Fears. We all have them. Large or small, real or imagined, our fears play a huge role in shaping who we are. They can control our actions, change our personalities, and keep us from moving forward.
But what do you do when you’re afraid of something that could strengthen your leadership?
In order to be resilient leaders, we often have to face our fears. Because change doesn’t happen overnight, it’s important that we’re able to keep going, despite our fears, our anxieties, and our triggers.
We created this infographic of five big fears social change leaders may have and tips on how to conquer each one. Keep it handy for the next time you’re facing your fears (or print it out to decorate your desk for Halloween!).
1. Taking Time Off
Why We’re Afraid of It: It can make us feel guilty, anxious, or worried. Being truly out of the office, not checking email or responding to calls, brings out a lot of negative emotions. Even when we know taking time off can actually make us more effective, creative, and efficient, we still avoid it like the plague.
How to Conquer This Fear: Start small. If you typically work on the weekends (even if you just check your email), try taking one weekend day completely off from any work. If you struggle with taking actual vacations, take a weekday off. And if you’re someone who works late into the night, pick one day every week when you’ll stop working, no matter where you are in a task (which can actually help you when you return to that task the next day).
2. Taming To Do Lists
Why We’re Afraid of It: Admitting we can’t get to everything we committed to can feel like failure, especially for dedicated, passionate people. But looking deeply and critically at everything we have on our plate can be very freeing. Once you no longer feel guilty about all the stuff you thought you should be doing, you have more space to focus on the tasks that fulfill you and help you meet your goals.
How to Conquer This Fear: Start by prioritizing your task list and being honest with yourself about what’s most important to you and your vision. Once you know which tasks on your list are not urgent or important, clear them off your list. This part makes me very anxious — what if one day I am able to organize all my files by year? Instead of getting rid of them completely, I archive them (I use Asana, but a notepad works just as well). That way, I know I can always come back to them. Doing this process regularly can help keep a wild to do list manageable.
3. Asking for Help
Why We’re Afraid of It: People might think we’re not capable of doing our job. The truth is: no one leads alone. Change is caused by many people working together. This is why partnership is one of Rockwood’s 6 practices — it’s essential to getting things done.
How to Conquer This Fear: This one can be done like ripping off a band-aid: just ask someone for help! If you’re struggling to do so, try using different words. For example, instead of saying, “Can you help me with this project?” I might say, “Can we partner together on this?” That small change makes it so much easier to do. Another option is to share an early slice, a rough draft or first look, with a few people and get their feedback. They may suggest people to partner with, resources to help, or even suggestions to make the project go smoother.
4. Courageous Conversations
Why We’re Afraid of It: Is there anything more vulnerable than being open and honest with another human being? Communication is an important part of any relationship, at work and at home, and being able to communicate clearly and kindly about things that are affecting you can strengthen connections.
How to Conquer This Fear: Practice with a friend. Before sitting down with the person you’d like to be open with, tell a friend a little about that person and the situation. Then, talk to them as if they were this person, and have them tell you how your words made them feel. Not only will you get feedback from an actual person who can help you make sure your words are clear and kind, you’ll also feel more comfortable because you’ll have experienced the conversation a few times already.
5. Saying No
Why We’re Afraid of It: It can make us feel like we’re letting people down. For some people (like me), it can trigger FOMO, aka Fear Of Missing Out. Even though we know our to do list is full and we can’t pile on one more thing, we just can’t seem to say no when others ask us to take on another project. However, when we have too much on our plate, all our work suffers.
How to Conquer This Fear: Be honest — they probably have a lot on their plate, too, and will understand. You can also compromise and offer to support them on the project, maybe by providing feedback or sending resources they could use. That way, you’re still involved, but it won’t be adding something new to your task list.
Now you’re ready to go forth and face your fears! Well, some of them, at least. 😉