Looking back with regret and looking forward with fear. Happy Monday! But the truth is that we are hard wired to be afraid. It’s part of our survival DNA, and it’s the reason we’re here today.
We naturally look to the future with fear, asking what can harm us, so that we can prepare to fight or to flee. We look to the past for signs and for lessons that we learned from the last time we were attacked and ask how we can be better prepared for the next assault.
There’s nothing to do about this except to be mindful of it. “Ah, my survival instinct just kicked in!” has become my favorite mantra, usually said with a smirk on my face. Our body clues us in to what’s happening because we are, first and foremost, feeling beings who think.
Our heartrate increases, or our breath quickens, or we begin to sweat. These are warning signs, and if it’s obvious that there’s no prehistoric animal bearing down on you, it’s best to inhale deeply, exhale slowly, and repeat a few more times, until a feeling of calm settles over you.
Once the physical signs have subsided, ask if there is something legitimate to be concerned about, and name it. Then inquire about the nature of the fear, asking WHY are you afraid. Finally, ask what you can do to alleviate the upset.
Here’s an example: Perhaps you’re meeting with a prospect next week, which is eliciting a “flight” response. The WHY may be that you had met with them before, and the results were disastrous, because the presentation you had prepared missed the mark. You did your research and retooled your approach.
What now? Review the presentation again, to put your mind at ease or to give yourself an opportunity to make a final course correction. It was a good thing that the fear response was triggered, because it prompted you to double check your work. Now you can walk in for Round Two with confidence.
Too often, I hear leaders telling their team members just to “fight through” those feelings, without any explanation of where they came from. It’s a lot easier to move through a challenge if you know something about it. Make friends with your fear response. Once you realize that it’s here to serve you, it will be much easier to deal with.