Which Scares You Most?

Let’s start with this reality – fear is real. Certainly, there are different levels of fear. There is fight or flight fear when confronted with a life or death threat, and this type of fear you actually feel in your mind and body. There is also much more subtle fear, such as the imposter syndrome – the fear of being exposed as some type of fraud (or of not being as good as people think you are). While these subtle fears seem different, the outcome is often the same – the inability or unwillingness to take action, causing forward progress to be slowed or even stopped. In fact, the more subtle fears are potentially more dangerous and impactful because they are often unconscious, so you do not even realize that fear is a factor in your choices and behaviors.

Today, I want to offer you a simple approach you can take when you are experiencing fear, especially fear related to making a decision. Simply put, we often have fears that we will make the wrong decision or, similarly, that our decision will not work out the way we hope. This is the search for the perfect decision and, of course, there is no such thing. However, when you can bring your unconscious fears into conscious awareness, two amazing things happen. First, the fear has less control over you. Second, you are able to more consciously consider and assess the fear and therefore make more conscious decisions about the ways that you will proceed (or not proceed).

The “Which scares you most?” approach is designed to do two things. First, to move your fears from the unconscious to the conscious. Second, and even more important, to help you more deeply understand the fears, thereby disempowering them. A key to this approach is that it assumes the existence of fear. Rather than trying to figure out ifyou do have fears (which most of us are often disinclined to admit), it assumesthat there are fears and that those fears are either getting in the way of action or causing our minds to spin with possibilities and uncertainties.

Let’s look at a typical example. Many people struggle with job or career related decisions – which direction should I go, should I take this career path or another career path, should I stay in my current job or pursue something new, which job offer should I take, etc. All job or career decisions involve some risk. If there is risk, then there is fear. However, we all know that there is no perfect decision. Enter the “Which scares you most?” approach.

Simply ask yourself one of these questions:

Which scares me most? Job A or Job B?

Which scares me most? Staying at my current job or pursuing a new job?

Which scares me most? Going to college or not going to college?

Which scares me most? Talking to my boss about an issue or staying quiet about it?

Which scares me most about asking for a promotion and raise? Them saying no or them saying yes?

And here’s the key – listen very carefully to how your mind, body and intuition respond when you ask yourself these questions, because your initial response will help you better understand what you’re really feeling and experiencing.

If you only try to intellectualize your response to the “Which scares you most?” question, you will miss out on lots of deep insights. You will likely also miss out on some critical guidance that could help you differently navigate and understand the options before you. Trust your instincts when you ask yourself these questions, and you will gain perspectives and insights that will help you make more conscious decisions and more effectively move through the fears that are getting in your way.

Remember, there are no perfect decisions, and that fear is real. More important, remember the “Which scares you most?” approach. Not only will it help you understand your options, but it will also empower you to stop allowing your fears to keep you from your goals, desires and objectives. After all, it’s not a matter of avoiding risk (good luck with that), but rather of understanding the risks and your related fears, and then making a decision that best serves who you are and want to be as a leader and influencer.

So, which scares you more – being the leader you want to be or failing to be the leader you want to be? I assure you that there is fear with both, but understanding the fears on both sides will help you make decisions and take action by choice rather than by fear.

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