“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life, and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
~Georgia O’Keefe

Unfortunately there are times when we let fear stop us. I’ve seen it with clients; I’ve seen it with colleagues and friends; I’ve seen it with myself.

We have a goal we want to achieve, but we’re afraid we won’t make it – or perhaps we’re afraid we will. We have someone we want to connect with, or reconnect with, and we’re afraid they will reject us. Or that we won’t be “good enough” – whatever that means. We want to go for a promotion or a new job or a risky endeavor at work, but we’re afraid we’ll fail. We have a dream – a passion that ignites us – but we’re afraid we’ll fall short. We have an opportunity in front of us – perhaps something we’ve wanted for a long time – and we realize we’re actually afraid it might finally work out. What if it’s not all that good after all those years? What if we can’t handle the success? Even the fear of succeeding can get in our way.

Perhaps we need to learn from Georgia O’Keefe. Perhaps we need to feel the fear and move forward anyway.

Fear can be a great warning. It can alert us to possible danger and keep us from putting too much on the line. But fear can also get in our way. Years ago I learned an acronym for fear – False Evidence Appearing Real – and years ago I learned that that acronym is often true.

Often my fears are unwarranted. Often my clients’ fears are mostly – if not all the way – in their heads. Often fear can be used as a quick check – What is here that I need to pay attention to? What might go south, and how can I best prepare for that? What’s the best way to move forward Thoughtfully towards success? – rather than a deterrent.

There are a multitude of suggestions and best practices for how to move through, or breathe through, fear. It can be helpful to find a sounding board – a colleague, a good friend, a mentor, a coach – who can talk with you about the rationality, and irrationality, of your fear. It can be useful to journal, getting your greatest worries and concerns on paper, while also capturing the potential upside of your situation. You can ease fear by remembering the past times when your fear was not warranted and when it unnecessarily got in your way, and by recalling all the options you have if something does go wrong with your plan. Meditation, deep breathing, and physical activity are all great ways to calm anxiety and gain perspective. It all depends on what works best for you, and often the only way to know that is trial and error.

Terror is certainly not the most comfortable feeling, and yet it’s one that many of us may have, especially if we choose to live our lives at least somewhat on the edge and to go for the things we dream about. If we Thoughtfully build up our resources, we can bolster ourselves for walking through our terrors and fears (when appropriate). Because, as Georgia O’Keefe stated, most often our terrors and fears are not a valid reason to keep us from doing any single thing we want to do.

When and how have you felt the fear and moved forward anyway? How did it go?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in not letting fears stop you from doing what you want to do, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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