As an executive coach and leadership consultant, I’ve had the honor of working with a host of amazing clients, including corporate executives, best-selling authors, private equity magnates, and high flying entrepreneurs. In doing so, I’ve found that even the most successful people have areas where they feel insecure, inadequate or stuck. Even the strongest leaders have choices they struggle over and dreams they’re afraid to own.
And even the wisest people regularly make decisions that seem rational — but aren’t.
While we often think of ourselves as rational creatures, the bigger a dilemma is or the more important a dream is, the more our choices become clouded by fear.
Have you ever turned down an exciting opportunity and played it safe instead? Have you ever made a decision out of anger and ended up hurting someone you love? Have you ever gotten so stressed that you went into survival mode and started obsessing over tiny things instead of focusing on the bigger picture? Or have you had times where you became addicted to achievement and approval?
I have. And pretty much everyone I know has done so, too. There are many faces of fear and each shows up as a limitation — as a defect that distorts our decisions, sabotages our leadership, and holds us back from the things we most want in life.
However, we usually don’t notice this. Like an iceberg, 90 percent of our fears remain out of sight, stored away in our unconscious mind. But that doesn’t mean they’re gone. Like trying to look through a layer of brown cooking grease that has been spread across a piece of glass, our hidden insecurities distort our vision and color our choices.
Instead of proclaiming themselves as such, our fears most commonly show up as innocent sounding statements that sound so reasonable — yet aren’t.
Here’s a quick test to see if this happens for you. Do you ever find yourself saying any of the following?
“I’m upset because…”
“I’m stressed because…”
“Yeah, I’d like to, but…”
“If I could just stop procrastinating, I would…”
If so, welcome to the human race. While each of these statements can be rational, they’re almost always a sign that your choices aren’t clean, and that your decisions are being distorted by your unconscious fears.
For example, I often find myself saying things like, “I’m upset because I don’t have more money.” “I should be working harder.” “Yeah, I’d like to go on a long beach vacation with the family, but I just don’t have the time.”
And of course, “Sweetie, you don’t understand, I need to buy more electronics!”
While these statements may sound reasonable, I’ve learned to recognize when they’re really just symptoms of my hidden fears.
While this may sound disturbing, it’s actually great news because the voice of fear can become one of your greatest allies — once you learn how to listen to it in a more effective way.