“Focus on the moment, not the monsters that may or may not be up ahead.” – Ryan Holiday
Our brain reviews a situation and decides whether we should move toward something (reward) or move away from something (risk) – the problem is we are not living in Jurassic Park. In Jurassic Park, dinosaurs would cause most of us to run. In life today, our brains often make the day to day challenges as significant as a monster.
For me, I call it ‘catastrophization’ which is the process of looking at most challenges as a potential catastrophe. A monster that may or may not be up ahead. The present moment is all we have and the pain of the past or the concern of the future is just that.
We typically fear 1 of 4 things –
The Fear of Failure: I fear failure; therefore, I will not succeed.
When leaders operate from a fear of failure, they are often reluctant to act. They may procrastinate in making decisions and miss opportunities. It impedes their sense of adventure and playfulness, as well as their ability to take the risks necessary for innovation and growth. A fear of failure can manifest itself as a need to have every piece of available information before deciding. Leaders who fear failure can become imaginatively stuck and in the constant mode of finding answers, rather than reframing questions. Their thinking can become polarized into black-and-white or all-or-nothing approaches that limit creativity and risk-taking. Those with the fear of failure enjoy existing in the comfort zone vs. the growth zone of work.
The Fear of Being Wrong:I fear being wrong; therefore, I must be right.
For leaders, the fear of being wrong can make it extremely difficult to tolerate members of their management team who challenge their ideas or conclusions. Over time, dissenting voices become quiet and the management team becomes nothing more than a rubber stamp for the leader’s thinking. The creativity and imagination of the team is lost to the leader and the business. Ultimately, leaders’ fear of being wrong leads to an increased likelihood that they will be wrong. Leaders who need to be right tend to dominate discussions and attempt to control the thinking of others, rather than see others as resources who can expand their understanding of issues and opportunities.
The Fear of Rejection: I fear rejection; therefore, I need to be accepted.
Fear of rejection makes it difficult for leaders to take a stand and define themselves in situations where relationships feel endangered. Leaders who fear rejection seldom confront the poor performance of subordinates or challenge the thinking of others in a way that promotes lively discussion and debate. These leaders tend to rely exclusively on a consensus decision-making style because they believe it is more important to be liked than respected. Fearing rejection, leaders often try to present themselves in a way that is palatable to everyone, except themselves. This leads to stress, burnout and lack of confidence. More introverted leaders deal with the fear of rejection by pulling away from relationships and cutting themselves off from the very people with whom they desire connection.
The Fear of Being Emotionally Uncomfortable. I fear being emotionally uncomfortable; therefore, I need to be comfortable. When leaders need emotional comfort, they lack the capacity to remain present and engaged in the face of resistance or anger from others. They tend to avoid emotionally charged discussions, and therefore, miss the opportunity for mutual learning and growth. The need to avoid emotional discomfort can make the intrinsic loneliness of leadership unbearable. Leaders who attempt to maintain constant emotional comfort become cut off from their own emotions and unable to respond appropriately to the emotions of others. It is almost impossible for leaders to make difficult decisions when they are paralyzed by the fear of others’ emotional responses.
How are you doing staying in the moment vs. focusing on your fears? The antidote to your fear is to actually move toward the fear and test your assumptions related to your fears. It is not running away from them like you would a dinosaur in Jurassic Park.