The last month and a half for me have been truly eye-opening for me. I almost let the fear of doing new things keep me from greatness. I’m so glad I didn’t. In each instance, I made a personal commitment to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself. I’m so glad I did. In both situations, I pushed myself and in the process realized what a complete “bad-ass” I am. Curious? Let me tell you about these experiences and how, in the end, I beat my fear and did something great. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration to tackle something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t because you let your fear control you.
The first happened In March when I was invited to visit a large company in Saudi Arabia. I consider myself a world traveler but I’ve never visited the Middle East. The opportunity to learn about this organization’s world-class leadership development program was compelling, but the perceived risks were weighing me down.
The night before the trip, I didn’t sleep a wink. I still hadn’t come to a decision about whether I was going. I kept thinking, what if something terrible happens? How will I be treated as a woman? What if I say or do something wrong? Then, at about 4 a.m. the morning of my flight, this quote popped in my head: “Everything you want sits on the other side of fear.” In that moment, I made up my mind. I was going.
My impression: wow! I’m so glad I took the leap of faith. On a professional note, the company’s leadership development program is one of the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen. On a personal note, I made new friends who live and work on the other side of the world. I had dinner in the desert at a Bedouin camp. I rode a camel. Take a look at this short video of me saying “whoa, camel!” as I approach to ride. On my plane ride home, I kept thinking, ”what if I had let my fear control me?” The answer: I never would have experienced greatness.
The second experience conquering fear was on my birthday at the end of March. I joined 40,000 runners for the Copper River Bridge Run in Charleston, South Carolina. I was pretty fit but I was definitely not a runner. I never ran anywhere except maybe through the mall for a big sale. So, trying to run a 10K was totally outside of my comfort zone. But as I was not competing with anyone but myself, I thought, what the heck. So, I set a simple goal just to complete the race.
The morning of the run, I went out with two of my friends. They were both runners and shared their strategy for finishing a race. Walk for 3 minutes, run for 1 minute until the finish. It sounded good enough for me. On the day of the race, when the starting flag dropped, we were off. I ran for 3 minutes and realized that I felt pretty good. So I kept running… and running… and running. I ran until I saw a sign that said, “you’re halfway to the finish” WHAT?!! I couldn’t believe it! I felt like Forrest Gump, “Run Forrest, Run” echoed in my head, and I ran until the end.
I never even looked at the time since my only goal was to finish. I did finish about a ½ hour before my friends. I felt powerful. I felt accomplished. I believe that’s what happens when you accomplish goals. Once again, I persevered and conquered my fear rather than letting my fear control me. In the process, I did something I never thought I’d be able to do.
After both those great adventures, I pulled my head out of the clouds and got back to serving my coaching clients. During my first two meetings, both clients mentioned they had a fear that was holding them hostage. One of them said, “I want to improve my networking but I’m an introvert so it’s hard for me to strike up conversations with people. I guess it scares me a bit.” The other client said, “I’m tired of my current role and want to find next steps for myself. I have an interview coming up but I’m afraid I won’t get it because I can’t relocate.”
Here’s what I asked both my clients to think about.
1. What’s the worse that could happen? Fear sends our brains into overload. Many times, we anticipate drastic consequences of a fearful situation. Fear creates a fight or flight response in us. Fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions. This impacts our thinking and decision-making, leaving us susceptible to intense feelings, and impulsive reactions. All these effects can leave us unable to act.
2. Hope isn’t a strategy. Not only does fear leave us unable to act appropriately, it can immobilize us completely. We feel so afraid and overwhelmed that our response is no response at all. We sit still and hope something will change. However, hope is not a strategy. Hoping that something will change never actually changes anything. To make progress, you actually have to DO SOMETHING. Take a step forward, stop hoping and start doing.
3. Share your thoughts and feelings. Like my introverted client, I tend to get overwhelmed and not share how I’m feeling with anyone. Instead, I try to work it out on my own. This is a mistake. Before my trip to Saudi Arabia, I chatted with my favorite person, my 87-year old Auntie. I told her how scared I was about making the trip. Her comment was, “Don’t ever NOT do something because you’re scared.” Again, this was a pivotal moment for me. She blessed me with her wisdom and life experience. Her insight helped me create my own memorable experiences. If something scares you, share it with someone and perhaps, you’ll get inspired to move forward.
4. Stop worrying. Fear is worrying about something before it happens. We all have enough things happening in real time that it makes no sense to worry about something that may not even happen.
Fear is natural and it happens to us all. It can stop you in your tracks or move you to greatness. Don’t let fear control you. Instead, gather your courage and conquer your fears. Remember this as the new spring season approaches. Anyone that ever did anything great was afraid. The unknown does that to us. Greatness happens when you move past your fears. Everything you want sits right on the other side of your fear. Go be fearless!