This thing called Fear

A follow-up blog entry to the AWiB July 2012 event: \”AWiB presents her Gems’’

When during our July AWiB event I heard our Board President build on a conversation with members in the audience by saying ‘We can overcome our fears when we have the courage to make mistakes’, I felt a little voice in me saying: ‘Yep, that thing called fear’.

I recalled how I feel in my body when I am afraid: tightness in the shoulders and abdomen area, sweaty hands, shallow breathing and at times, my thoughts reeling, the voice in me repeating one thing again and again.

For some reason, we may feel fear in so many occasions because, we may fear that may be because we are stepping out of cultural norms and behaviours, we are afraid people changing their perception towards us, because we may be taking a risk and fear the consequence: of scrutiny, of derision, of rejection, of failure and, of making mistakes.

Fear in our Organizations

I sometimes notice similar patterns in organizations, where teams fall short from producing breakthrough results, and individuals play it safe, are concerned more about looking good, focus on simply obeying the rules, and avoiding making mistakes. As a member of teams, I have contributed to these behaviours too!

Our Defense Mechanisms

What is it that creates roadblocks for ourselves, which make us hesitate and act indecisively in things we believe in?

And as we boycott our dreams, we fall short of growing and progressing as leaders and serving others, of standing for our values, of growing our teams, of challenging the way things are done. And maybe, when we go to bed at night, do we don’t feel good about it and may continue living a life of disappointment. Just writing this saps my energy!

Choosing to take Risks

While so many of us may feel fear of stepping out of our comfort zones, so many more have made taking risks their healthy habit. I see so many friends, family members, colleagues and business leaders who inspire me.

I have recently come across an interview of young Hilina Belete, Deputy General Manager of ‘Hilina’ Food Processing, who said: \”Don\’t be afraid to try, even though you might fail. If you don’t try you will never know where your goal might take you.’’ (http://www.wisdomexchangetv.com/hilina-belete/)

Taking risks requires courage, not in spite of fear, but because of fear. Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act in the face of your fear. I am practicing to embrace my fear, my humanity, not making my fear wrong, trying to change it, but simply taking action.

Here’s a quote that illustrates this further:

‘Courage involves the ability to take action and carry on even when we are afraid. No matter how big or consequential a given step may be, that step cannot be said to involve courage if we are not somehow afraid to take it. It may show how smart you are, how energetic, how focused; but not how brave.

It is action in the face of fear that demonstrates courage. We have come to this new appreciation for human courage because we have learned something that may be very hard for successful, capable people to believe: more than we understand, most people deal constantly with fear.’

–Robert Keegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey in Immunity to Change from Harvard Business Press

So I’m learning to make fear my friend, to be vulnerable, and practice the courage to risk by: saying ‘sorry’ when I feel I am in the wrong, letting go of the urge to control situations and circumstances, delegating more with trust, failing and quickly moving forward by learning from my mistakes, being more creative, and, without hesitation, speaking my word, even if what I will say may be misunderstood, or not appreciated.


I’m learning that there’s little to lose and so much to learn when taking risks. And as I practice, I have friends and mentors who support me and keep me accountable to practicing being more courageous.


And thanks to this practice, I feel the world is opening up to me in so many ways, and I can act from my strengths. I’m realizing that, as Maya Angelou said, courage is one of the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can\’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.


So, my invitation to you is to share:

– What risk did you take today, big or small, thanks to you fear, not in spite of it?

– When have you noticed expressing your boldness and power?