You’ve probably heard the saying “with great power comes great responsibility.” In a similar vein, consider this: “with great possibility comes great fear.”
Ugh… does that feel like a bummer? Do you sometimes wish for a way to release and rid yourself of fear? You may be surprised to hear, it's not actually a good thing to be entirely "fearless." Conscious fear serves us; it wakes us up and tells us something significant needs to be attended to and it can embolden us for important actions. On the other hand, unconscious, toxic fear about an imagined future state that is disconnected from the present is not your friend.
We are wired to experience some fear on an automatic, split-second, neuro-biological level; the brain’s primary job is to seek safety, connection and respect. When any of these are potentially threatened, fear kicks in and we hunker down psychologically, physically and even spiritually to reduce potential harm. Yet, our brain’s long-evolved focus on safety can lead us astray, mislead us about the true level of threat, keep us constricted and limited, and replay old survival patterns even when our life circumstances and our life desires have changed.
The fabulous news is that on the other side of unconscious fear lies possibility. Indeed, this is the yin and yang of new experiences; seemingly contrary yet deeply interconnected; two parts of a whole; the dual nature of the human experience; complementary in scope. Big possibility = Big fear and Big fear = Big possibility.
I talk with so many people who long for a “bigger” life seeking more energy, vitality, impact, and adventure. They feel a deep yearning. They seek big possibility but want it without fear.
Sorry Charlie, no can do.
What if, right now, you took a moment to re-frame your fear? What if the fear you’re feeling is not a message saying “you shouldn’t do this – it’s too risky” and instead is saying “this idea holds huge possibility for amazing things to be created!”
For all of us, our previous experiences, our social conditioning and our learned survival mechanisms are intimately tied to the long-evolved safety responses of our nervous system. It’s really a miraculous and quite brilliant self-protection system! In many cases, our survival strategies function with such elegance that they have a kind of invisibility in our lives. And…we can’t change what we aren’t aware of, so start paying attention to your fear. Hold it with reverence. Interrogate it. Feel it. Get to know it. Thank it for its previous service and then decide if it's serving you.
Fear is felt in our body, perceived in our thoughts, seen in our behaviors, and heard in our language. If we allow it, the undercurrent of unconscious fear can be stronger than the call of possibility.
You may not even know that you constrict your body in certain situations, that your inner voice is spewing false ideas, that you become aloof and disconnected at just the moment when you actually crave connection, or that your language is filled with cynical, negative words. These kinds of embedded fear responses can only be loosened and released if they are first uncovered and made visible.
Perhaps you can recite all the reasons that your desire for a career change (or other “big leap”) would be “too much risk” while conveniently leaving out the high cost of staying in your current toxic, draining or uninspiring workplace or life circumstance. The energy you are using trying to manage your fear is energy you could be using to bring a new possibility to life.
We find so many reasons to stay stuck from fear - and often call it “logic” instead of fear.
Yet, have you considered the costs and risks of staying stuck in your resistance?
Most importantly, have you considered the beautiful possibilities?
Sometimes fear appears wearing the disguise of uncertainty - the sense that “I need clarity first” or “I need to know what it will look like” before I step forward. It’s valuable to make plans and create visions to work toward, AND it’s essential to stay open to possibility. This means we must practice trusting ourselves to handle what comes. We are well-served getting comfortable with ambiguity.
Small steps create movement, yet taking a BOLD step forward can bring you to a place of commitment to yourself that “baby steps” will not bring. If the action feels bold, a little unsure or unclear, or if it feels like it will “take a lot” to achieve, it will require you to make a commitment to yourself that small steps don’t require. And you ARE WORTH that commitment.
When people don’t take the “big step” because of “rational” reasons such as money, bad timing etc. it may reveal an underlying unwillingness or inability to commit to YOURSELF.
Of course, there are times when attending to our fear and trusting its prompts is healthy and important, such as a woman experiencing a gut feeling of fear in a social situation that may become dangerous. We don’t ignore fear that comes from real and present circumstances. There are surely some risks that may not be worth taking, however risk related to personal growth rarely falls into that category.
Each new possibility in your life involves inherent risk and therefore inherent fear on some level. Flip the script to look for and listen for the great possibility that sits alongside your fear.
Feel the fear and do it anyway* and you’ll discover possibilities you never before considered.
Coaching can be a support that creates space and sheds light on those places where our stay-safe mechanism holds us back from the biggest possibilities of our lives. If you want to benefit from that kind of space and light, coaching may be your first commitment to yourself!