"But we fear to be
we know not what."
When you can answer,
'What am I afraid of,' you can
could be further from the truth. Fear is a survival mechanism, a requirement
for life and well-being. While having fear is very different than allowing fear
to dictate, fear does exist.
Since virtually everyone has fears, to
pose as fearless simply exposes a fear of seeming fearful!
Your ability to change is not a matter
of willpower. Your willpower will be there when you take
2. Identify whether your organization is complicating things with
its own fears.
3. Take two simple measures to counter both.
Complaints, even silent complaints,
expose fears. When we complain to blame or to get others to agree negatively,
the activity is unproductive. When we complain to harvest understanding, we
open the door for change.
Each time you engage in a "water cooler
buzz," by participating or by seeming to agree, you are indirectly expressing
fears. The fears vary greatly; the following are typical for the work
Do you fear exclusion from advancement,
from the 'inner circle', or even from your job? If so, you may find yourself
talking about, rather than with, a source of potential solution.
Some organizations unwittingly
invite such fears by not explaining punitive actions, leaving people to fill
the void with negative assumptions.
Most fears of failure are actually about
being exposed. Are you assuming that "a" failure means "you" are a
failure? Is your organization inviting risk-averse behavior by providing undue
"what's the use, I've tried before" attitude masks a fear of closure, of
finding out the real truth. If you really cannot impact your situation, then
you could accept that, you could continue complaining, or you could make a
These are fears of not getting something
we already don't have. Tactless communication can exacerbate our hurt, but the
objective results of not trying and of rejection are identical.
Even "benign" authority can be imposing.
Many of these fears are ubiquitous, unconsciously applied to all authority
because of earlier generalizations. In the present, are you making undue
assumptions about this particular authority? Can you find one
authority that belies your pre-conceived notions?
Some organizations dramatize control
fears by allowing management to dictate, rather than lead and
Most of us have had fears of looking
foolish, of seeming incompetent, of being taken for granted, of needing help.
When our "solution" to these fears is to avoid the problem, we often find
ourselves in a "poor me" complaint.
The fear of conflict, or of strong
emotional reaction, is widespread and particularly insidious. Many diverse
views come from others, and come packaged as disagreements. When we avoid
these, we exclude much available intelligence.
Fears of "running out of problems to
solve" often generate unnecessary crisis and melodrama. When we aren't
identifying the underlying fears, this freneticism looks like work and tends to
Fears that "it won't come out right" are
often mis-identified. Except for language barriers, these fears are more
accurately fears of embarrassment, rejection or failure.
10. Change Itself
Has anyone ever tried to change you, or
to "fix" you? If it didn't work, why not?
It is normal to feel resistant to
change. Though our resistance often feels amorphous, the source is actually a
precise set of fears.
Your organization or team may be
dramatizing its own fears by imposing change rather than managing buy-in.
Nonetheless, if you find yourself complaining, mentally or verbally, about
"another change," there are fears impeding your ability to succeed.
You Can Change
Let's say, for example, that your
organization is downsizing. You are being asked to do much more with fewer
resources and longer hours. The changes seem imposed; you find yourself
resistant. You wish to succeed in these new circumstances, but your willpower
is holding you back is what you're afraid of.
Unidentified, your generalized fears
will seem like threatened survival. Left unattended, these fears will grow and
obscure solutions. The "water cooler buzz" may exacerbate without helping to
first positive step is to get specific. Your specific fears, and the
organization's, will become apparent as you list your complaints.
Next, what practical steps, even
small steps, can you take to counter each fear?
Here you may get a good last look at
your resistance in the form of inertia. Your mind may plead `overwhelm, it's
too much.' If so, force yourself to take that first action, even a
Change Is As Change
Positive action is
effective for two reasons. First, it yields objective information, which helps
distinguish exaggerated from real risk. Second, positive action clearly
separates having fear from being driven by fear. When you begin
changing fundamental habits, successful behavior comes naturally.
As you work down your list of
steps, you will find that willpowerand couragegrow with action. At
that point, you can change.
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