The whammy has come. The boss gave you the pink slip. Your spouse says, “I’m in love with someone else.” Your doctor tells you, “You have cancer” – or, so much, much worse, says “Your child has cancer.” The cop asks you to turn around and put your hands behind your back. You answer the doorbell and there’s the military notification team.
There are a thousand moments that yank the psychic soil of your life from under you.
And it’s not like the world around you helps. They are naught but Job’s friends, subtly telling you how others got through this smiling, so why are you so glum?
It feels like you will suffocate under this fear. What to do?
Over twenty years ago, I discussed the problem of fear in the workplace based on Peter Block’s comment at Organizational Development Summit 2003 in Chicago:
People keep saying that we need to remove fear from the workplace. I ask them, ‘Then where are you going to put it?’Peter Block
At the time, I told my readers to “Face fear and stir up courage.”
What’s surprising is that Warren Kinston (my old boss at TH3EL and creator of THEE-online) said almost the same thing in 2009 when I asked him about how my coaching clients should respond to the threat of losing their jobs. “You have to accept fear, and activate courage,” he said.
Block and Kinston know the score here: you can’t get rid of fear, because it will always go somewhere. Life lived in freedom is full of fear. In light of this fundamental reality of living free, you must activate courage by choosing it.
I know it sounds insane right now. It’s also true. You can, even during mind-numbing fear, even in PTSD, choose to activate your courage. Maybe it doesn’t look like what people think your courage should look like. Maybe your courage takes you even farther from what they want. But it is the way out: accept the fear, activate your courage, and build it up until it is greater than your fear.
As you do, you will find your fear diminished. It’s still there. But your courage is bigger.