Fear is part of being on your growing edge. I’m not certain where this statement comes from. I’d like to take credit for it, but I think someone much wiser than I am said this. Most people consider fear an emotion to be avoided at all costs. Here, it is considered an indication of change and growth. Could that really be? Let’s break this statement down and see if it is true. FEAR Every human, and at least higher forms of all organisms, have felt fear. It is an innate feeling and one that has allowed individuals to survive by moving them away from danger. Fear may not feel good, but it can be positive in that it can keep us away from harm. There are physiological and psychological parts to fear and I’m sure we have all had them. Sometimes they don’t feel attached to anything happening in our lives and at other times they are very specific to the situation. When fear strikes, blood flows to the extremities, the legs and arms, preparing us to flee the dangerous situation. There is a momentary freeze, that cold feeling that flows through the body, while the brain processes the information in front of it, determining what action, flight or fight, is more appropriate. Hormones contribute to the reaction. Thoughts play a huge part in the development of fear and our reactions to it. We play the worst case scenario in our heads and then our hearts begin to pump fast, our faces flush, perspiration begins, mouth dries, eyes widen, looking for the threat that may not be visible. Being on your Growing Edge What if you’ve been at the same job, same route to work, same schedule for the past five or ten years and you’re becoming bored? You think there’s more to life but you are not sure how to find it. Suppose you’re going along your life’s road and this year you are given a promotion to a job which calls for skills you haven’t master, you also get marry, move to a new city, and get elected president of a service organization you’ve been a member of for some years. Now suppose you become aware that you need to hone skills that are unfamiliar to you . You seek out a way to learn those skills. You could read books, observe people you know who have those skills, seek out a mentor or a life or executive coach, use trial and error. But in some way you target what you don’t know and develop a way to learn it all. Hard work ahead, but easier on the fear factor. These are three examples of being on the growing edge. In the first example, growth hasn’t happened for some time. You’ve been comfortably living in the familiar, but after a time, this comfort level leads to dissatisfaction and a need to experience change. This is good. It makes you want to grow. It might lead to developing new work skills or even a new career. Or seeking avocations that make “free” time more exciting. No matter what, your choice is to stay bored, and safe, or take a chance, sometimes many chances, experience some fear, and grow. In example two, you can almost feel the frenzy of the life overextended, overwhelmed with change. It’s being on the growing edge in every area of one’s life. Not too many people will find this enjoyable or even livable. Something would have to give. Fear of change could easily take hold and become the most prominent emotion. Blood pressure rising? I would think so, and temper, too. Stepping too far out on the growing edge can pose great risk of failure and can be just as bad in one’s life as avoiding fear by staying within one’s comfort zone. Example three, how to keep some comfort while moving out, taking risks, experiencing some invigorating fear. Fear of the unknown is keep low and fear of failure is minimized. Recognition that some fear will exist helps keep emotions in check. Fear is part of the growing edge So, yes, fear is part of the growing edge. Just knowing that it is and that those who choose to grow experience fear helps keep it low enough to cope with it. But there are other ways to step into the growing edge, facing the fear but not focusing on it. 1) Often we have assumptions about what it will be like to move into the growing zone that are not based on fact and, indeed, are untrue and frightening. Discover what part is causing you to avoid moving and find out if it is real or just part of your imagination. 2) Re-label emotions. Fear and excitement are so similar that we often confuse the two and moving into the growing edge will have both emotions firing like crazy. Re-label some of the fear excitement and see if that rings true for you. Think how it is to be on a roller coaster. Fear and excitement, right? And you still got on. 3) Focus. You can choose to focus on the fear in starting a new, unfamiliar process, or you can focus on the process itself. The second will get you much closer to your goals. 4) Limit stepping into the growing edge to just one or two areas at a time. Growth takes time, energy, and perseverance. Expecting to make many changes at the same time will increase the need for these as well as the fear that is a part of change. 5) Don’t diminish your accomplishments. I have worked with many people who, once they have accomplished the change, talk as if they have nothing to be proud of. They do, and so do you. It takes courage to face fear of the unknown and of things that can make you cringe, even if they hold you back. So be proud and aware of your accomplishments. Where has the growing edge taken you? What fears have you had to face? Share them with us over the next months by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you. Be well, Dr. M.