SOURCE: Dr. Henry Cloud
I want to share a story with you on how NOT to be ruled by fear.
“I know that I hold on to people too long, way past when I know I have to make a change,” a CEO told me. “I have always done that, and it costs me.”
“What are you afraid of?” I asked.
“I don’t think I’m afraid,” he said. “I just don’t want to hurt them, and I always try to protect them.”
“What’s the fear?” I asked again.
It took him a while to get to it, but underneath it all, he was afraid for others to have to go through a struggle.
The problem is that the brain is wired to avoid pain and anxiety.
Over time, when you continue to avoid things that cause you fear or anxiety, such as this CEO’s fear of letting someone struggle, a pattern builds up, causing you to respond almost automatically to any situations that would cause you anxiety. But you cannot allow a pattern of fear and avoidance rule you.
If you are afraid of making a mistake, you will never make bold moves. If you are afraid of upsetting or disappointing people, you will never be able to deal with discomfort in relationships. You’ll be the one who continues to struggle and suffer.
In my experience, many great people go through a three-stage process when it comes to facing their fears. First, they fear it and put it off. Next, they push through the fear, make the decision, and it is painful. And finally, they wonder why they waited so long to make it after the pain is gone and they have resolved the problem. As these stages are internalized, and they become aware of them, people find it easier to make these hard calls. But as long as you don’t confront those uncomfortable feelings, your emotions will control your actions. Grow past the fear!
Look at what you are afraid of and get to the bottom of it. Is it failure? Is it loss of approval? It is fear of confrontation? Is it fear of causing someone distress? Is it fear of change?
And remember: You can have fears without being “fearful.” “Fearful” is when you let your fears make your decisions for you, so… don’t let fear make your decisions for you! Having fear is normal. Being “fearful” is dysfunctional. Fearful leaders – that is, those who respond out of fear – are the worst leaders, period.
So, feel your fear, name it, accept it, talk it over with those you trust, and then choose to do the right thing, no matter how uncomfortable you feel.