Fight Your Phobias

election series fight your phobiasIf there’s one thing that a number of popular, powerful leaders have in common it’s that they have had significant fears in their lifetime, even experience with phobias in their past. But none of these leaders have gotten ahead by hiding from what frightened them, whether it was big crowds, public speaking, being among strangers, or the act of failing. Just look to some of the past coverage of the various 2016 presidential campaigns. There, you can find concrete examples of strong speakers, or leaders who’ve embraced crowds rather than reeled from them. You can also witness politicians who have mastered clever techniques for turning around perceptions of weakness into opportunities to talk to their strengths. It’s quite likely that our current candidates have at some time or another faced fears or phobias in their lifetime. And there’s no question that former presidents and other famous leaders have disclosed a struggle with a phobia of one kind or another. But had they not tackled or managed these worries appropriately, this would have undermined their ability to advance in their careers, execute leadership responsibilities effectively, and thrive. Permitting fears to drive your mindset and behaviors can eventually undermine your potential to lead others. So fight against it, leading yourself first in controlling and combatting your fears.

There are a number of strategies you can implement around fighting phobias, fears and even common worries. Here are three that have helped a number of MAP clients over the years:

Surface your worries. In MAP’s recent book, “The Disciplined Leader,” we go deep on this topic, discussing how one of the best ways to address worries is get them out of your head by putting them down on paper or, even better, talking with a trusted confidant, or someone who will help you sort through your thoughts, feelings and options. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to confess weaknesses (many of us are!), this may be hard. But it’s important to be brave and open to your vulnerabilities. Be honest about your fears, not just with yourself, but also with a few others if you can. Allow them to support and perhaps coach you throughout your efforts to grow and change. Willingly accept their help.

Stretch beyond your abilities. This is really about pushing your comfort zone and challenging yourself, particularly in those strategic moments of your professional life. Start tackling the challenge, making a list of what opportunities exist for learning how to combat those fears or worries. Create a plan of attack that’s going to empower you with the skills and events that will effectively (even if slowly) enable you to manage it all with greater grace, confidence and tact. For example, if you’ve got a fear of public speaking, you may want to sign up for Toastmasters International or take a class on the topic. Or, if you have a debilitating fear of confrontation, hire someone who understands anxiety and conflict-resolution to be your personal “confidence coach.” As with any strategies and your greater plan, write it all down and share it with your confidant, mentor or accountability partner. This way, it’s “got legs” and isn’t just something immaterial circulating in your head.

Embrace every success. When we’re battling fears, it can be easy to allow all our thoughts and energy to focus only on when and where we have failed. So as you work toward overcoming phobias, fears and/or worries, proactively notice and track your victories, even the smallest ones. To see your progress over time, write them down—this will become a powerful measurement of how you are making steps toward your goal over time. And the visual will serve to reinforce what you’re doing right. Avoid the tendency to belittle even minor accomplishments and realize that every success matters…you need only be patient and forgiving of yourself, recognizing that real change and sustainable growth takes time.

Tune in to our weekly blogs…next Monday we’ll be covering the last of our five discussions inspired by the 2016 Presidential Election.

How have you successfully managed a common fear?

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