June 30, 2007

Overcoming Fear (Part 4): Letting Go of Fear

3...2...1. The band begins playing. The lights are shining on me, and I finally get lost in the music and the moment. It's almost an out of body experience as I open my mouth and lyrical sounds begin to eminate. Within the first 30 seconds my fear subsides, and I become a performer once more. Al looks at me and smiles.

Music has a wonderfully cathartic effect on me, and certainly helped me overcome my fear of failure. Depending on your interests you may find that there are specific triggers that help allay your fears. I have a friend who finds that brushing his teeth calms him. Okay, whatever works. However, we don't need any external stimuli to overcome our fears. Assuming you've worked on understanding and acknowledging your fear, all you need is a little mental focus, and you can let go of the fear.

Once you've accepted your fear as we discussed in Part 3, you're ready to let the fear go. Here's how:

  1. Focus on the Fear - Concentrate your mental energy on the part of your body where you feel the fear the strongest. Focus on giving that feeling all of the space and energy that it needs to live, breath, and grow...yes grow! Imagine your body expanding and try take some deep breaths to help the expansion.
  2. Showin' the Love - No, I'm not making reference to anything Barry White would sing about. Keep your attention on the most intense part of the feeling and focus on the "eye of the storm." If it helps, imagine that you're giving this target a big bear hug. The point is to break down any resistance we have to the fear. Keep this laser focus on the fear until you feel it break down and finally let go of you.

So you're probably thinking that this sounds like weird, "new-agey" stuff. Yep, I thought so, too, until I gave it a shot. It was amazing. You may find that your fear resolves completely. Then again, it may act like that attention-starved child and try to get your attention in a different way. Just keep repeating this process until you can think of the specific fearful situation that started it all, and maintain a sense of peace. Once this happens, you've reached your goal. Congratulations!

The brave man is not he who feels no fear,
For that were stupid and irrational;
But he, whose noble soul its fear subdues,
And bravely dares the danger nature shrinks from.
--Joanna Baillie

If you would like to learn more about overcoming your fears or want some help trying out this technique, consider trying a free coaching session.

Did you miss the previous chapters of the story? No worries. Read them now.

June 29, 2007

Overcoming Fear (Part 3): Acknowledgement

So there I was, scared to go on stage with one of the best jazz singers of all time, Al Jarreau. I was afraid I would fall flat on my face, but I chose to ignore the fear that I was feeling. Of course, instead of ignoring my fear, I should have acknowledged my fear. And this is the next step in the fear puzzle.

You may have heard the quote: "What you resist, persists." Well, nothing can be more true, especially when it comes to fear. As I briefly mentioned in Part 2, fear manifests itself in our body in various ways. Unfortunately, if we fail to recognize the fear, the body continues to find ways to let you know that the fear is there. Think of this like a young child that is trying to desperately get your attention. (S)he might start with simply calling your name, but when that doesn't work, they might jump up and down, scream, tug at your clothing and much, much more. Well, your brain will try to do the same thing with fear in order to let you know that it is there. It just wants a little love, that's all.

Fear is an ague, that forsakes and haunts, by fits, those whom it takes; And they'll opine they feel the pain and blows they felt, to-day, again. --Samuel Butler

So guess what happened to me before the concert? Remember, I chose to resist my fear. So my brain decided to try a little harder. You may have already guessed it. I threw up. I've never admitted that before now. There's nothing like a little vomit to make you feel more powerful - or not!

So just how do you acknowledge fear? Here are a few tips:
  1. Locate the Fear - As I said earlier, fear manifests itself in the body in different ways. Use your laser focus to figure out where your particular fear is residing. Common areas where fear manifests itself are the stomach, head, neck and shoulders. However, you may have other trigger areas in your body, so pay particular attention to what feels out-of-sorts for you.

  2. Talk to Your Fear - Okay, I realize this sounds strange, but realistically, you probably already talk to yourself. This is no different. Say to the fear (i.e. yourself) that you know it is there, and you accept it. Remember, it's like a child that wants to be heard, so here's your chance to acknowledge it.

That's it. Like I said before, if only I knew then what I know now. Ah, the beauty of 20/20 hindsight. Stay tuned for the last part of the story...Go to Part 4

June 28, 2007

Overcoming Fear (Part 2): Understanding

I was in the dressing room getting ready for the Al Jarreau benefit concert. I just couldn't shake the fear I had inside of me, and it was beginning to make me sick. I needed to get a hold of myself before walking on stage. I kept asking myself why I was afraid.

This brings me to the first step in overcoming your fears: Understanding. As I wrote in a
blog for America's Brightest Speaking Stars, it is really important for us to comprehend the nature of what we are fearing. There are four key questions to ask yourself:
  1. What thing or circumstance are you fearing? - Try to pinpoint the specific trigger for your fear. In my example, I was fearing the last minute changes that Al had made to the song.
  2. What exactly about that thing or circumstance do you fear? - This question gets to the subconscious reasons behind your fear. You can look at it as the "why" behind the fear. Why was I afraid of a last minute change in the song? The bottom line or "why" was that I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of the potential feeling I would get from failure such as being embarrassed and looking like a fool on stage. This question, while sometimes tricky to answer, is very powerful in helping you overcome your fears.
  3. How does this fear manifest itself physically? When your brain senses danger, it tries to warn you in all sorts of ways. Think about howyou might feel walking down a dark, scary alley all alone. Your heart might beat faster, your hands might start to sweat, or you might feel butterflies in your stomach. Your brain WANTS you to take notice and protect yourself. For me, the fear of failure was manifesting itself in my stomach and head. I started getting a headache and my stomach was doing cartwheels.
  4. How do you currently react to your fears? It is critical to understand your current defense mechanism for your fears. Do you will fear to go away? Do you get overwhelmed by the fear and cower in its presence? Do you ignore the fear altogether? That's what I did. I pretended like I wasn't afraid even though my body was telling me otherwise.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified,terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." --Franklin D. Roosevelt

Once you answer these questions, you are ready to take the next step in conquering your fears. I wish I had know then what I know now. I would have handled things differently, but I took two aspirin and decided to ignore the fear. And so, the story continues...Go to Part 3

June 17, 2007

Overcoming Fear (Part 1): The Way to Personal Power

It was the end of the dress rehearsal, and Al came up to me with a new plan. He said, "Rosemary, I'd like to try something new. I'm going to do a few rifs at the end of the song, and you can just improvise around me. Cool?" The performance was less than an hour away, and he was changing what we had been rehearsing for over a month. No, I did NOT think that was cool at all.

Okay, so let me back up a little bit. I had been chosen to sing a duet with Al Jarreau for an L.A. benefit concert. We were doing a jazzy version of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, which he had recorded for his album with opera great, Kathleen Battle. I was so excited about it, and I had been working SO HARD to make sure that I could keep up with what was probably the world's greatest improvisational singer. I knew he was going to ad lib here and there, but this was more than what I had bargained for at the 11th hour. Honestly, when he said that to me, I felt like throwing up. I had no idea what he would throw at me, and there was no such thing as walking away.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." --Frank Herbert

Oh, if only I knew then what I know now. After this experience, I became fascinated with fear. It can help move mountains or keep us paralyzed with inaction. In the end, nothing significant is accomplished in our lives without facing fear, including building our own personal power. Now why might you want to build your personal power? Your personal power is what drives you to go beyond your limits, to experience more, to live life to the fullest, to be happy. And who doesn't want to be happy? So just how do you overcome your fears?

Well, that’s what we’ll be covering in the next few posts. Check back soon for the continuation of the story…Go to Part 2

June 16, 2007

How Does Your Boss Rank?

June 15, 2007

The 25 Best Careers in 2007 - Is Yours One of Them?

In the spirit of our career change month, I thought I would forward some food for career thought. U.S. News has sifted through trends in the economy and the workplace and has identified 25 professions that will be in growing demand as baby boomers age, the Internet becomes ubiquitous, and Americans seek richer, simpler lives. Also interesting is a section on careers that are overrated. Just click on "Read more" to access the story. For all those in career flux, happy job hunting!

read more digg story

Why Do Employees Leave?

All this talk about career change got me thinking. Why do employees leave their companies in the first place? So I did a little research, and here's what I found.

According to the book How Full Is Your Bucket, the #1 reason that employees leave is that they do not feel appreciated. (This is cited as a Department of Labor statistic as reported in the Lincoln Journal Star; however, I called the Department of Labor and could not find any statistics to support this claim.) To expound on this theory, if co-workers and managers would share more positive energy, statements, etc. about us and our performance, then we would feel happier and more valued (a.k.a your bucket would be more full). To a certain degree, this makes sense. If you can make work a better, more fun and rewarding place to be, then employees wouldn't leave.

Then I happened upon a
blog by "Retention Expert" Greg Smith. He posits that employees leave because of poor people skills within the management team. More specifically, he notes that "employees don't quit their companies, they quit their bosses." Many of us will probably look back on some of our worst bosses, and without a doubt say that they were the primary reason for our leaving. I know I can.

So this begs the question...what if our worst bosses could have learned to provide positive reinforcement and regular accolades in a form that was rewarding to you? Would that have made a difference? Would you have stayed?

I'd like to hear your opinion.

June 11, 2007

Misery or Poverty: Is That the Question?

So often when I talk to clients about what holds them back from pursuing a career of their dreams, it is the perception that they will need to take huge pay cuts. While in the short term this may be true, often times in the long run these people wind up making more money than they could have ever imagined. So how can you make a career change while maintaining a decent level of income? Here are a few tips.
  • Research Before You Make a Move - While the frustration of going to work may seem unbearable, it's important not to make any rash decisions. As I mentioned in my previous blog, take some time to discover what fires you up inside. Don't just take another job, because it's something different. Remember, a new job means that you'll have to work that much harder at proving yourself and your work, even if you don't necessarily love it.
  • Find a Mentor - As you pursue a new career path, you may find it helpful to find a coach or mentor who can help you when times get tough. After all, a career change is a pretty life altering decision that can occasionally get overwhelming.
  • Understand Your Financial Needs - Again, before you make a move, find out how much (or little) you need to live. Of course, you'll need to cover basic things like mortgage/rent, utilities and food, but you should also deeply consider how you can cut the fat from your budget. Sacrificing those daily $4 lattes could bring you faster career satisfaction. At the same time, you should learn what average salaries are for the career(s) you are interested in.
  • Build Your Skills Before You Go - While you are still employed, you can start taking night, weekend or online classes that will be important for your new job. The added benefit is that you will be moving forward and taking action towards your happiness.
  • Network, Network, Network - One of the easiest and most overlooked ways to make a career change is to tell everyone you know (even people you don't know) about your interest in your new field of choice. You never know when you'll meet someone who can help. You could also join or attend meetings for local trade associations in your desired field.
  • When You're Ready, Take Baby Steps - If possible, look at starting your new career as a part time job. As you make more profits with your new career, you can cut back hours with your old employer or quit completely. If part time is not an option, then try to save 3-6 months of income in case of emergencies.

Making a career change can be one of the most rewarding things possible, but make sure not to make the most common career change mistakes. In the next blog, we'll cover great career change books.