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Ride the 'Wave of Fear' Instead of Letting it Drown You!

By Pam Nochlin

At a recent Driven Professionals event (formerly known as the Women’s Advancement Compact), Cara Power, of Cara Power Coaching and the Paradox of Leadership, addressed Fear in the Workplace (it turns out we have many!).

When we think of fear, it’s tangible; fear of getting hit by a car, fear of getting sick or something happening to a loved one. However, fear takes on intangible forms too and while we don’t typically associate fear in the workplace, many of the emotions we feel at work are based on fear.

There’s fear of:

  • Failure and it’s cousin - success

  • Sounding stupid

  • Speaking publicly

  • Not being qualified

  • Getting layed off

  • Having a difficult conversation

  • Not having your voice heard

  • Asking for a raise

  • Not being liked

  • Asking for feedback

  • Being overlooked for a promotion

  • Networking

Even though these fears are in your mind, they hold you back as if they are real. As Deborah Goldstein, Founder: Driven Professionals noted, “Fear can be a major barrier to life satisfaction, yet it only exists in one’s own mind.”

So, what would it look like, what could you do and who would you be if you didn’t have those fears? Ok, maybe that’s not realistic, but what if you had those fears and forged ahead anyway? As Cara stated it, “What if you got your surfboard out and rode the wave of fear instead of letting it drown you?”

"Even though these fears are in your mind, they hold you back as if they are real."

Cara provided useful tips to help mitigate your fear:

  • Take action - the more action the more confident you will become

  • Commit to an action RIGHT NOW, (schedule that meeting you’ve been putting off!)

  • Name your fear

  • For example, Cara named hers “Harold” and described him as a short, pudgy red-haired, freckle-faced kid and noted whenever fear appears, she says, “It’s ok Harold, I got this!”

  • State your fear out loud

  • Saying your fear out loud helps dissipate it

  • Reframe your thoughts

  • The thoughts you choose can directly impact your results

  • Remember this acronym

  • FEAR = Fear Easily Alters Reality and therefore FEAR = Fear Easily Alters Results

  • Answer "How" with "Yes"

  • For example, if you want to be heard at work, say ‘YES’ to leading a team meeting!

  • Practice with different audiences

  • Start with a moderately easy situation and gradually work your way up to more difficult ones

After the presentation, attendees broke into small groups to brainstorm actions to take back to work. A volunteer from each group shared some of the actions and ideas that were generated. As the most common fear for most people is public speaking, this was the perfect opportunity and setting to address that fear. It was interesting to note that as each person stated how uncomfortable they were, once that was acknowledged and out of the way, they were able to move forward, proving that taking action propels you towards riding the wave and not being overcome by it!

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