The other day a client’s email crossed my desk: “Sunny…I am in the process of spending a few days in Orlando enjoying my favorite theme park. Yesterday I waited patiently in line to board a roller coaster –which is something I never do! My purpose was to execute one of the items on my ‘Facing my Fears,’ list, a topic we discussed in coaching. They strapped me in. Closing my eyes I said a quick prayer and as I was instantly plunged into the air at a frightening speed…you were the last image I remember before indulging into my terrifying journey. At the end of the ride I was happy to have survived and thrilled with myself for dealing with the unknown.”
I laughed heartily and applauded my client for stepping far afield of her comfort zone to deal with fear. Then I added “take a roller coaster ride at the next opportunity” to my fear list. It is something I haven’t done in years probably because I’ve turned chicken. Riding a coaster is not the important part, it’s about dealing with fear. Without challenge a comfort zone will continually shrink.
Dealing with fears holding us back from reaching our goals is a common theme in coaching sessions. When we met, my client mapped out a list of her fears. That was a good starting point. Obviously, riding a roller coaster had nothing to do with her greater goals, however, conquering a fear, any fear, gives us the confidence to maintain momentum. This was clearly evidenced by her closing sentence. She boldly wrote: “I’m off to face my next fear.”
Want to work on eliminating your barriers? Recognize that fears are formed in our minds. We associate doing something with danger, or perhaps we view the outcome as ending in embarrassment, disgrace, failure, etc.
When those noisy demons begin their chant, dismiss them. With no audience to entertain they will quietly exit stage left.
Breathe through your fear. I recently had an opportunity to fly with a friend in his two-seater Piper Cub. Although I knew the man was an accomplished pilot, I felt uneasy and rather skittish as I climbed aboard the bright yellow aircraft. My friend Dave walked me through each step explaining when we hit 60 miles per hour we would lift off. I prepared for the assent into the azure sky by acknowledging my nerves then dismissing them. Next I practiced taking long, slow breaths. With eyes wide open I soon felt the thrill of slow and steady climb. Grinning broadly as we soared around mountains and over sparkling deep lakes, I congratulated myself for not letting trepidation prevent me from enjoying this rare opportunity.
Practice embracing uncertainty. Take smaller risks on a consistent basis, selecting those that will help you conquer your fear. For example, if you fear public speaking, enroll in a Toastmasters class. The Toastmaster environment is supportive allowing a participant to move at his or her own pace. Within time you can be delivering speeches free of knocking knees and sweaty palms.
We all cling to what makes us feel safe. Perhaps it’s time to graduate from living life in a sanctuary. Get ready to leave your security blanket behind. Have you ever seen the classically funny movie Mr. Mom? There is a scene in the film where the stay-at-home dad, played by actor Michael Keaton, convinces his small son to retire his “wooby” which is the child’s word for security blanket. Try visualizing yourself relinquishing an object symbolizing your wooby. Lay the article down, acknowledging your freedom and independence from the protective mantle.
A final thought…borrow a tagline from the Navy Seals. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” The idea is to remain focused on the task at hand regardless of the surrounding circumstances. Conditions will not always be ideal. Accept that fact and stay the course.
Feeling more secure about taking the plunge? Great! Meet me at Disneyland. I have a coaster to conquer.