fear

This afternoon I watched a hummingbird drink from the water bubbling from the top of Buddha’s head. This Buddha fountain sits in the backyard of the house we just bought and was a part on the property purchase as much as the house and the garage and the fruit trees. The vivid green and ruby bird hovered over the fountain, and the bird’s wings beat almost faster that my eye could see. He dipped once and flitted up, dove and dipped again and drew closer and closer until his beak was mid-water burble. He drank until his thirst was quenched and then he zoomed off towards a tree.

The initial tentativeness of the hummingbird reminded me of the way humans act, in life and in business. We see something we want or know we need, we move towards that thing only to pull back, in uncertainty or fear. The fear could be that deep down we really don’t think we deserve the thing. Or the fear could be we may make a mistake, fail or look foolish. Or maybe we are a afraid that we might succeed but don’t know what that could mean.

Like the hummingbird, we may need a few times to dip towards the thing we want, and we need to be okay with allowing ourselves a few pullbacks until we feel more confident and comfortable. Deepak Chopra called fear “the memory of pain“. But to succeed in life and work, we have to be able to acknowledge that we feel fear without succumbing to it.

Dr. Phillip K. Berger in his book The Role of Fear for Entrepreneurial Venture Creation found that fear is why some new business ventures never get off the ground–which shouldn’t be a surprise. But as anyone in therapy or recovery has been told, acknowledging the problem, in this case fear, is often the first step in dealing with it. Or as Berger writes, “With a lot of psychological problems, if you’re aware of that, that’s one big step to getting along with it. You want people that are aware of fear and the pitfalls so they can work to avoid them, but you don’t want so much fear that it prevents them from founding.”

In business and life, sometimes the best way to deal with something that seems big–like getting water from a big Buddha fountain when you’re a very small bird–is to divide the task into smaller parts. The bird paced its progress, getting closer and closer. John M. Grohol, Psy.D. calls this “gradual exposure.” For example, if you want a raise or a promotion at work but scheduling time with your boss and requesting one is fear-inducing, maybe start by putting together a list of your accomplishments from the last six or twelve months. Write about ways you’ve helped customers or clients, how you’ve contributed to the work or breakthrough of others and/or to the company’s bottom line.

Then, because your boss is a busy person and probably has no idea all that you’ve accomplished, send her a short e-mail saying, “Hey, here’s an update on the latest project….” and mention a few of your successes or contributions. And maybe the following week, get someone you work with to write you a recommendation or endorsement for your files, for your LinkedIn profile or for HR. Do these kinds of activities until you’re ready to schedule that meeting with the boss and dive in.

One thing that we humans consistently find once we jump into the thing we fear is that not only wasn’t it as a bad as we thought it would be, but most of the time, it even feels good…or refreshing like water from Buddha’s head to a hummingbird on a hot day.

fear

Photo by koiart71