Tag Archives: Fear

How to Soften the Pain of Growth

trees roots coming out of a small pot that represents how to soften the pain of growth

One morning when my daughter was about six years old, she spotted some clothes she had outgrown sitting on a high shelf in her closet.  On the top of the pile were a pair of sparkly tennis shoes she used to treasure.  Seeing them up there reignited her adoration and she insisted on wearing them to school.  Knowing they were at least a size and a half too small, I told her she could wear them around the house for awhile instead.

She did, along with a soft purple sweater whose long sleeves were now almost to her elbows.  Watching her cram her little feet into those even littler shoes reminded me of the stepsisters from the story of Cinderella.  A strong-minded and somewhat stubborn child, she shoved and yanked until she finally got both heels into the shoes along with her poor little toes, which were likely crammed into a small ball.  When she stood up, the sweater exposed her belly button.  “Look Mom,” she proudly proclaimed, “They still fit!”

I smiled and went on with my morning routine while she pranced through the house, stopping periodically to play with something she found interesting.  After about ten minutes, I walked into the kitchen to see my daughter disgustedly fling the shoes in opposite directions across the room.  “Mom, those shoes hurt me!” she complained.  “And I don’t like this sweater anymore either.”

“Sweetheart, that’s because you’ve grown since you last wore them.  You’re a bigger girl now.”  I explained.  “Do you grow out of your clothes too?” she asked.  I thought about my jeans which had become a little more snug, but decided not to go there.  “Well, once you get to be as old as Mommy, you’re body doesn’t really grow much,” I answered.

Hours after I brought her to school I reflected on that conversation and the experience my young daughter had shared with me.  I realized that though my body isn’t growing anymore (with the occasionally unfortunate exception of my waist and hips), the rest of me still is.  I think we all are in some way.

The more we cling to what we have outgrown, the more painful the experience becomes until, as my daughter learned, the discomfort of wearing the old stuff becomes greater than that of letting it go.  I must admit there have been times in my life where I’ve inflicted quite a bit of pain on myself out of fear of letting go and moving onto something new and roomier.  And I have clients, family members and friends who have done the same thing.

Sometimes when change comes we resist it because we fear that it will be too hard to adapt, or that it will land us in the middle of something we are unequipped to handle.  Paradoxically, my experience has been that the resistance itself can create far more pain than the new experience.

Having children is a great example.  With each child, my life changed dramatically.  My daughter was our third – causing my husband and me to be outnumbered and effectively propelling our household into a chaos that we have learned to roll with over the years.  Any creation you give birth to is bound to do the same thing.  But it will also bring you greater joy than you ever could have imagined.

To allow ourselves to experience all the magic these new opportunities and challenges bring, we need to do all that we can to avoid tightening up and blocking ourselves from the experience.  Even the act of childbirth itself becomes more painful when the muscles involved contract in different directions in response to fear.  Having had three opportunities to experience this phenomenon, I can tell you that learning to relax and allow the muscles to harmoniously work together makes all the difference in the world.  And I believe the same is true with life itself.

What is trying to happen in your life right now?  And what can you do to give yourself fully to the experience?

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Beyond the Bulletproof Image – How Being Vulnerable Makes You Strong

 

dandelion withstanding the elements outside representing a bulletproof imageI can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with over the course of my career who believe that to be a credible, strong leader, you must come across as infallible, having all the answers – being rock solid.  Newer leaders often feel as though they do not have a lot to offer in meetings and other gatherings because they do not know much yet.  Out of fear of being exposed as someone who is not on top of their game, many times they remain silent – when in actuality the questions they would otherwise ask out of sheer curiosity and desire to learn could become the very impetus the organization needs to see things with fresh eyes and recognize opportunities they previously missed.

On the other extreme, I occasionally meet with people who on the face of things have it all together.  They are poised, polished, and seemingly the picture of perfection.  And they are often stumped at why they have been unable to motivate and inspire their people to new levels of performance and success.  Initially, I sometimes find it difficult to connect to people like this and often go on to learn while gathering feedback for them that others do too.

I think it’s because the rock solid persona they project is rarely a true representation of who they really are. And before you can engage the hearts and minds of others as visionary leaders do, you must be able to connect with them – and they must feel a connection to you.

The problem with needing to have a bulletproof image is that very few, if any, people in this world are really “bulletproof.”  In fact, if ever there were a trait or characteristic that is shared by virtually the whole human race, it is that we all have fears, insecurities and misgivings.  We all make mistakes.  We all know far less than we would like to or even have the capacity for.  These things that make us humble and vulnerable connect us to each other in profound ways that are often overlooked and/or unacknowledged.

Think of the people in your life who have inspired you over the years.  Maybe it was someone close to you – like a parent, teacher, or coach.  Or perhaps it was a public or historical figure.  If you try to identify the qualities in that person that really made an impact on you, it is likely not so much what they achieved in life as what they had to overcome in order to do it – disappointment, failure, challenge, fear, perhaps even an illness or handicap of some kind.

So it seems there may be something to gain by allowing these little things we have been conditioned to hide from each other to be a bit more visible.  First of all, it takes a lot of pressure off of you.  When we learn to take ourselves a little less seriously and give ourselves permission to not know everything, we move beyond worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of us to be truly present with other people – to really listen to them, to be curious about their unique perspectives, ideas, and insights.  The emphasis goes from having to showcase our knowledge, competence and stature to learning from others and helping them to feel valued and appreciated. 

Secondly, when we are less guarded about our fears, misgivings and challenges, we realize that these things are nothing to be ashamed of.  Because in spite of them, we have risen up to the challenges in our lives.  And sometimes the most inspiring thing we can do for others is help them to realize that though they are in the thick of their own fear, they too can find something within them that will allow them to bounce back or rise up – to recognize a strength they didn’t realize they had – and to use it in a way that truly benefits not just themselves, but everyone around them.

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Just Let it Rip – The Problem with Polished

standing in front of an audience as a public speaker

If you want a rush, forget about skydiving, bungee jumping, or walking over hot coals. Try speaking extemporaneously, from your heart to a group of people for at least ten minutes. They say public speaking ranks as people’s number one fear, even higher than fear of death.

I did that one weekend a while back. I chose that. I wanted to put myself in a situation that would push me smack up against my greatest resistance and fear and just see what would happen. I committed to doing it, even though it scared the hell out of me. I purposely didn’t prepare. I wasn’t exactly sure WHAT I was going to say or do. In the minutes before I would be called up to speak, I felt my heart beating in my mouth. My hands were sweaty. There was an electricity around me that I feared would paralyze every muscle in my body.

I never thought I was afraid of public speaking. I’ve facilitated workshops, taught classes, done lectures. I learned to enjoy being on stage or at the front of the room, though in the back of my mind horrible thoughts lurked – like, “What if I let these people down? What if I waste their time? What if the things that come out of my mouth don’t make any sense? What if my presentation is just ho, hum and people start to yawn, or check their phones, or tune out altogether?”

I’ve resisted these fears in my past – fought them with long, hard preparation and research and practice. I’ve poured over my subjects, outlining them, dissecting them, breaking the concepts down and then putting them back together. I’ve designed curriculum, carefully constructed to ensure that each learning point was supported, reinforced, tested. I’ve memorized it, dreamt it, ate it for dinner, and regurgitated it again and again and again for practice.

But the more polished and prepared I tried to be, the less I connected with my audience. The less fulfilled all of us came away from the presentation feeling. And my greatest fears became a reality. They were bored. They were restless. They left wanting something more. And so did I.

The truth is, for everything I know, there is far more that I don’t know and want to learn. The more I venture into that part of me that doesn’t know things, the more curious I am. And the more I indulge my curiosity, the less I care about managing my appearances, needing to come across as someone who’s got it all figured out. Instead of filling my mind with stuff that ends up feeling more like clutter than anything else, I find that my heart begins to open and beat with a new energy and vibrancy. It receives. It remembers. It guides. It connects.

I’m intrigued with people who are willing to courageously step on stage and talk about what scares the hell out of them. I enjoy watching the bloopers more than the polished, perfected performance. Let me see you at your most vulnerable. Not so that I can feel superior to you, but so that I can be inspired by you. Because what keeps us from truly connecting with each other is our need to cover up and mask the common denominator that truly unites us. We are human. We feel. We cry. We love. We yearn. We try. We leap. We fall. We get back up again.

In conversations with people, when I dare to forget about my mask, my facade, my persona — and just say what’s in my heart, I am liberated. I am connected. I am transformed. Sometimes when I do that, the people around me drop their facades too and things begin to get interesting. We dispense with small talk and go for the good stuff. We lose sense of time and space and are embraced by the electric buzz of possibility and wonder. And we leave each other’s presence feeling uplifted and inspired.

That’s what I want to bring to the stage in every area of my life. I’m beginning to realize that the powerful part of writing, speaking, creating a video, engaging in conversation — anything we do to connect with others — is not so much about finding the perfect combination of words, but rather about tapping into an energy — live, vibrant, pulsing, bright, beautiful.

Our greatest opportunity is to create a bridge through which this energy can somehow travel from one to another in such a way that it will liberate, soothe, uplift, energize, inspire, and fill us all up with boundless passion and light until we burst in a joyous explosion of blissful exhilaration, and brighten everything and everyone around us.

That was my intention that one weekend when I got up in front of people and spoke without any preparation, and it is still my intention.  With this blog, in my meetings with clients, with my family, my friends, and my very self.  Polished? Perfected?  Heck no.  Fun?  Thrilling?  Worth the risk?  Ohhh, yes.  And I’m just getting started…

What can you do today to forget about polished and just let it rip? Move into your fear. There is energy and electricity there. For you. For me. For all of us.

I dare you.

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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How Your Mindset Can Help You Overcome a Setback

Phoenix, Arizona Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden.

 

“Ryan, if you knew how this day was going to end, would you do it over again?” I asked him.

“Yeah.” He answered without missing a beat.

“Would you have any hesitation going snowboarding again after your wrist heals?” I inquired.

“Nah!” he replied. “Let’s come back for sure.”

This is an excerpt of a conversation I had with my son at age thirteen on the way to urgent care after his first attempt to snowboard. I was inspired by his lack of hesitation. And his courage. But most of all, with his mindset.

Mindset is the key to overcoming setbacks. Your mindset determines—to a large degree—whether you see the experience as a success or a failure. And the way you see the experience will have an enormous impact on whether or not you will try that experience again.

What’s the big deal if you don’t try an experience again?

Well, the problem isn’t so much the broken bone—in my son’s case—which will inevitably be accompanied by a certain amount of pain. The problem is letting the setback deprive you of a future that could bring you an immense amount of joy and satisfaction. And most people let seeming setbacks deprive them of joy and satisfaction more often than they realize.

It could be the proposals they poured their hearts into to that never really went anywhere. Or the promotions they were working toward for months that ended up going to someone else. Perhaps it was the first time they went out their comfort zones, only to feel as though they landed on their backside with nothing but broken bones to show for it.

Confusing Skill with Potential

You confuse skill with potential when you decide that you’ll never be good at something because you didn’t get it right the first time you tried it. Or the second time. Or the tenth time. Most people do not have a high degree of skill when they try something new. But doesn’t mean they don’t have an enormous amount of potential.

When you confuse skill with potential, you tell yourself a story that has you making an assessment of yourself based on a very limited amount of data. The story goes like this: “Boy, I was really bad at that. I’m just not cut out for it. I should leave it to other people who actually have talent.”

You allow it to keep you from trying something again. And trying something again is exactly what you need to do in order to gain the very skill you are having difficulty executing. So your story becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You miss out on the joy of ultimately mastering that skill. And so do all the people who would have benefited from what you could have accomplished if you did.

But that’ s not the only story that can get you into trouble.

Taking an Experience Personally

When you take an experience personally, you make it more about you than anything or anyone else. Your universe constricts and you become the center of it. You feel hurt and rejected, or angry and resentful. You replay events in your mind and question what you did to screw things up. You think, “if only I would have done this, or been more like that, things would have gone better.”

You become so fixated in feeling wronged or victimized that you render yourself powerless. In an effort to avoid being hurt again, you may hedge your bets, fly under the radar, try not to get your hopes up. And this act of withholding keeps you from doing the very thing that could allow you to succeed next time.

Often, setbacks have nothing to do with you as a person.

You lost a big client. Yet in retrospect, you realize the client was a huge pain in your rear end, sucking up time and energy that you could have dedicated to someone you really love to work with. And if you take it personally, you’ll keep your perfect client from seeing the very thing in you that could cinch the deal.

What If It Was Personal?

But what if it did have to do with you? What if you came on too strong? Or too meek? Or if there was something you could have done to get that promotion, keep that client, succeed with that proposal? Well, if you take it personally you may never have the courage, the confidence and the open mind it takes to solicit or receive the feedback you need and to act on it in a way that allows you to succeed next time.

There is a difference between taking things personally and learning what you could do differently next time. Taking things personally causes you to contract. And learning allows you to expand. Which will you choose?

Conclusion

My 13-year-old son reminded me of the importance of mindset in my own life.

Though it’s not likely that snowboarding will be in my future, there is a good chance that I will fall the next time I try something new. When I do, I will remember how his lack of regret and eagerness to try again kept him from an unproductive mindset.

And I will pick myself up, tend to my broken bones, and allow myself to enjoy the joy and satisfaction that comes from getting back on the slopes.

Aligning your mindset with your desired outcome is an essential and often overlooked practice – a major focus of The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group IntensiveFor more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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3 Fears That Keep Leaders From Playing a Bigger Game

Phoenix Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden.

 

You’ve just been promoted. The excellent work you have been recognized for has landed you a new job with expanded responsibility and significance. Perhaps you lead an organization of other talented professionals who now look to you for guidance and support. Maybe you are a leader of leaders.

The game you were playing just got bigger – and so did the playing field.

And your role has changed. What earned you this promotion will not be enough to allow you to succeed in your new role. In fact, if you continue to do what you did before, you may actually sabotage your newfound success.

You have gone from player to coach — or perhaps manager/owner. And if you jump back into the game, no one will be there to call the shots, to develop the talent, to create a strategy to advance the standing of the team, to gain the supporters and funding that will allow the team to continue to play.

Yet despite these consequences, you — like many leaders faced with similar opportunities — may have difficulty with the transition. You may have fears:

  • Fear than no one can do things as well (or better)
  • Fear of becoming obsolete
  • Fear of failure

Let’s talk about each of these, starting with the first one…

Fear that no one can do things as well (or better)

The problem with this fear is that it is actually well-founded. Chances are, especially if you are at the top of your field, very few will be able to do the job as well as or better than you can. But that doesn’t mean you should be doing it for them — or even along with them.

And yet you will be tempted to. Especially when the stakes are high. Or when things get extremely busy and it seems like targets will not be met if you don’t jump in or take over altogether. You may hover over people, micromanaging them or smothering them with well-intentioned guidance.

But your very fear that things will fall through the cracks may well cause that which you most want to avoid. Maybe not in the short term. In the short term, you may revel in your ability to keep the balls from dropping and save the day. But as more and more begins to be added to your plate, your problem of not having people who are skilled enough to take the baton will be even greater than it was before.

Worse yet, you will have conditioned the very people you need to develop to become dependent on you and quite comfortable performing at much less than their true capacity. In the meantime, the bigger, more strategic work that you have graduated to will be piling up and fairly significant opportunities will pass you by.

Your people may well be on a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning. They won’t get everything right. And they may resist taking on the responsibilities you used to perform. But you need to transition from performer to coach.

Give them opportunities to try things out. Let them make mistakes. Then help them to learn from those mistakes and perfect their craft. And do the same for yourself in your new role.

This leads us to the second common fear that keeps leaders from playing a bigger game.

Fear of becoming obsolete

It’s not necessarily a rational fear. After all, leaders who are on the brink of playing a bigger game have plenty to do. They have a whole new role to fill. But that doesn’t stop people from worrying at some level that if they teach and empower others to do what got them accolades and attention that they will somehow lose their edge and fade into obscurity.

Often when people have performed a certain role or become masterful at a particular skill, it can become infused with their very identity. And until they have performed in their new role for awhile and become accustomed to the different kinds of activities and opportunities that it brings, they are likely to continue to identify with their old role. Which may lead them to wonder, “if I’m not that anymore, who am I?”

This ambiguity and lack of role clarity can send people back to what they know is comfortable and familiar, even when they have outgrown it. And even when going back there isn’t in their best interest (or the best interest of those they lead.)

To counteract this, it is important to fully grasp the opportunities and possibilities that playing a bigger game brings. It allows you to go from being immersed in the game with a view limited from one point on the playing field to seeing the game from several different angles. You can evaluate each player’s contribution and the way they work together.

You can change the way the game is played — and in some cases, even change the rules. But only if you free yourself up from the myriad of tasks that will always be there beckoning you to come back into the operational and out of the strategic. And the lure of the old role becomes even more enticing when you factor in the next fear that keeps many leaders from playing a bigger game.

Fear of failure 

When you go from executing the plays to determining what those plays should be, you enter unchartered territory. First off, it is likely something you won’t have a lot of experience doing. And when you don’t have a lot of experience doing something, it is uncomfortable.

You may not be very good at it in the beginning. It will be messy. You will second-guess yourself. And you will likely miss being able to do your work with the same level of confidence and ease that you did before.

It will feel a lot like going from being a senior to becoming a freshman again.

Second, the very nature of being a strategic player will require you to navigate through uncertainty and ambiguity. You will be called on to blaze a trail where none previously existed. While this can be incredibly exciting and invigorating, it can also be somewhat daunting and stressful.

And when the pressure gets high, you may find it incredibly tempting to get sucked back into doing things you shouldn’t be doing anymore. Things you can check off your list and feel a sense of accomplishment from. Things that restore your confidence and give you the illusion of being in control. Things that would be better delegated to others. Or not done at all.

So when that happens, you need to remind yourself that whatever you did that allowed you to rise to new heights wasn’t likely something that always came easily to you. You had to start somewhere and struggle in the beginning before you began to gain competence and confidence. But you stuck with it and gradually got better and better. And you can do that again now.

Leadership is about “going before” others. Your new promotion will require that you wade through your fear, your discomfort, your resistance and your uncertainty to find within you the core of your true potential and act from it. And as you do so, by your very example, you will lead others to grow, expand, push their limits and play a bigger game as well.

Playing a bigger game often brings pressure and anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. You can make a bigger impact without running yourself ragged – and enjoy the process along the way. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive will show you how. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

Combating Fear With…Martial Arts?

Executive Leadership and Career Coach Diane Bolden of Phoenix, Arizona.

 

Though I have been studying and reflecting on the process of working through fear for the better part of my life, my learning came to a head when I was thrown into an environment that provoked a whole spectrum of fear and anxiety. As a martial artist, after learning and practicing basic blocks, kicks, and punches, the time came to take it up a notch and begin to spar.

What does sparring have to do with your life?

What I have learned over the years as I have continued to develop my skill in this area is that sparring is metaphorical for just about any challenge you could possibly be faced with that evokes fear — making a presentation (or any kind of performance), pitching a proposal, going to a job interview, or speaking your mind, just to name a few.

These situations lead you to question whether you have what it takes.

And no matter what the challenge is, there is something at stake — your status, your security, your reputation, your comfort, your pride. However, there is one differentiating factor: with sparring there is a pretty high likelihood that you will get punched in the nose. Literally.

While many lessons come from having positive experiences, much of what I learned about working with fear came through trial and error — a lot of error.

My first error allowed me to learn about focus.

Focus is determined by what you allow to occupy your mind.

When I first started sparring, my focus was on getting it over with. I was fairly preoccupied with a feeling of inadequacy that led me to temporarily forget much of what I had learned over the previous years. Rather than trusting in what I had the ability to do, I became preoccupied by what I did not want to happen — getting hit.

And as a result, I got hit. Hard.

Then, I didn’t want to spar again for a really long time. I took myself out of the game. I allowed the fear to stop me. And my training stagnated. Until the pain of stagnation became greater than the pain of the physical blow.

When I got myself back in the game, my mind shifted from retreat to advance.

Instead of fixating on what I didn’t want, I zeroed in on what I did want. It wasn’t about not getting hit. It was about pushing through the fear. It was about applying what I had learned. It was about having more faith in what I did know than what I didn’t. And it was proving to myself that I had it in me to rise above the challenge.

I threw more punches. I closed the gaps. I began to bob and weave. I learned how to lure my opponent in so I had him right where I wanted him.

But what does that have to do with facing fear off the sparring mat?

Everything. No matter what you do, you have the choice to focus either on what you are moving toward or what you are moving away from. When you are fixated on what you want to avoid, you will hedge your bets. You won’t go all out. You’ll watch the clock. And you won’t really be engaged. You’ll cheat yourself out of the joy of the experience.

When you move toward something, you marshal the forces of desire. You ignite passion. You make what you want more important than what you fear. And this gives you the fuel to do what you really want to do — in spite of the fear.

The second tool for moving out of the grip of fear is presence.

Fear has you consumed with worrying about the future or fixated on something from the past. It keeps you in your head and prevents you from being immersed in what is happening right in front of you.

When I would try to remember a technique or think too much about how to properly execute anything, I’d miss what was happening and get hit. I had no real concept of what was happening, what was coming at me, or what I needed to do to deflect it. I felt as though I was in a blender, at the mercy of the blades and centrifugal force.

Ironically, being in my head kept me in a state of panic that kept me from thinking clearly. In fact, I became so gripped with panic that I forgot to breathe and ended up exhausting myself almost immediately.

In non-sparring environments, being in your head costs you opportunities.

When you are giving a presentation and are so intent on what you prepared that you fail to see that your audience is confused, or bored or irritated, you risk losing them. In a sales setting, being determined to stick to your pitch when your customer has questions that you didn’t plan on can keep you from making the sale.

The irony is that not deviating from what you planned because you are consumed by fear keeps you from being present and often ends up leading to that which you are most afraid of. The antidote? Let go of your preconceived ideas and hold your plans loosely so that you can be present.

When you get out of your head and become present, things slow down.

When I immersed myself in what was happening in front of me while sparring, I realized that every time my opponent would throw a punch he left himself wide open. Rather than worrying about getting hit, I began to look for vulnerabilities. And I learned that I could get him to raise his hands to his face if I threw a few high punches, which would allow me to land a couple low ones while he wasn’t expecting it.

I went from jumping around like a cricket without breathing to moving more deliberately and strategically and conserving my energy. Instead of allowing my opponent to back me into a corner, I learned to pivot and use his own force against him.

In any situation, being present leads to better connections and higher performance.

You will take in more information. You will breathe more deeply, get more oxygen to your brain and access higher creativity. You’ll be more likely to make whoever you are talking to feel more important, because you’ll be more focused on him and not yourself. You’ll think more quickly on your feet and come up with better solutions on the fly.

These insights led me to realize that often what is more important than preparation is practice, which brings us to the third tool: desensitization.

The more you expose yourself to what you fear, the less impact the fear has.

Fear never really goes away. It is a human emotion that is wired into our DNA. While we can’t change the fact that it will be ever present, we can diminish the effect it has on our performance. What allows the fear to diminish, is repeatedly being in the presence of what you fear and realizing that you will be okay.

The first time I got punched in the nose, it was horrible. And though I went to great lengths to keep it from happening again, it did. And when it did, I realized that the memory of it was far worse than the reality.

The more I sparred, the more I began to become confident in my ability to prevent it from happening. And the less my fear kept me from doing what I needed to do.

Many altercations and escalations are the product of untamed fear.

The importance of learning to spar is to develop within the martial artist the confidence to handle a physical fight if necessary — in order to prevent a conflict from escalating to the point that requires any force at all.

And the implication for each of us is that becoming confident in the face of fear allows us to rise to any challenge or opportunity with grace, wisdom and victory. In so doing, we inspire others to follow our lead.

Eleanor Roosevelt urged “Do one thing every day that scares you.” 

What would that be for you? Chances are it is connected to something you really want for yourself. As you focus on what you’re moving toward, stay fully engaged in the game and the joy of playing it, and have the courage to repeatedly put yourself in the presence of your fear, the words of Henry Ford will ring true for you as well:

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t.”

Staying fully engaged without succumbing to fear, pressure and overwhelm can be tricky. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive will give you approaches and methodologies that help you rise to the occasion and not only get better results, but also enjoy yourself in the process. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

Moving Toward Mastery: 4 Tips for Overcoming the Beginner’s Dilemma

Diane Bolden Leadership Coach and Mentor of Phoenix, Arizona.

 

“Every master was once a disaster.”

I am all too familiar with that awkward, humbling stage that comes with learning something new – when you want to run with the stallions but feel more like a donkey. It’s a universal phenomenon, really. Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that, “Every artist was once an amateur.”

We can all learn a lot about our paths to proficiency by looking at the ways in which we have mastered things over the course of our lives – whether it is how to drive a car, play our favorite sport, or take up a new hobby. Upon reflection, I realized how I can transfer my learnings from one arena to the other.

(1) There is power in persistent practice.

Sometimes my yoga instructor demonstrates a pose that evokes a “you’ve got to be kidding” response from me. I always give it a try, and usually the first time I do I look a lot like I feel – completely inept. She managed to work one of those dreaded poses in for several weeks. But I gave it a shot every time, and I have to say it gradually became less awkward. Before too long I was actually able to hold the pose – even if only for a few seconds. And I realized the more I practiced, the better I would get and the easier and more fun it would become.

Isn’t that like life, though? Every day there are things you can sail through and there are those things that require practice and patience before you can feel even the least bit effective. But if you keep at it, one day you will surprise yourself with how far you have come. And everything that led up to that point will be worth it.

(2) Learn from and admire others, but don’t compare yourself to them.

As a novice, you watch people perform so that you can see how things are done. And even as you gain skill, you can still learn a lot from others’ examples. But the minute you begin to compare yourself, you will lose your focus and dilute your effectiveness. This is true regardless of whether comparing yourself to others makes you feel inferior or superior.

When we gauge how well we are doing by comparing ourselves to others, the energy and focus that is required to perform effectively becomes scattered. And if you do not believe you can do something, you will inevitably prove yourself right. On the other end of the spectrum, when you believe you are outperforming others and become a little too smug, your confidence can turn into arrogance, which shifts your focus from what you are doing to how others are perceiving you. And anything that is more focused on appearances than substance lacks foundation and eventually crumbles.

The best of the best gain their confidence from within – as a product of their effort, focus, and the results that come with effort and focus. They don’t need to compare themselves to other to know that they are good – or to learn that they can get even better.

(3) Lighten up and have some fun.

When we get all balled up in knots trying to make things perfect and avoiding every possible misstep, we risk becoming stagnant and playing small. Getting too attached to the results leads us to stiffen up and become consumed with needing things to happen in the exact way we want them to. Without flexibility, we lose our ability to bend and make the necessary course corrections that allow us to ultimately excel. If you ever look at the top performers in any industry, sport, or artistic endeavor you will notice that accompanying their intensity is an ability to relax into their game in such a way that it appears easy and natural. The ability to play at work is another mark of the master.

(4) Replenish yourself regularly.

In our frenetic lives, it is easy to forget about the importance of pausing every once in awhile to make the most of our experiences – whether by giving ourselves a needed break, or simply taking a moment to assess where we are going, to what degree we are still on course, and what, if any, course corrections are necessary. Being willing to invest our precious time into replenishing ourselves in this way pays handsome dividends – and sometimes the times we think we can’t afford to slow down are in fact the times we cannot afford not to.

The speed and effectiveness with which we move toward mastery is a direct result of the way in which we approach our challenges and opportunities. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive is a program designed to help you make a bigger impact while enjoying the process, both on and off the job. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

How to Overcome the Fallacy of Failure

Diane Bolden Executive Coach

 

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

~ Robert H. Schuller

I love the above quote because it inspires me to think big.

I often make lists of all the things that I’ve dreamt of creating or being a part of. I encourage my clients to do it too. But when I begin to contemplate actually doing the things on those lists, the concept of failure often creeps in and makes its presence known with a long, dark shadow.

It’s easy to shoot for the moon until the prospect of crashing to the ground enters the picture.

We can dream and scheme all we want, but making our dreams real requires us to act. And doing so brings us nose to nose with what is likely our most formidable opponent: fear of failure.

Failure means different things to different people.

But I think the most fear-provoking thing about the idea of failure that it leads to pain—pain of rejection, embarrassment, loss, financial ruin—not to mention its actual physical variations. The interesting thing about pain is that—thankfully—it is usually finite. It comes and it goes. And though we may not always have any control over whether we experience it, we do seem to have some say in how long it lasts and how uncomfortable it gets.

When I used get immunizations as a kid, I remember getting all worked up…

…before the needle even came close to my skin. And I’ve watched my kids do the same thing—even screaming or howling before contact was actually made. But seconds later, the injections are done before the kids even realize it. They left the exam table and went onto other things without delay—except maybe when one of them needed a little more sympathy and dwelled on the puncture or the blood on the bandage—prolonging the unpleasant experience and making it into something far more painful than it really needed to be.

I think we do the same thing when we anticipate the pain of what we consider to be “failure”. 

Our minds have a way of making it far more ominous than it ever is in reality. And if we happen to find ourselves experiencing it, we can also fall into the trap of unwittingly making it more uncomfortable than it needs to be. But we can also use resilience and determination to bounce back and focus on something that will help us move forward in spite of an otherwise unpleasant experience.

I prefer a slight variation of that opening quote that goes like this:

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew there was no such thing as failure?”

Because it really comes down to what your experienceregardless of the way it turns outhas given you, rather than cost you.  People who have accomplished extraordinary things in their lives are the first to tell you that they have had more than their share of what many refer to as “failure”. And many will tell you those experiences were, in fact, prerequisites for their success. What differentiates them from those who allowed “failure” to defeat them is that they got back up, figured out what they could learn, and moved forward, equipped with a new awareness, a new understanding, and renewed commitment to their greatest dreams and visions.

I think we all need a shot from time to time.

A shot of humility, compassion, and humor. A shot that will only serve to make us stronger, more determined, and far more resilient than we were before.

What great thing can YOU achieve today, knowing that you simply cannot fail?

Are you interested in more strategies for overcoming the fallacy of failure and strengthening your courage, resiliency, and momentum toward achieving your visions and aspirations? Stay tuned for more information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow, or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.

A Sure Fire Strategy for Overcoming Fear

 

This week’s post features a video that I initially didn’t equate with getting out of fear.  In fact, I originally titled the video From Self Absorbed to Self Empowered.  But after writing last week’s post, A New Way to Look at FearI realized that this video is actually a demonstration of one of the best ways I know to get out of fear.  It’s simple, easy and powerful.  I hope you enjoy it.  And I encourage you try it for yourself.  Let me know how it goes, will you?

 

A New Way to Look at Fear

 

One of my favorite places to go on holiday weekends is Prescott, AZ. On one such trip with my mother and daughter we walked through an art festival in the town square. The place was dotted with people and their dogs, meandering from booth to booth, admiring the wares and taking it all in. White tents and tall, willowy trees sheltered artisans and their customers from the bright sun and intense heat.

There was a lot of jewelry, handmade signs with clever quotes, t-shirts (for people and their dogs), hand crafted furniture, blankets, tablecloths, framed photography, bird houses. If you could think of something that could be artfully designed and hand crafted, there was probably a booth for it in the Prescott square that weekend.

Some of my favorite booths were the ones with food in them. Freshly dipped caramel apples rolled in peanuts or toffee, kettle corn popped in large copper drums, homemade tamales, chocolate dipped cheesecake. And, oh, the best freshly squeezed lemonade ever, made with generous portions of sugar and large juicy lemons whose rinds floated in the clear plastic dispensers.

I was standing in a rather long line for one of those lemonades when I became acutely aware of the presence of swarms of bees flying around me and everyone else, hovering over people’s cups and food, and even landing on shoulders, arms, and clothing. People squirmed in their shoes, swatted them away, and some ran out of the line altogether.

Look at all these bees! I said to my daughter. A low, gravelly voice from behind me rose above the clamor. bee“Don’t be afraid,” it said.

I turned to see an older man with a closely trimmed white beard and long white eyebrows. His eyes twinkled and dimples appeared below his cheeks. I looked at him and smiled.

“Don’t be afraid,” he continued. “Bees only sting when they sense fear.” He rocked back and forth on his feet, with his fingers wrapped comfortably around the straps of his faded overalls. “It’s true!” He insisted.

Hmm. What an interesting thought. Is it true? I don’t know. I wouldn’t doubt it.

It got me thinking about fear in general, and the correlation it often has with unfortunate circumstances. Fear is widely considered to be the effect of an unpleasant and often painful stimulus. But the cause?

Could it be true that fear itself could bring about some of the unfortunate circumstances that we are often most afraid of?

I think so.

When we are afraid, we get consumed with thinking we need to protect ourselves, have the last word, save face. We become far more occupied with getting than giving. We can panic and engage in irrational and even hurtful behavior. A fearful response is often an overly aggressive one – one that can create more problems than it solves, and one that might otherwise be deemed as unnecessary. We say and do things we later regret. And we cut ourselves off from the wisdom and insights we would otherwise be able to tap to constructively resolve our differences and creatively rise up to our challenges. Our solutions tend to be half baked and often unsatisfying – as well as short lived.

But how do you override that somewhat instinctive and often knee jerk, fear filled response to what you believe could hurt you?

“Don’t be afraid,” the white haired man said. Easy for you to say, buddy. He obviously sees bees differently than I do, or at least have in the past.

And maybe that’s the answer.

Maybe it’s about learning to see things differently. Maybe it’s about questioning what we’ve come to believe and learning a different response – one that is more grounded, centered, and thoughtful. Perhaps it’s about trying something we’ve never had the presence of mind to consider.

The woman behind the counter handed me my lemonade and a single bee came along for the ride. It followed us throughout the square, from booth to booth, hovering around the large waxy cup that contained the sweet, refreshing liquid we waited in line for over ten minutes to receive. At one point, it landed on my shirt sleeve. I felt my blood pressure rise and took a deep breath. What if I get stung? I tried not to think about it. It flew away and came back a few seconds later.

We couldn’t help ourselves. We shooed it away with our napkins. It kept flying back. We tried hard to stay brave and calm, but we kept our napkins unfurled and continued to flap them around whenever the bee got too close.

We made it home without any bee stings. But the wheels in my mind are still turning at the thought that there may be some kind of insight or lesson in that experience for me. Have I grasped it? I don’t know.

One thing is for sure. The next time I begin to feel that familiar rush of adrenaline, you can bet I’ll think back to that white-haired man in his frayed overalls, with a large grin on his face and a quiet wisdom in those sparkling eyes. And I’ll do whatever I can to see things from another, less fear provoking perspective.