28 Feb 2015

Warning – You are Entering The Danger Zone

You can’t test courage cautiously’.
This is a quote by author Annie Dillard that I repeat to myself on the occasions where my heart starts to race and my nerves kick in. Every time I face a hurdle or question my ability I remind myself that being outside my comfort zone is what takes me forward.
Sometimes facing the fear is followed by a massive high. Think para-sailing or flooring the accelerator on a speed boat. Feels good doesn't it? A natural high that gives stress a kick in the ass. Then there’s facing a fear because you feel you have no option.
And there are ALWAYS options.
An option can be to say no. An option can be to ask for help. Obvious isn't it? So why don’t we speak up more often? Why are we afraid to admit our weaknesses?
A friend has a crippling fear of public speaking but is expected to present to the Board of Directors and a select VIP audience twice a year. He read a few books on overcoming the fear and watched some videos on YouTube - neither proved fruitful so he struggled on in silence. Finally he confided in a colleague and in talking it through revealed that his biggest worry was his mind going blank mid presentation. He feared looking incompetent in front of his bosses, he feared being seen as a failure. The colleague suggested that instead of presenting solo they stood up together and shared the presentation. If he got stuck, his colleague could prompt him. Working together they turned what was a very stressful situation into a golden opportunity to shine, an opportunity to showcase the progress they were making and their ability to work as a team.
I have a fear of driving in winter weather, particularly on country roads in the dark. This stems from an experience about 7 years ago when I skidded on black ice, hit a stone dyke wall, spun the car and ended up in a farmers’ field in the pitch black night and deep snow. It was like a slow motion horror movie as the headlights lit up the wall, the tree branches hitting off the windscreen and then the sheer terror as I braced myself for the inevitable impact. There was a dreadful silence when I opened my eyes and realised I was in the middle of nowhere, alone and that no-one knew where I was. My phone had no signal. The temperature was below freezing. I sat there in shock for what felt like years until miraculously two passersby saw the tail lights in the field and rescued me. I climbed out of the car with barely a scratch. No broken bones, no blood, just very shaken and bit battered.
Every time I have to drive in bad weather I have to ask myself ‘Is it worth it?’ I weigh up the work that lands on my desk and choose the jobs I can get to without entering the 'Danger Zone'. In winter I'll travel to places I can access by train or in daylight hours by motorway, not country roads. It’s taken me a few years to pipe up and admit to clients that I'm scared to drive in bad weather. Is it a big deal to the client? No. Do I feel like an idiot? Yes, but that’s okay. I do worry that people will think I’m pathetic, or weak or demanding but I’d rather admit my vulnerability than drive in the Danger Zone.
I look around me and notice that I’m continually speaking to people who are undertaking tasks or jobs that challenge them in a negative way. They face major obstacles yet struggle on in silence. The journey is long and arduous, they don’t have the experience, training or tools to navigate the path but for whatever reason are ploughing through, trying hard and feeling overwhelmed. They've forgotten to look for options and are waiting for something bad to happen.
At some point we all need to pull over. Sit in the layby and take a deep breath, stop worrying. Get the map out and find the best way to get from A to B. Is there an alternative route? Who can you confide in to help you find a solution?

We all face the fear at some point in our lives. It could be sitting in the doctors’ surgery, crashing into a field or putting yourself in challenging situations at work. Find the courage to speak up, find the courage to ask for help, find the courage to admit your vulnerability. If you are honest and confide in the right person I’m pretty sure you won’t be facing the fear alone for much longer. You might even solve the problem and feel a whole lot better.
If you need a little inspiration to help you face the fear check out this TED talk by Brene Brown.
Comments welcome.

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