Faced with choices that evoke fear, do you stay with what you know, even if it isn’t what you want, or do you listen to your heart and take the risk?
The need to feel safe and secure is a powerful one, no matter how unhappy we are, or desperate for change. People stay in jobs they hate, tolerate professional or personal relationships that cause stress and unhappiness, or make choices that adversely shape the direction of their lives … out of fear! They focus on the ‘what ifs’ and ignore the many consequences of maintaining the status quo through fear of the unknown. Such fear-based decisions make people victims of their lives, rather than who they would become by being true to themselves and discovering what is possible.
Yet over the years, I’ve discovered there is another side to fear. The flip side is EXCITEMENT and this has the power to overcome fear and lead to opportunities rarely foreseen or anticipated when you’re stuck in the agony of your imagined ‘what ifs’. In my work as a coach, I see the opportunities that develop out of the courageous decisions my clients make, the lifting of stress and the increase in confidence and self-belief that follows. It transforms how people feel about themselves, the energy they project and the opportunities they attract. Of course, you have to be willing to come out of your comfort zone. It means stepping up, or in the words of the late Susan Jeffers to: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Decisions from a place of strength
Making the decision is always the hardest part and it’s worth remembering that change happens anyway. Nothing stays the same, regardless of the choice you make. Refusing to be defined by fear is a decision about who you are and who you want to be. It’s a change of mindset that shifts away from the negatives, to the options you have and the actions needed to take on the challenge. It has nothing to do with age, ability or circumstance and everything to do with power … your personal power.
In 2005, I was offered a truly memorable, though rather daunting speaking opportunity. I was invited to give a 30-minute interactive presentation to an audience of up to 750 professional women, at The London Stock Exchange. I almost turned it down because just a day earlier, I had been told I needed quite invasive surgery on my face for skin cancer. The last 24 hours had been overshadowed by fear, but in that defining moment, excitement took over. I reasoned that if I had to find the courage to deal with the surgery, I could take on this challenge. I said “yes” and it was one of the best decisions I ever made!
Over the following month, I refused to think about the surgery and the ‘what ifs…’ Instead, I focused on all I needed to do to prepare for that presentation. On the day, it went exactly as planned, even though I was informed on my arrival, that the event was also to be shown on huge screens around the Stock Exchange. I chose not to think about that and focused on enjoying the moment.
When I had the surgery two days later, I was still on a high. Fear had been reframed into something positive and empowering and I had taken on a daunting but exciting opportunity that I still use as a benchmark, whenever I’m faced with a scary challenge. I’m convinced my mindset made a difference to the positive outcome of the surgery too.
Building your inner power
Fear can be used to galvanise us on to greater things in any given situation, or limit our lives. It’s the business and personal decisions we make that turn us into victims, or build our inner strength, self-belief and personal power. So, personally, given the choice of fear or excitement shaping my decisions, I choose excitement any day!