Conversations at the Crossroads.

Fear Management

Change is hard.

Change is scary.

These beliefs about change came up across a few different client sessions this week.

To be honest, beliefs about change come up in client sessions every week.

After all, I am working with people who want to make a significant change in their lives. They want it, and they’re ready to take action to make it happen. So it makes sense that all their beliefs and fears about change would rise up and spill over in the precise moment that they’re planning their first steps.

Fear says, “Whoa, hold on a minute!”

Fear says, “Change doesn’t always work out.”

Fear says, “Hey, I just want you to be safe.”

And, in doing so, Fear may effectively slow or shut down the whole change operation, because nobody wants to be unsafe.

But here’s the thing:

We can choose to think differently about fear. We can derive a different message (thought) from the emotional and physical reactions (feeling) that happen on a subconscious level. And when we do this—manage the fear instead of allowing it to manage us—we take back the power to stay on our path, move through obstacles, and pursue our goals. We make wise and intentional decisions, based on our core values, when we don’t let Fear rule the roost.

A useful and oft-applied metaphor compares emotions with lights on the dashboard of a car. Generally speaking, when a dashboard light comes on, we determine to look at what’s going on, to make sure we’re taking proper care of the car. Those dashboard lights are an alert, a strong suggestion certainly, to give something our closer attention. Emotions are a similar suggestion to take a closer look.

In the case of fear, that means asking ourselves what it is that we’re most afraid of, and getting very specific about it. When we can pin it down and define it, an emotion immediately begins to lose some of its perceived control over us.

Take “fear of failure,” for an example. If that’s what is coming up for you right now, take a magnifying glass to it, almost scientifically, and without attachment.

What does this word “failure” mean to you? Describe what failure would look like in this particular story of change. Imagine the worst-case scenario, if change doesn’t go as you planned.

Once you’ve explored that scenario and the worst of all possible outcomes, consider how likely a scenario that actually is. What are the odds that the story would actually turn out this way, and what are a few perhaps more likely scenarios? What actions would you take if it came to this? What are your strengths and support nets for thriving in any scenario that life sends your way?

Then ask yourself what outcomes you might imagine instead of failure. Paint those success scenarios, too. That’s why you’re considering change in the first place. Don’t forget that. It’s important that you remember why and how this possibility came about.

See what happens to Fear when you invite Courage and Confidence to the party. Fear may stick around (it often does, to some degree), but maybe it’s a bit more well-behaved?

Here’s something to think about this week: What fears are holding you back, and how might you begin to neutralize them with a thoughtful, detached approach? I would love to hear where this takes you.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  -Nelson Mandela

With support and encouragement for your journey,


Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published November 21, 2013