Coaching Tip: On Productive Fear

Image of sign with quote about fear.

The fear of beginning something new. The fear of rejection. The fear of offending someone. The fear of being disliked. All of these fears are reasons we do not put ourselves out there.

You may have avoided any number of potential opportunities simply because of fear. Fear that you might actually have to have that next meeting, fear that while you mean well, you’re not entirely sure you can live up to people’s expectations. This is a mistake! Some of your greatest joys reside on the other side of those fears.

Laurens van der Post, a 20th-century Afrikaner author, farmer, and war veteran once touched on the productive nature of fear, and how fear can actually be a calling to become our best selves:

“Often I have found the one thing that can save is the thing which appears most to threaten. One has to go down into what one most fears and in the process comes a saving flicker of light and energy that, even if it does not produce the courage of a hero, at any rate enables a trembling mortal to take one step further.”

Certain primal fears are useful (see: grizzly bears), but most primal fears don’t involve our conscious mind. Our conscious fears are often where the most useful expeditions may be undertaken. When Laurens says “the one thing that can save is the thing which appears to most threaten” is a call for each of us to move toward our fears. Fear, or resistance to an idea or an experience, can be used as a reliable sign of something worth examining.

This week, take notice of those times you feel yourself resisting a certain type of activity, whether it’s learning a new skill, engaging in a new kind of social activity, or partnering with someone on a project. Before you shut it down, ask yourself: Is my fear hiding a real growth opportunity? (If you spot it, you’ve got it.)

Risk yourself. Place yourself squarely in front of your fears plow into the experiences they offer.

This article also appears on the My Real Helper blog.

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