A Coaching Power Tool Created by Miki Stephens Foster
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
Fear prevents us from moving forward and can limit us from realizing our dreams and capacities. Fear is associated with failure, the unknown of future events, and can be a powerful force behind the choices we make. When a person is lost to debilitating, negative thoughts of what might go wrong in the future he or she can become panic stricken, anxious and depressed. Allowing one’s mind to be undisciplined within the confines of negative thought can create self-destructing habits and sabotage future successes. Fear creates stagnation and anxiety with regard to change, creating the illusion that staying in uncomfortable situations is safer than risking future failure in the unknown of moving forward. Fear of failure often causes us to fall short from attempting something new and can stem from feeling inadequate due to low-self esteem or past negative life experiences.
Although success means different things to different people, almost everyone can identify with at least one time when their own fears threatened a successful outcome. For many, the courage to face their fears is, in itself, the definition of success. In order for people to overcome their fears and embrace the path to success, they must first learn to truly identify and understand what fears they have and not allow themselves to be limited by these powerful emotions but rather learn to work toward the end goal of whatever it is they seek to manifest in their lives, regardless of their fears.
After years of having a demanding corporate job, Helene was ready for a career transition. The high paying salary Helene earned in executive management was in exchange for sacrificing those things closest to her heart. She told herself the time spent traveling and long hours at the office were worth the sacrifice in order to provide her family with the things she never had as a child. Her hard work and high salary came at a great cost to Helene, and although she knew this, her fear of failure and of the unknown prevented her from making a significant career change.
For years, Helene had wanted to start her own business, one in which she could spend more time with her children and generate enough income to maintain her family’s standard of living. Torn between what was and what could be, Helene set her dreams aside until the day she learned the company she worked for would be relocating within the year. Helene turned down a transfer with the company and committed to transitioning from corporate to being self-employed.
When the day came that Helene would walk out of her office for the last time, she found herself paralyzed by fear. What if she was making the biggest mistake of her life? What if she failed? What if she couldn’t handle all of the unknowns? After years of doing for corporate what she seemed unable to do for herself, she found she was terrified that once she started digging deep within herself to find her passion, there would be nothing there. Helene did not know how to identify herself without her corporate persona, suddenly she found herself unemployed with a lost sense of self and afraid of what the future held.
Soon afterward, Helene was referred to a Life Coach. Through coaching, Helene was able to shift her perspective from one of fearing failure to one of overcoming the challenges leading to success. Helene worked diligently in order to walk through her fears and take the initial steps to start her own business. Her greatest takeaways from her coaching experience were:
- It wasn’t until Helene started talking to her coach that she realized the underlying cause of her anxiety and doubt was fear.
- Helene spent time writing in her journal and soon understood her fears had something to teach her.
- Identifying her negative inner critic allowed Helene to become mindful of her thinking allowing her to question the reality of these negative thoughts rather than taking them as self imposed truths.
- Rather than imagining her failure, Helene began visualizing her success and what her life looked like when she followed her dreams.
- The big picture intimidated Helene leaving her overwhelmed. In order to move forward toward achieving success, Helene practiced goal setting in order to achieve wins on a regular basis and help keep her moving forward.
Fear can be an overwhelming emotion for many of us. By identifying and owning our feelings of fear rather than ignoring them, we take the first step to overcoming those things that prevent us from moving forward, pursuing our goals and achieving success. More often than not, it is during times of our greatest opportunities that we come face to face with our greatest fears. In order to move beyond living in a place of fear, it becomes imperative to recognize when we are being held back and what it means to move forward.
Once we identify and admit to our fears, visualizing personal achievement, journaling and setting goals can help us overcome the negative thoughts associated with fear. Learning to recognize when we are living in a place of fear can help us become aware of the thoughts causing havoc in our lives. Positivity and taking action can turn the darkest of fears into successes. It is not the fear itself that limits our lives, but rather our own willingness to succumb to this negative thinking with regard to our fears. Our lives are not measured by success alone, but rather how we allow our fears and disappointments to define who we are. Facing our fears empowers us to achieve the things in life once thought to be out of our reach.
Accepting, confronting and overcoming fear enables our clients to feel empowered, courageous, proud and successful. As coaches, our job is to listen to our clients and ask powerful questions that help the client dig deeper into their thoughts, values and beliefs in order to gain clarity around self-sabotaging tactics, why they are stuck, and/or afraid of moving forward.
Start small and work in steps to slowly build familiarity with overcoming perceived obstacles to success with the following techniques:
- Talking: Have the client talk to you about their fears in order to expose the negativity and fear to the light of day. Remember to coach to the desired outcome in the situation, keeping the client in the presence of solutions for overcoming his/her fears.
- Awareness: Engage the client with powerful listening and questioning in order to bring awareness to the fear preventing him/her from moving forward.
- Identifying the underlying obstacles associated with fear: Have the client get specific about what exactly it is they fear. What are they really afraid of with regard to their fear? Have the client become an observer of his/her inner space.
- Visualization: Gently introduce positive visualization techniques to the client. Ask them to visualize every detail of a happy outcome to the situation.
- Journaling: Have the client get their fears down on paper in order to better understand what these fears are, where they originate from and how they make the client’s life miserable.
- Actions and take-aways: Challenge the client to take actions they design for themselves. Explore desired actions, potential barriers, commitment levels and structures that may need to take place in order for the client to move forward from a place of fear.
- What areas in your life are being stifled because of fear?
- What’s your worst-case scenario here? What’s the fear behind that?
- Who would you be without your fear?
- What would you accomplish if you knew you would succeed?
- If you had unlimited resources and couldn’t fail, what would you do then?
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