October 2012

Deadly & Potent Four-Letter Word...

One of the best definitions  I have discovered over the past year is an acronym for the word fear - False Evidence Appearing Real.  Seems an appropriate exploration in this month of celebrating Halloween... But many of our concerns are unknown future fears like fear of disease, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being accepted, and on and on… and they are usually false, yet they drive our behaviors.  It’s why it’s so important to recognize what truly is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Learnings from a cat (and not a black one)

I just adopted a year-old cat from our local Humane Society, after losing my 16-year old cat to old age. Not surprisingly, my new cat was quite frightened in my home for the first couple of days – hiding behind a couch and refusing food and water.  My fear was that she would not connect with me, and remain a scared cat in hiding.  After a few days of coaxing and introduction to various parts of my home, she (and I) began to relax, and she allowed herself to sleep comfortably in my lap, in the middle of the floor, or on top of the couch.  I realized that the more anxious I was, the more frightened she was.  When I relaxed and allowed her to discover her new environment on her own, she began to eat, drink, and play. 

Had she stayed frightened, she would have lived her life in a very small corner.  As I watched her become more curious than frightened, I realized I needed to do the same.  While this example may seem obvious and small, our fears can stop us in big, important ways we don’t always recognize. 

Moving through fear

Not long ago I had a client who was working on improving his listening skills. I asked him to think about the advantages and the risks of becoming a better listener. He came back with a list of many of the obvious advantages. He included understanding his people better, recognizing issues, and being seen as a better leader. His fears were identified under his risks list.  He said he might have to actually defocus from the business objectives in order to put more attention on the “soft side” of the business. He feared that his team would be unable to perform without his constant hand holding.  He also feared that people might believe they were becoming a close personal friend as a result of his listening.  None of these challenges were inherent listening risks - rather they were fears of business performance issues, and how he might be personally perceived.

Once he became less fearful of making changes in his listening behavior he realized that in fact the results were just the opposite of what he had feared. Today, his better listening has allowed him to become a more effective leader, improve morale in his work environment and improve his ability to collaborate with his boss by understanding – through his new listening – his boss’s perspective to enable effective discussions that have greatly improved their relationship and the business performance.

As leaders, the fear of failure can get in the way and create just the opposite of what we want to achieve.  It’s important to identify the fear triggers that hold us back.   And what about the fear of success?  Sometimes we are afraid of the responsibilities that might accompany great success so we continue to live small.

How are you limiting yourself based on beliefs caused by fear?

  • Identify your triggers – make a conscious effort to note those moments where your triggers are taking hold and causing you to hold back.
  • Beware of perfectionism – although we all want to avoid mistakes, watch that fear of mistakes doesn’t create a situation where you can’t or won't take a risk.
  • Recognize where you are in this present moment – if we only live in the future we worry and plan.  If we live in the past we are likely to resent, regret or try to re-live. In this very moment you’re likely to feel free of fear as you read this article.  Understand what this feels like and recognize when you are not in fear.
  • Identify where and how you have worked through past fears – throughout our lives we go through stages of different fears depending on our age and the situation that we’re in.  Many times we don’t identify or recognize how we moved through or conquered that fear. It can help to go back at least a few years and identify where you have worked through past fears and what you consciously did to move past it. Then apply that same process to a current fear you may have identified.
  • Stay curious – Like my cat, lean into your fears with a healthy sense of curiosity and see if you can free yourself from the anxiety that accompanies fears. 

And finally, ask yourself – are my fears logical, rational, and worthy of being real or are they in fact False Evidence Appearing Real?  How can you re-frame this acronym to become Feeling Excited And Ready!

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.   - Eleanor Roosevelt

 Struggling with leadership effectiveness or business change?
If you’re looking to enhance your leadership effectiveness and would like some help to get the results you’re looking to achieve, I’d love to talk with you. I help leaders to successfully navigate the challenges of making change to achieve the results they want. Visit my website www.terrihughes.com for details, free resources and to schedule a complimentary consultation to move you forward!



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