Updated: Feb 27
My friend has a niece - let’s call her Emma. Emma is a curious child, and her parents are naturally very protective. Overprotective, some might say.
One day, Emma went out with her aunt and uncle to a homeware store. Emma was enjoying a bit of wild time where she could run around and jump about and climb things without being reprimanded. But then she stopped abruptly.
She said: “The floor is wet auntie, I’m afraid I’ll fall”. And her aunt said: “yes, you probably will. But it’ll be okay.” Based on that response Emma was contend and continued her wild exploration around the homeware store. In case you were wondering, she didn’t fall on the wet floor.
What happened here?
Emma was faced with a situation that created a fear response, and somehow she overcame it. I believe that her aunt’s intervention was pivotal by creating an opportunity for Emma to
trust her gut instinct (yes, this is a situation that warrants your attention)
Normalise the situation (you will probably fall)
Make a emotional risk assessment of the potential consequences (but it will be ok)
In my experience, fear is rarely about the things that we are afraid of and much more about the places it could take us to. Because in the process of overcoming fear, we have to deal with three things:
we lose something dear to us, usually a perception or idea related to our identity: about who we are, what’s possible or what’s ‘right’. In Emma’s case, falling down hurts, falling is bad.
We experience a risk of expulsion/disconnect by the ‘tribe’ we are currently with. In Emma’s case her aunt and uncle might judge her behaviour by reprimanding her for being silly or even a little reckless for running.
A sense of uncertainty as we transition from a state that was to a state that will be. Emma has learned that caution is important to not get hurt. But she doesn't know about the rewards that come (sometimes) with blowing caution to the wind.
What Emma’s aunt has unwittingly created is an opportunity for behaviour change and a shift in how Emma experiences her immediate environment.
However, it was up to Emma to decide if she was ready to become the next more brave, more curious version of herself.
What interventions are you creating for yourself and your teams to overcome fear?