I recently returned from a beautiful trip to Costa Rica. We stayed on the Pacific coast and enjoyed relaxing by the pool, horseback riding, walking along the beach, a river eco-tour, pampering at a luxurious spa, delicious food, and amiable travel companions. One of the highlights was a “zip line” adventure, where I flew through the jungle while dangling from a series of steel cables strung between the towering tree tops. It was an unforgettable experience. It also took me many months to mentally prepare for, as I had to overcome a terrible fear of heights. So, long before I set foot on the metal staircase winding up to the first platform, I had steeled myself for this challenge.
There were a few tricks I used to help me prepare. First, I thought about how good I would feel after conquering my fear. Second, I told many friends, relatives, and clients what I planned to do, so that I had both cheerleaders and people “watching” to see if I would break through my fear. I also realized that my real fear was of falling. If I could be assured that falling was highly unlikely (which it was; the cable could have held a pachyderm with ease), I could relax and enjoy the experience. I focused on the positive, exhilarating aspects of flying through the forest like a bird. And, if I did fall, it would kill me anyway, and what a way to go! But what really gave me the courage to jump off that first platform was knowing that it is only when we can put aside fear can we begin to really live.
Eleanor Roosevelt said “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” Our fears are often born out of our thinking; since we create them in our mind that is a good place to begin to reshape them. Lately I’ve been asking myself a number of questions as I explore my fears: Where does fear get in my way? What is at the root of my fear? What can I control, and what is out of my control, in terms of the environment where I encounter my fear? What is my fear trying to protect me from? Is the frightening thing here now, or is it something I anticipate, dread, or foresee in my future? How can I prepare for it, while staying in the moment? Who would I be without my fear?
Each of us has fears that keep us from being the person we want to be. What are yours? If I can support you in dealing with fear in the context of your work life, please ask.
Sharon Keys Seal