears. First you will discover what happens in an unmanaged mind and then in a managed mind:
The Unmanaged Mind
- Make a list of your fears
- Choose one and ask yourself “What am I afraid of?”
- Next write how you behave when you have this fear
- Then describe what happens when you behave this way?
The Managed Mind
- Choose to feel “neutral” instead of fear aboutthe same circumstance
- What would you be thinking if you felt neutral?
- How would you behave differently if you felt neutral?
- What might happen if you behaved that way?
Here’s the work I did on this exercise:
The Unmanaged Mind
- The circumstance is: I have two young adult children
- I am afraid of: My children being hurt badly
- When I feel fear about this I behave this way: I tell them I worry about them, I imagine horrible things happening to them when they leave the house, I create drama in my mind, I act like I don’t trust them
- When I behave these ways it results in: I hurt myself by all the stress hormones I create in my body and I hurt my relationship with my children because I act like I don’t trust them
The Managed Mind
- The circumstance is still the same: I have two young adult children
- I choose to feel neutral instead of fear
- To feel neutral I would think: I raised two smart kids, they have good heads on their shoulders, all is well until I know differently
- When I feel neutral I behave this way: I tell them I love them, I tell them I trust them, I let them live their lives without my judgment
- When I behave these ways it results in: I have a more peaceful relationship with my kids because I know that all is well until I know differently
As you can see, an unmanaged mind that is filled with fear does not give us the results we really want. The gift that the feeling of fear can give us is the awareness of the thoughts that are creating the feeling of fear, the actions we take because of that feeling and the unintentional results we create. Once we have that awareness, we can manage our minds to intentionally create the feelings we want in order to have the results we desired all along.
- The truth about fear is that most of it comes from an unmanaged mind
- The feeling of fear is what stops us from taking action
- Most of our fears appear to be logical but aren’t; they are created by optional thoughts and beliefs, not facts
- The feeling of fear is a great indicator that it’s time to manage your mind
- Choosing the feeling of “neutral” instead of fear is a powerful way to change your actions and results