Picture this: you have a great idea for a new project at work, but it’s super bold, a little risky, and you’ve never done anything at this scale before. You know it could be amazingly successful, but you’re afraid even to pitch it to your boss, let alone put it into action; you’re feeling fearful, and it’s stopping you in your tracks.
Right here, it probably seems like this post is going to be about getting over your fears—but it’s not.
See, many people think of fear and courage as opposites, conflicting forces in a classic battle of good versus evil. However, we would argue that fear and courage are complementary; one can’t exist without the other. Further, fear regulates human behavior, helps protect us, and makes us more discerning, which can make us stronger and more resilient in the long run. Fear can be our friend.
If you want to be courageous at work—or really in any aspect of your life—you gotta welcome and get curious about your fear. When you find yourself frozen and unable to act, don’t just habitually pep-talk yourself through it. Don’t shut down or criticize yourself for being wimpy either; instead, embrace the feeling. Get to know it and think about what that fear may be pointing to.
Use these five questions to reflect on your fear:
- Do I understand sufficiently what I am attempting? Have I done my homework? Do I understand all the steps necessary and what they will entail?
- Am I ready? Do I have the inner and outer resources in place to undertake this big challenge? Are there skills I need to learn or friends and allies I’ll need to support me?
- Is it the right time (both in general and for me personally)? If I get to where I want, will I have the time, energy, and bandwidth to manage it all? What about the timing for my family, work colleagues, and team?
- Have I considered what I have to give up in order to gain something in return?
- Have I considered my Plan B? What if it doesn’t work? Do I need to accomplish the entire goal or just some of it? What if I fail? Will I be able to pivot or keep going if I don’t reach that goal?
Oftentimes, fear is hidden or shut out entirely—especially in a business environment where you’re made to feel weak if you are afraid. But if we can get curious about our fear and acknowledge that it has come to teach us something and allow us to grow, that fear will lose its power as we become stronger and more capable. That’s where true courage is found.