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Feel the fear - and lead anyway

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, President of MAP Professional Development Inc, and founder of the annual Spark event.

At my high school graduation, I did something a bit unexpected. One of a handful of student speakers, I walked up to the podium, took a deep breath, and proceeded to sing a peppy little song I had written for my class. I am not a singer (not for lack of trying!) and who knows what possessed me to stand in the arena in Duluth, Minnesota and sing to my class. But I did.

Jeffers - Feel The FearAfterwards, people commented on my courage. (Alas, no one mentioned my singing prowess, but I digress.) “How on earth could you stand up there and sing your graduation speech?” they asked. “That took guts!”

But here’s the thing: Sometimes I think I’m the biggest chicken to ever walk the face of the earth.

I can stare at an email endlessly, stomach flipping the entire time, as I contemplate whether or not to click “send.” I can create public speaking scenarios far worse than simply tripping onstage. You think political debates seem endless? You should hear the ones I have in my head sometimes!

I remember being told we must be fearless if we are to live to our full potential. I heard it. I admired as I perceived it in others. Yet I’d still feel my cheeks heating up and my heart racing when I encountered a new or uncertain situation.

Then, like a gift, I read Dr. Susan Jeffers’ classic, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. I learned that everyone feels fear, and that we don’t need to fight or ignore our fear but rather learn to move forward with it. Just as the title suggests, we need to know how to acknowledge our fear and still take action.

This book prompted a turning point for me, and became one of the first books I had the ASPIRE Success Club read, too. Years later, we still bring up concepts we learned from this powerful resource. A few takeaways:

  • Embrace your inner Pollyanna. “It’s reported that over 90% of what we worry about never happens,” Jeffers wrote. “That means our negative worries have about a 10% chance of being correct. If this is so, isn’t it possible that being positive is more realistic than being negative?” In brief: Think positive!
  • Take responsibility. Staying in victim mode or living in blame serves no useful purpose. Of Susan’s seven definitions of taking responsibility, the one that resonated most with me: “Taking responsibility means figuring out what you want in life and acting on it. Set your goals – then go out and work toward them.”
  • Action is the key to success and the antidote to fear. I once had a client who understandably worried about her husband deployed in a war-torn country. She realized that while her worry did nothing, she could do a lot. She organized a group that made care packages, she got involved politically, and much more. Taking action changed her entire demeanor and outlook.

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI'S CHALLENGE:

Leadership can incite all kinds of fear – so much so that many shy away from a leadership role altogether. Whether you fear uncertainty, rejection, messing up, or the 80,000 other potential concerns that appear in any given situation, try this:

Check in with your values. Decide what’s best for the greater good. If you’re singing your high school graduation speech, perhaps consider voice coaching.

Then, feel the fear…and do it anyway.

What helps you move forward even in the midst of fear? Share your ideas below.

Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives to successfully do what they love – and to help their employees do the same! Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Jeffers, Susan. © 1987. Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. New York: Fawcett Books. 

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