Resilience: My friend fear..

What Are You Afraid Of?Recently I experienced a situation where fear was an unexpected partner in the dance. Not in an obvious way, but definitely present. In fact, I doubt that anyone involved (including me) recognized at the onset that fear was part of the equation.

I was reminded in that situation that we cannot change what we cannot see. And we won’t see what we are afraid to see. That means that before we can fully experience resiliency in our lives, we must be able to move past fear.

There it is – FEAR. Regardless of how we define success, before we can fully achieve and sustain it we must develop a healthy relationship with fear. Wisdom teaches us that fear can be a positive energy, a partner for change.  But before that can happen, we need to engage fear as our ally.

The first step is to recognize that all of us experience fear. Let’s get some clarity about the many faces and flavors of fear. As I was researching this I found at least 45 synonyms for the word fear from one search. 45! That’s quite a few flavors. And when you move on to all of the additional terms and phrases, the list is literally endless. That tells us something. We get to choose some things about fear in any given situation. We get to put a specific name to our fear. Once we do that, it becomes easier to see it within a context that will allow us to counter and/or leverage it.

The second step is remembering that fear is a basic human emotion. We are born with fear as a primal response in recognition of danger and for self-preservation. Fear is designed in its basic form to serve us. Over time though, we can allow fear to become the danger itself and to be self-limiting.  We need to remember that fear is not an absolute predictor; fear is just an alert mechanism that tells us we need to look at something more carefully before making our choice. Going back to our first point, remember that in this context, fear does not have to remain a reflexive response. Fear can create choices in how we respond. As with any choice, once we recognize we are in a decision moment we know by default we have the power to make a different choice.

But still, claiming fear as an ally can be daunting. After all, it is an incredibly powerful emotion. It can distort our vision, perception and ability to act. In some cases, the fear is clearly invalid and we are able to just choose another response. But in most cases, we will need to engage with our fear and allow it to guide us back to our personal power. That is done using the right questions.

For example, if you are timid (afraid!) in certain situations it most likely won’t be as simple as “I will choose confidence over being timid”.  Most likely, there is an underlying reason you are timid. The key will be to ask yourself what steps you need to take to develop confidence. Instead of focusing on the fear (being timid), focus on the alternative (confidence). First you will have to identify where you lack confidence. You will be able to look at what kinds of situations bring out that timidity and determine why and develop those skills to remove the fear. With that, fear becomes your ally. It lights the way for you to see where you lack confidence so you can take productive measures to restore it. You can then thank your fear for its service and send it on its way!

What about some of the more ambiguous forms of fear such as unease. What is it about this situation creating unease for me? Are those things true? If so, are there steps I can take to be at ease? If so, what are they?  Take those steps, thank your fear (unease) for its service and send it on its way! If you cannot define steps that will help you feel at ease, recognize your unease as a “do not enter” warning”, thank your fear (unease) for its service and send it on its way!

This is a life skill that can serve us in so many situations. Just remember that skill grows from use over time, not time alone. Put this into practice!

When we embrace fear for what it is meant to be – an alert to potential danger – we can leverage it to change outcomes and set ourselves up more effectively for success.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well!


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