June 30, 2008

Good day, team,

This week’s challenge is about fear. Now I know that as soon as you see that word, it automatically brings about the alertness that always accompanies fear.  That’s a good reaction since, in it’s proper place,  fear activates our adrenal glands. Their fight or flight response helps protect us in times of real danger. But we also experience fear that is misplaced, imagining what doesn’t really exist.

Remember when you were a child and someone told you a scary story. Perhaps you had nightmares because you were convinced that the scary goblin that had been described to you in detail actually did live under your bed. Children often sleep with the light on so that things that go bump in the night can be seen and, consequently, not so scary.

As we age, these childhood frights are often replaced by fears that make us suspicious of people or events. I remember my grandmother telling me that she never went down into the basement after dark. Evidently, her best friend, Mabel, had gone into the basement late one evening and was sure she had been touched by a ghost. Convinced by Mabel that all the ghosts in a person’s house go into the basement at night, my grandmother wouldn’t go down there once the sun set. Though this reasoning seemed very strange to me, it was quite real for my grandmother and her friend, and their behavior was a direct result of that ghost story.

Like my grandmother, I have experienced fear based on assumptions that were not true. I once worked for a group of clients who sent me an e-mail suggesting that my contract might not be renewed, even though the company had previously asked if I could extend my services. I was confused and fearful about talking with my clients about this comment. I just assumed they no longer wanted to work with me. Near the date of renewal, I asked them whom they wanted me to transfer my duties to, and they were shocked. It turned out that the email was meant as a joke, and they had no intention of letting me go until the assignment was complete. I had spent close to a month afraid of something that wasn’t even true.

When I turned 50 a few years ago, I decided not to make decisions from fear any longer. As I began to put this vow into practice, I was surprised to note how often I made decisions from fear and how hard it was to break the habit. However, with some practice and patience, I began to make decisions from my intentions and desires instead. I kept this Shakespeare quote on my desk to help me: “Things done well and with care exempt themselves from fear.”

Your challenge this week is to observe how fear affects your decisions and to try making decisions from a different set of motivations. Perhaps you need to have a difficult conversation with someone, and fear is preventing you from doing it. Try focusing on the good that will come from clearing the air with this person.  Maybe you’re afraid that something bad will happen to someone close to you or that you will fail in some way. Try to keep in mind that imagining the future, whether negative or positive, takes away our ability to be present, and often bring us nothing but depression and gloom. If the future is a 50-50 coin toss, cheerfulness and optimism are as likely as doom, and more enjoyable in the meanwhile.

A 19th century writer named Elbert Hubbard wrote, “The great Big Black Things that have loomed against the horizon of my life, threatening to devour me, simply loomed and nothing more. The things that have really made me miss my train have always been sweet, soft, pretty, pleasant things of which I was not in the least afraid.”

Use his words as a reminder this week to help you through your moments of fear.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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