Do you ever wonder why your employees don’t always finish their projects or get their work done on time? Perhaps you can remember a time when you yourself avoided a particular item on your to-do list. There’s a good chance that when this happens, you and your employees are trying to navigate FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real).
Fear can creep up when we are challenged with tasks like making a sales pitch to a particular client, completing a critical task for a project, or coming up with an innovative product or service. Fear makes us uncomfortable, and most of us want to avoid that discomfort at all costs. But this avoidance becomes dangerous when it gets in the way of what it is we really want for ourselves or for our organization.
In our last article, we talked about creativity and how running away from fear, rather than toward it, can actually keep you from the highest expression of your ideas and the things or experiences you really want. George Addair, a real estate developer in post-Civil War Atlanta, summarized this beautifully:
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”
This article includes tips on how to use mindfulness to overcome fear-based blocks to flow, productivity and creativity. I’ll start with a quick story from my own experience.
I recently almost let my fears stop me from approaching a client that we really wanted to work with at ic3. We knew we could bring a lot of skills and expertise into their organization, and they could help bring us more clients. It was a win-win, with a tremendous amount of potential.
As you know, building any business relationship takes effort and persistence, especially in the beginning. Although we were in early talks with this client, we hadn’t yet come up with a specific partnership plan or strategy. When the moment finally came to call them directly and make something happen, I felt my stomach drop and I immediately began to search for ways to avoid making that call. I was overcome with the sudden need to scroll through my Facebook feed and thought about tackling any and all of the other (low risk) tasks on my to-do list — anything that would allow me to avoid that phone call.
But I quickly recognized what was happening. Fear was rearing its head, and I knew I needed to move toward my discomfort.
Why? Because this potential client was so important to me and to my company. Our business relationship would make us both better. And taking this step would be in alignment with our vision of serving more companies, which in turn would serve the greater community. Once I remembered that, I stopped, took a few breaths, got centered, and brought to mind our intention and goal: to create a partnership with this client. I noticed the discomfort in my body but I didn’t judge it. This enabled me to see it for what it was: fear. I looked closely at my fear, and realized that what I was really afraid of was “sounding stupid”. As I stayed with that thought, I realized that it wasn’t true. What I wanted to share wasn’t “stupid”, and it wouldn’t sound stupid. With that in mind, I moved towards the fear and made the call.
Moral of the story: I’m happy to report that the client was very receptive, and we’re now discussing lots of creative partnership options. If I had allowed myself to react to that uncomfortable feeling of fear, without bringing mindfulness and awareness into the picture, I might never have made that phone call, and the partnership may never have come to be.
Below, I’ve outlined mindfulness skills that you and your employees can use to keep fear in check. In following the steps below, you’ll learn to use fear as a prompt for moving toward all that you want to accomplish, rather than a feeling to be avoided at all costs.
The next time you feel fear, discomfort or unease about sharing a creative idea or bringing up a challenging issue, try the following:
- Get Centered: Sit comfortably in your chair and take a few natural breaths. Notice your feet on the floor and notice how you feel in your chair. When we are in this quiet place, sometimes our mind starts to race or emotions come up. That’s okay. You don’t need to judge anything that arises as good or bad; simply notice what comes up and see it as helpful information.
- Remember Your Goal/Intention: Bring to mind what it is that you wish to achieve, especially if progress is being blocked by fear.
- Gather Information: Ask yourself the simple question: What am I afraid of? Wait for the answer, and simply notice whatever comes up for you. It may be a simple phrase, or an image or sensation. Whatever it is, make note of it. Bring yourself back to the present moment by feeling the temperature of the room, the chair beneath you and your feet on the floor. Write down any information that came to you around your fears or obstacles to achieving your goal.
- Examine the Information that Came Up in Step #3: In a gentle and non-judgmental way, take a closer look at the thoughts, images and/or sensations that came to you in Step #3. Ask yourself if they make sense, and whether or not they are true. Just as important, ask yourself who you would be without that thought. (If this step intrigues you, check out Byron Katie http://thework.com/en – she offers a powerful process around confronting irrational thoughts and fears).
- Reconnect with What You Really Want and JUST DO IT: Now that you’ve got a fresh perspective on your fear, and you’re willing to look at it as a signal to bring you closer to what you really want, bring your end goal to mind. Believe in yourself and your ability to obtain it. See the fear for what it is: false evidence appearing real. Respect it for trying to keep you safe, but take opposite action, so that instead of moving away from what you want, you move toward creative solutions for achieving your goal. I like to use the Nike slogan in these instances: Stop thinking and “Just do it!”
We encourage you to try the steps above — and let us know how the process worked for you.
If you would like further assistance in helping your employees overcome fear-based blocks to productivity and creativity, we can help! Contact us at http://www.ic3consulting.comto start the conversation.
Jennifer Carey, EdS, LMHC
Jennifer applies her background as a Psychotherapist to help optimize company cultures through her writing, consulting and speaking on employee engagement. Some of these crucial skills include mindfulness, human dynamics, and interpersonal communication.
Jennifer is the co-founder of ic3 consulting. ic3 consulting helps business leaders re-engage, re-align and re-ignite their workforce to create highly empowered teams that communicate effectively, collaborate freely and work to realize their company’s vision. Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes.