A Coaching Power Tool By Shay Babila, Life Coach, AUSTRIA
How to Overcome Fear vs. Curiosity
Ever since I can remember, I have been accompanied by the fear of writing assignments with the belief: “I am not good enough”.
My Thoughts were: “I do not have a rich enough vocabulary”, “I do not have an academic background”, “I should focus on my other talents,” etc.
Fear prevailed, and I gave up.
As part of my Coaching studies, I have had the opportunity to face this fear again, after many years of avoidance.
I was required to write several Writing Assignments (as this one), and the old fear reappeared, in a similar way, just like twenty years ago when I was a child.
With fear came emotions that manifested as nervousness, anxiety, and a racing mind.
Finally, instead of letting those emotions take control, I allowed them space and was able to observe them from the neutral dimension of Curiosity.
Curiosity gave me a chance to understand fear differently.
The fear had a different meaning. Instead of refusing it, resisting or dismissing it, attention towards it with curiosity, uncovered the fear, almost as a friend’s advice which one must not have to listen to, or a stop sign showing different courses of action.
Suddenly, when a thought came about writing an assignment, a sense of lightness, clarity, and authenticity was felt, instead of fear and anxiety. The old idea around me writing assignments did not exist anymore.
Looking at the fear of writing assignments through the lens of curiosity, built a new and fresh perspective.
Fear vs. Curiosity Explanation
The meaning of Curiosity, according to Cambridge’s dictionary, is
The meaning of Fear, according to Cambridge’s dictionary, is
“An unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen.”
If there’s fear, you need to direct your attention to it.Eckhart Tolle
Many of us have unhealthy relationships with fear. When fear comes, we avoid it, look for distractions, and move on.
This is understandable mainly because when we are afraid, we tell ourselves a story.
The story consists of what we are afraid of, our opinion about the fear, who is to blame for the fear, and what will help the fear to go away.
The story is a thought that creates a distraction from focusing on the energy the fears create.
When we put our attention on the thought, we do not attend to the emotion and the energy it contains, instead – we create a separation from the emotion.
How Do We Attend to Fear?
We have a choice.
When fear comes, we can attend it by looking right at it (not with the eyes) or choosing not to attend it by doing other activities (Thinking is also an activity).
Curiosity comes into play right here.
How Does Curiosity Help Attending Fear?
Let us imagine a man who decided to go to a festival full of people. He felt fear more and more as the festival’s starting date got closer.
He told himself a story about a person (himself) who does not have the skills to connect with others and who is not interesting to others.
Two days before the festival, this person discovered a new, fresh approach.
He used his imagination differently and began asking himself new questions, which created lightness.
He suddenly saw an opportunity for growth in the uncomfortableness he felt.
This man developed a curious attitude towards his fear.
Curiosity as a Lens
Putting our attention and awareness towards fear can be challenging.
When fear appears, we usually try to find solutions through thinking.
But the question is: Can an emotion (like fear) even be solved by the mind? Is there something to be solved?
When we are afraid and we think about it, the mind is very limited with what it has to offer. It can try and offer reasons for why the fear is there, offer ways of how to not experience the fear, and it can tell a story about how we should feel.
Therefore – we have to place our attention on the right Lens: Curiosity.
Curiosity, as a Lens, is precise and does not contain added filters. It offers a direct seeing which does not judge what appears in front of it.
When attending with curiosity, the fear is being experienced in its purest form.
It can allow us to see the thoughts the fear creates as they come and go, and the energy it manifests in us.
Continuing with putting our attention in our body, can present us with our rhythm of breath and see the value in staying with the breath.
Eventually, we feel lightness which is expressed through the body and can provide new insights, courage, a movement toward goals, and more.
Making Assumptions and Finding Solutions Fear vs. Curiosity
The coaching space is an excellent opportunity for a person to transform fear into curiosity.
As a coach, I like to see myself as a child who got lucky by someone telling him the greatest, most interesting story that I have ever heard before.
Listening with such an attitude takes me away from making assumptions and finding solutions for the clients, and more with remaining curious, fresh, and attentive to listen.
I listen to the words the client uses, and every shift of energy it may create. I observe the emotions and the reactions of the client towards them.
For clients to be able to be curious about fear, we as coaches, have to pay close attention to our attentiveness, and our intention behind asking questions.
Coach being curious helps clients be curious.
In one of my first sessions at practicing coaching, I coached a client introducing her fear of public speaking, mentioning a specific upcoming event.
This fear of the client was expressed with a tone of voice, nervousness in the body, and confusion.
As a coach, I felt immediately overwhelmed and stuck, as if the emotion traveled from the client to myself.
A couple of hours after the session ended and my mind took me into self-doubt and fear (coaching is not for you, you are not skilled enough), I got curious about what happened at this coaching session and what could I learn from this experience.
I sat and re-lived the situation again (and again) using imagination and memory, and I saw how in the moment of being overwhelmed by my clients’ emotions, my attention was more on the appearances of my thoughts and less on acknowledging how I feel by taking a deep breath and feeling the body.
Reflecting on the experience, also helped me with asking myself fresh questions:
- Where did my attention go at that moment?
- What could I have done differently?
- How to not be influenced by the emotions of the client?
- How to acknowledge and maintain my emotions as a coach in a session?
The more I practiced staying in the realm of no opinion, being attentive and receptive to the client’s words and expressions – my reflections and questions became cleaner and lighter.
Through being curious about myself as a coach, I discovered tools and insights on how to remain present when clients arrive at a session with strong emotions.
Being curious created an opportunity to learn a new practice and get better as a coach.
I discovered that being curious about my clients, serves them greatly and most important:
It helps clients to be curious about their own emotions and thinking.
Questions We Can Offer
Questions asked at the right time can invite curiosity in the client’s mind, help them reframe their perspective, or even gain a completely new one.
What would it look like If fear was not there?
It offers a curious approach for the client to focus on what he wants. The client is now invited to imagine the same situation but without the energy of fear.
Where is Fear being felt in your body?
Taking the client on a curious journey of connecting what he feels to how it’s being felt in the body can offer detachment from the story, relief, and focus.
Why is it important to you, to overcome this fear?
We let the client reflect on his intentions. We give him a first opportunity to be curious about his intention of looking at his fear.
Is this fear real or imagined? How do you know?
Creates an opportunity to reflect on the story (past), become aware of the pattern and repetitive behavior, and create an action.
What are you really afraid of?
A question that can evoke great awareness but should be asked in a time where the client can receive it. When we use the word ‘really’ in our question, we allow the client to focus on what is there for him.
What could happen if you got past your fear?
Creates potential outcomes, offers the client a look at the pros and cons builds a healthy imagination and takes the client to a curious place of looking forward.
What Triggers the fear?
A question that might create deep awareness must be asked at the right timing where the client is already in a place of curiosity about the fear, and we coaches see an opportunity to go deeper.
Identifying the trigger creates greater awareness which then helps with focusing on what is important.
For example, The client’s fear is public speaking. The trigger is comparing to others, and being aware of it allows the client to ask himself new questions and focus on the
What can be a baby step which you can take today to overcome your fear?
Offers the client to move into action with no sense of overwhelmed emotions. A baby step enables less anxiety and fear and more ability to be curious and think simple.
Observations We Can Offer
As coaches who bring the energy of curiosity, we listen actively to our clients.
We listen to their words but also in between the words.
We observe the energy the words create in clients and the body language which follows.
When clients communicate their fear, we can observe words that are more emphasized by the client. We can pay attention to the client’s body while he communicates.
Examples for bodily expressions we can pay attention to:
- shoulders going lower
- voice getting quieter
- lack of eye contact
- raised eyebrows
- anxiousness while speaking
- eyes looking up while thinking
Offering what we see as an observation, can evoke awareness for the client and allow him curiosity towards his emotion and then his goal for the session.
Curious Perspective With Questions and Observations
I struggled at first with finding a tool to write about. I had to change the attitude towards my thinking because I became aware that the way I think about it does not help me move further, and more importantly – it does not help me with finding a tool that will truly help my future clients.
Becoming aware of my intentions, I started to develop tremendous curiosity towards the power of being curious.
I saw an opportunity in the struggle I have with searching for a tool and used coaching sessions to find a fresh perspective. I discovered that I carry fear towards writing assignments and that getting more and more curious helped me to overcome this self-belief.
I began to access my mind and thoughts through the lens of curiosity, and words came spontaneously without overanalyzing, self-criticizing, or feeling guilty.
Curiosity is powerful, but not a miracle. It is a tool. A power tool.
But, like every tool in a toolbox, it is up to us if we will use it or not.
As a coach, offering my clients a curious perspective with questions and observations can help them with having a lighter approach towards their struggles or challenges.
i Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
ii Neill, Michael. Supercoach: 10 Secrets To Transform Anyone's Life
iii Brown, Brene. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.