What’s your biggest fear in business? What about in life?
I have just returned from a week-long leadership retreat in Hawaii where I had the opportunity to mastermind with my mentor and 30 CEO’s and business leaders while exploring the anatomy of overcoming fears and what it takes to grow and succeed in business over the long-term without burning out.
Over the last two years, I have made it a point to take a week off at least once a quarter. Using this time to review, refresh, renew and re-calibrate has been not only enjoyable but necessary.
One of the biggest benefits of taking time off to sharpen your inner game while working on your business (instead of in your business) is the personal breakthroughs that are possible when you have space to work on what’s in the way of the next level growth in your business. What is even more beneficial is that you have an opportunity to integrate these lessons and breakthroughs to the day-to-day operations and activities of your business. Doing this on a regular basis results in you and your team more productive and effective, and your business being more profitable and impactful.
In this article, I want to speak to a common obstacle that stops us from achieving our goals – and yes, it’s a four-letter word. F-E-A-R.
Therefore I ask you the question once again: What’s your biggest fear in business? What about in life?
No matter how high-achieving, successful and accomplished you are, chances are that you have one or two major fears running in the background that are influencing your decisions and actions, which in turn drive your results. Being brave enough to look at your fears in the eye and learning to create safety, support and possibility to rise above these fears are critical to business success.
This time around in Hawaii, I had the opportunity to work on one of my biggest fears: my fear of being in the water and then drowning as a result. I had an opportunity to snorkel with majestic manta rays at the retreat location, and there was only one thing stopping me: I didn’t know how to swim.
Deep down, a part of me longed to swim and move more freely in the water and to feel held and supported by the water. The challenge was that as a young child, I almost drowned in a swimming pool. My mother also almost drowned when she was an adolescent, so the cellular trauma from that incident runs deep in my blood. My mother placed me in swimming class as a child but I felt too scared and incompetent to complete the class. Over the years, I repeatedly had the experience being one of the few of my friends who couldn’t participate in water activities. It was painful to choose to sit out while my friends were playing in the pool or by the ocean, and during these moments I felt a spectrum of emotions from mild embarrassment to deep shame that I did not have the basic life skill of knowing how to swim.
I decided it was time to break through this fear once and for all, and if I was going to do it, it might as well be in Hawaii. Even though every cell of my body screamed “no” and was terrified, I knew I had an antidote to my fear: develop a container of safety and possibility and ask for support in overcoming it.
How many times did you choose to not do something in your business out of fear?
How many times do you recognize your fears and then judge yourself for it?
How can you develop a container of safety and possibility and ask for support in overcoming it?
Making the decision to do the activity was one small fear to overcome. Next, asking for support was not easy but certainly easier than what happened next. The real obstacle came after I had all my gear on, snorkel and flippers, and I was waddling towards the deeper end of the ocean closer to the spot where the manta rays gathered to feed. When it came time to “float”, my body froze and my bloodstream flooded with anxiety. The professional guide noticed and asked if I knew how to swim. I admitted that I didn’t. It was in this moment that he decided that I should not be out on the water and asked me to walk back to the shore.
I was shocked into silence, and once at the shore I could feel tears welling up from my throat, and then a hot, angry, uprising energy from the depths of my belly. I recognized this feeling as a little girl: Someone telling me that I could not do something I really wanted to do and how angry I was at them for that.
I fell to my knees on the sand and cried out to the ocean in frustration.
After a few moments, I recognized that the same voice still lingers in my head of: “You can’t do that!”, “It’s not safe to do that”, “Who are you to do that?”
Do you recognize these voices?
Any time you step outside of your comfort zone, you will hear these familiar and legitimate voices shouting at you to STOP. That is their job! Their job is to keep you safe. I like to refer to them as your inner critic or the gremlins inside your head.
My gremlins were definitely screaming for me to stop. I recognized that the professional guide was my inner critic personified! What a gift that he was able to play that role for me.
Except now I had a choice: To allow that voice to stop me, or to rise above it. To evaluate whether I was in real danger, or if the danger is what I merely perceive inside my mind. To let go of control and to allow myself to be held and supported by the water and the people who were willing to help me.
After receiving some support from one of the coaches at the retreat, I decided that I could have the extra support that I needed to do the activity safely. I decided I would try one more time to go out into the water, this time ensuring that I had two people holding my hand so I could feel safer to float.
I was able to let go of my fears and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience connecting with the beauty and majestic medicine of the manta rays. Breaking through real and imagined obstacles by creating even more safety and possibility that I ever thought possible and asking for the support that I needed were important steps to getting there.
It sounds so simple, and yet much more challenging to apply in practice.
When I work with clients, I’m acutely aware of when they are speaking from a place of fear or from a place of possibility. As a leader and entrepreneur, you are called every single day to stretch outside of our comfort zone and face your fears – whether it’s birthing a new vision, sharing a marketing message that is edgy and controversial, giving feedback to a team member in a constructive manner, or saying “no” to an opportunity in order to honour your business values.
Doesn’t it feel energizing and motivating when you know you can look fear in the eye and recognize that whatever it was you were afraid of was only a false picture in your mind, and that the only real obstacle is yourself. Underneath your fears are often coping mechanisms to keep yourself safe and in control that perhaps worked in the past, but are now in fact obstacles to growth.
Conscious leadership in business is less about being a boss and more about creating a space of safety, support and possibility for your business and your team to grow and thrive.
The next time you are paralyzed by fear and anxiety, ask yourself how you can create even more safety, let go and receive more support for yourself. How can you ask your spouse, your children, your family members for more support?
And in turn, how can you show up and create more safety and support for your team so that they can show up and lead with more efficiency, productivity and service?
Often, the first and scariest step is acknowledging that we don’t know what we don’t know and that we need help.
Conscious leadership in business begins with having the courage and humility to recognize that something has to change, and only you have the power to take that first step.
If this is hitting home for you and you’d like to chat about what’s really going on in your business, I invite you to schedule a 30-minute clarity call with me here.