What’s to FEAR?

My lovely wife Kendra and I were debriefing another week last night as we always do … Date Night! Every Friday (or as many as we can manage) are for us and us alone. We head home, turn on the music, pull the cork on a bottle of wine and cook a great meal (at least we think so!). And throughout the evening we talk about what has transpired for the week.

This week Kendra had an old colleague call her which turned into a bit of a coaching session. Her colleague was worrying some things and Kendra introduced him to one of her favorite expressions. The definition of FEAR … Forgetting Everything’s All Right. We started discussing the impacts and sources of fear and eventually began exploring the topic of shame as one of the more complex manifestations. Brené Brown has a wonderful new TED Talk on this subject that we watched together (check it out).

But today my thoughts returned to her definition of fear, and it occurred to me that there are probably a number of solutions to the acronym FEAR. I started to think of some of these and how when caught up in them it is easy to be led astray, whether in our personal life or at work. Let’s explore some of these, our reactions and the truth about each.

  1. Forgetting Everything’s All Right … my wife’s version and a pretty common way we respond to the unknown. How many times do we hear or see something whose meaning is uncertain or unknown and then begin to fill out the story with negative outcomes spawned out of a fear of what might go wrong. There is some degree of merit in this approach in that it does allow us to identify potential negative outcomes and develop plans in the event they come to pass. But so often, the negative outcomes we imagine can almost become a reality because we truly do forget that everything is still alright and will likely remain that way if we just engage and manage through the issue.
  2. False Evidence Appearing Real … how many times have we looked at the supposed facts associated with an event or incident and drawn conclusions about the errors, culpability or even bad intent of someone else? I can remember a time
    False Evidence! Kendra is not standing in the flower bed!
    False Evidence! Kendra is not standing in the flower bed!

    as a young manager signing off on a team members overtime for the previous week, and recalling that the person left on time every day. How could they have worked overtime? Before we get too committed to a position is it possible that we could actually find the real truth before we draw conclusions? Could we overcome what small fear there may be of a conflict and actually seek out the other party and ask? I did and wandered back to my office to sign the form (somewhat redfaced) knowing that this person beat me into the office by 90 minutes every morning.

  3. Finding Excuses And Reasons … sometimes things just don’t go our way, and it can be very tempting to deflect responsibility for the less than perfect outcome by explaining just why it couldn’t have anything to do with what we did … it must be some outside force that prevented us from doing well. What’s driving this? Probably a fear of being seen as inadequate or incapable or some other word starting with “in”. Where in fact sometimes things just don’t go our way because of circumstance, luck or the actions of some other force that we were completely unaware of.

But what if there is another solution to this FEAR acronym? What if there is a really positive outcome associated with it such as …

4. Face Everything And Respond … what if each time we faced a challenge we first let go of the desire to control or manage the situation and step into the challenge by asking a few simple questions that are driven by objectivity and a quest for the truths of the

matter? Questions like …

  • What’s truly happening here?
  • What do I really know for sure?
  • What am I assuming and how can I validate these assumptions?
  • Is what I am seeing/hearing/reading true for me?
What possibilities are around the corner?
What possibilities are around the corner?

Then once we know what we know and know what we don’t know we can begin to build a plan to respond based on these facts and gaps with the knowledge that we are not employing any of the first three FEAR models above. Without the tensions and reactions that come these forms of fear we can easily offer our assistance to examining the issue objectively and finding agreeable solutions.

And what about as a leader? How can we guide team members who we see are engaged in one of the fear models? Can we not use these same sorts of questions to help them move to a position of facts, missing facts and constructive collaboration? And by doing so let go of the emotions that sometimes attach themselves to workplace situations (a.k.a. office politics)?

I would love to hear some examples of any of these models at work … Any stories to share?

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

16 thoughts on “What’s to FEAR?

  1. Love this post Ian — and as I was reading your last definition my mind thought of a previous work situation where this might have been helpful — and then…. my mind immediately jumped to that place of “Oh yeah, but….” and started coming up with all the reasons why it wouldn’t have worked becuase they were….. 🙂

    Quite possibly, in many situations I unconsciously employ the first ones and, if conscious, will get to the fourth.

    Great reminder.


    1. Thanks Louise. I think we all unconsciously employ the first three strategies (and I’m sure there are more … Frantic Effort to Avoid Reality for example). And I think you’re onto the trick in this … to be conscious of these traps and to deliberately move to Face Everything And Respond.

  2. Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfections” is fantastic. I read that one early last year and there are many parts of it that stick with me to-date. Great tips and ideas about shame and how it can hold people back and be blind to bad patterns in life. Good post!

    1. Hi Linda. Brene Brown has been very impactful for me as well. Shame and fear are very closely linked, and it is important for us to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and imperfections! Thanks for joining in the dialogue!

    1. Thanks for the comments Priscilla, and thanks for joining the community. I try to pick topics that will be meaningful both to individuals and to leaders, and most importantly that might stimulate some dialogue on the blog!!

  3. Great post – gets you thinking for sure! It is funny, right after I read this I found this quote posted from a friend on FaceBook, “Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.” I found that this tied well into your fourth point. Again, enjoyed this post and look forward to the next!



    1. Thanks for your comments Rick. I appreciate the contribution. And I agree that if we can approach the unknown with curiosity it will in many cases show us that any fear is unfounded.

  4. Ian, great to have us thinking about fear and how we deal with it. I agree with you that when it comes up we need to stop, pay attention and ask what is really happening.
    As you said quite often we have made assumptions or judgments that may not be accurate.
    I also think that when fear comes up we have positioned ourselves regarding something we think we may not get.

  5. I like your last ‘Face Everything And Respond’. I have spent too much time and energy stressing about the mud that has been put in my path instead of applying my energy to looking hard at how deep the mud is and working out a solution as to how to get through it or around it.
    Thanks for the post. Did you come up with the acronym?

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Elizabeth. You have framed an obstacle simply as stress and something that can be reframed as a challenge. Both aspects of this avoid the deeper pit of classifying a situation as “not fair”.

      1. Thanks so much for your encouraging words. They mean a lot to me. I also used your ‘FEAR’ acronym in a post on my blog about optimism with a link to your post.

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