Irene was a self-described introvert. Whenever she was asked to interact with large groups or speak publically she usually found a way to decline the invitation even though she was more than amply qualified to do what she was being asked to do. She carried her secret of fear that what she had to say was not good enough or that she herself was not good enough. She dreaded the thought or losing face so she wore fear like a shield of amour. However, In spite of that fear and reluctance to do many things, she was able to move through the ranks in her profession. She began her career as an elementary school teacher. She did not experience fear when she was teaching her students, but outside of her classroom she wore her fear cloak and retreated where possible. She actually stated to a colleague that she only wanted the principals she served under to just know her by name. This was because she would not be asked to chair committees or make public speeches.
After ten years of classroom teaching Irene attended graduate school and became a school counselor. This position suited her well because most of her encounters, whether with students or adults, were with individuals or small groups. She nurtured others and was successful in this role. About eight years later she was invited to be the principal in this same school. This was a big test for Irene. She was very fearful.
Secretly Irene felt she could be a great principal if she gave up being so fearful and took a risk. The school enrollment was about 450 students. She really did not want to take this position. Her audience would be much larger. She could not avoid speaking to large crowds. But after much persuasion and prayer and promises of support by family and friends, Irene took a giant step to move forward in her career. She accepted the position with fear and apprehension. This was the most stressful period of her career; however she was able to interact with parents, make speeches to the PTA, and state her position on the governing board and appear on the radio and television. But it was always with fear and trembling. She experienced many sleepless nights when a “speech” or public assignment was due. Many times she would think of what she should have said after the fact. Fear continued to plague her throughout her career.
The crowning “fear” event, even more than being principal, that Irene was confronted with was an invitation to speak to her high school classmates at their 40th class reunion. She immediately said “No” and declined the invitation. However the class organizer did not readily accept her declination and said she would call back in three weeks and hoped that by that time she would reconsider because she was the committee’s first choice.
This event happened during the time that Irene had hired a life coach who was already supporting her in completing her in completing a major project. She mentioned to the coach that she was invited to be the keynote speaker at her Alma Mata and how she had turned it down flat. Through powerful questioning, supportive actions and affirmations and a unveiling of limiting beliefs Irene were able to take forward steps. She gained confidence, courage and freedom through the process. She had a change of heart and when the organizer called back Irene said, “ Yes.” That was the most fundamental yes at that time of her life. It shifted her perspective from Fear to Courage.
The gift of courage is a shift of perspective to a client who is struggling with fear. Using it as a tool the coach presents a powerful antidote to aspire others to take risks and move out from paralyzing fear. It will help the client to be brave and stand in his or her own strength. The coach can enable the client to shift their limiting beliefs and fulfill their purpose by engaging in the following behaviors:
- Advance clients’ self awareness through esteem exercises and activities
- Assist clients’ in setting small reachable smart goals; then bold courageous ones
- Celebrate and affirm the clients’ successes
- Develop with clients a support system that works
- Inspire clients to walk their life journey with confidence.
Not only did Irene do very well at the alumni event but also she has had invitations for other speaking engagements, which she has accepted without extreme fear and trepidation. She knows the message she delivers is more powerful than the fear that threatens. Fear is no longer in the driver’s seat nor the controlling emotion. I know because I am Irene.
Specific Strategies to support a client who is struggling with fear
Powerful questioning by the coach
- Tell me what this fear is all about?
- What is the worse thing that can happen?
- What is the best outcome that can be achieved?
- What small steps can you take to confront fear?
- What positive actions can happen from you wearing your courageous hat?
- What if you had unlimited resources and knew you could not fail what actions would you try?
Help client release the past.
Thinking about the past can negatively impact one’s thoughts. Thoughts of sadness, guilt, regret and embarrassment produce feelings that keep one stuck in the past. Thoughts of fear and doubt can define our lives if we allow them to steal our dreams. Overthinking and repeatedly dwelling a situation can cause mental confusion and exhaustion. Engage the client in moving forward and trying new things. The coach can encourage the client to practice a positive outlook on life.
Challenge them to get comfortable with fear and then move through it with tenacity, boldness and courage.
Coaches can help the client focus on their strengths and abilities.
The coach can help strengthen the client their belief in self by having them list their successes over the past year. Have them rehearse what they do well and reflect on the positive emotions the successes have brought them.
Coaches can help clients be mindful
Helping the client practice being aware of the present is a source of joy Encouraging clients to step out of worry doubt and fears. This doesn’t mean denying fear but feeling the emotion and examining it and letting it go. Release the tension by breathing out and breathe in peace. Coaches can suggest that their clients try meditation. Focusing on present moment can be engaging and interesting, if fear is confronted face on, it dwindles and is replaced by peace and aliveness.
Reflections for fellow coaches…
Coaching is powerful because not only do we help our clients but also we can apply the same strategies to our own lives. We can acknowledge our own fears and face them and be brave and courageous for ourselves.
By virtue of being human we all experience the same feelings, to a more or lesser degree and as such we all experience fear. Actually fear is not the real issue. It is the ability to move forward and take action. It is the commitment to do what we really want to do despite the fear. This is the truth we must share with our clients.
We cannot escape fear but we can shift our perspective and transform fear into a companion that motivates us to accept risks and new adventures.
Embracing courage gives us power-the kind of power that will attract people to want to be around us. Then we can open our hearts and be free to be our true self, stand in our strength and be courageous, brave and free.
Brendon Burchard. (2014) The Motivation Manifesto: 9 Declarations to Claim Your Personal Power. Carlsbad, California. Hay House, Inc.
Jeffers, Susan. (2012) Feel the fear and do it Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision Into Confidence and Action [Kindle Edition] London, Random House Group.
Shapiro, Ed & Deb. (2010) Overcoming F.E. A. R.: False Evidence Appearing Real. Retrived from http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Transform-Your-Fear-Into-Courage#ixzz3hsNDR0Hn.