Know Your Fear. Feel Your Power.
In life and in work, how often do we connect with our fears? Truly connect. Not hide, repress or deny them. Not sugar coat them with “positivity” or brush them under the desk. We know that a key trait of a great leader is taking ownership for outcomes and results: “The buck stops with me.” We also know that being authentic and vulnerable is a great way to build trust. Yet, most leaders shy away from owning their fears, those things that haunt them and they are reluctant to admit.
It’s one thing not to name them to others, but the first step is to be aware of them with ourselves. When we are unwilling to admit to ourselves we fear a situation, an outcome, a person—the situation often persists and gets worse. It becomes a cancer. And soon we are so consumed by it, we forget its origin and why we are giving it so much energy. It becomes a habit. Check-in with yourself and see if any of these examples are true for you:
- What if I fail at meeting my goal at work?
- What if my partner leaves me?
- What if I get fired?
- What if I can’t deliver the quality my client expects?
- What if my team doesn’t get it done in time?
- (fill in your own: _______________________)
Honestly check-in to see if any of these (remember there’s a fill in the blank option) apply to you and if they don’t – set up time to talk with me, I want to understand why and learn from you. For most of us, human existence starts with our primal needs driven by the Reptillian Brain. This oldest part of the human brain was designed when we were cave dwellers and there was fear of lions, bears and tigers eating us up. It’s the flight or fight response. Things like the instincts of survival, dominance, mating and the basic functions of respiration, heartbeat all come from this area of the brain.
This part of our brain’s job is to keep us alive. Period. Not keeping us from: being embarrassed, feeling less than, not worthy or (yes, again—fill in your own version: __________________). I repeat: the job of the primal brain is to keep us alive. It’s binary.
On the other end of the brain is our most recent evolutionary addition—The Frontal Lobe, responsible for functions such as reasoning, problem solving and innovation. It’s the center of endless possibilities with the opposite type (generative type) of “what if…” Let’s take the same list above and flip it with this part of our brain:
- What if I fail at meeting my goal at work and I learn new ways to be even better?
- What if my partner leaves me and my ability to love myself grows deeper?
- What if I get fired and I find even greater opportunities to express my gifts?
- What if I can’t deliver the quality my client expects and it opens a conversation to learn their needs?
- What if my team doesn’t get it done in time and I have their back?
- (fill in your own—make sure to add “and…”: _______________________)
Again, please do not read these reframes as simply a “positive spin.” These are inquiry questions of yourself. When you genuinely start with such questions and keep probing to go deeper I would be shocked if in the end, you do not end up with a better, more generative set of options on how to tackle the situation.
Between the two extremes of the brain is emotion. How we feel about our own words and actions. How we feel about the words and actions of others in relation to us. How we feel about world events and their direct or indirect impact on us.
The key is being self-aware of what part of your brain is driving your “car”: driving your thoughts, your reactions, your response, and your decisions at every moment. Being honest with yourself about your inner dialog, “the monkey mind,” is the beginning of true power. Rather than getting exhausted, stressed and burnt-out by ignoring what’s truly bothering you (dig deeper and it’s likely a fear or angry thought)—shine the light on it and see how you feel. Just naming it and claiming it is liberating. Freedom is at the heart of power.
Give yourself permission to “Know Your Fear. Feel Your Power.” And reach out to me if you need support to navigate the journey of uncovering your root fears as a leader-of-self, as the opening to your brilliance, your power! Sign-up for my infrequent newsletter. Share this with others.
A “shout out” to The ManKind Project (the global non-profit I volunteer with extensively) for “Know Your Fear. Feel Your Power” and the related process that teaches this core principle.