How are you managing fear and uncertainty?

20 09 2011


How are you dealing with fear and uncertainty?

Six Things You Could Do More Often …

  “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which

 you really stop to look fear in the face … Do the thing you think you cannot do.

Eleanor Roosevelt

 Do you understand the impact of fear and uncertainty on the people you work with? Prevailing fear around the global economy alongside so many other unfathomable big-time changes have left people feeling unhinged and in deep question about pretty much everything in their life and work. Fear unchecked and unmanaged, leads to paralysis and a “wait and see” attitude that can erode engagement and productivity even in the best workplaces. 

A recent Gallup Poll on Engagement says that only 12-20% of people are engaged at work. The rest are disengaged, or worse, actively disengaged. What if you could increase engagement and productivity by even 10%? What would that be worth to your bottom line?


  • What tools have you given your people leaders lately to deal with change and uncertainty?
  • Is it time to change the way people communicate and openly honestly discuss the challenges we all face?
  • How can your leaders role model resilience and fortitude?
  • How are you encouraging leaders to deal with the emotional roller coaster of change?


WorkHeart, the Engagement Specialists, would love to provide your leaders with powerful and practical tools to improve overall engagement and ultimately your bottom line.

 How are YOU Managing Fear and Uncertainty? 

Recently I read an article (Macleans Aug 2011) about how Navy Seals manage fear. I realized as I read it that I have been a suck when it comes to managing the fear of change. My inclination, and many people’s, is to take a passive approach to getting through it. If you don’t have a concrete actionable strategy, except to hope for the best, distract yourself from the discomfort, and wait ’til it passes you are not alone. What can you and I learn from Navy Seals?

 1.       Sometimes life is uncomfortable – deal with it. You can’t quit … Sometimes.

Have you ever asked yourself this question – Am I really up for this? Can I handle the not knowing how things are going to turn out? If you were training to be a Navy Seal … which I know you are not, but if you were, you would endure a fair amount of discomfort. It’s called Hell Week.

 Imagine, being naked in the Pacific with stage two hypothermia. Your trainer gets you out of the water and calls you over. You run over shaking uncontrollably and he offers you a cup of hot chocolate. He walks you over by the warm ambulance and says “I know that you don`t need this … ring this bell, I`ll let you drink that hot chocolate, put a blanket around you, and put you in the back of that ambulance.“ You look in the ambulance and see a half dozen other guys in there sipping hot chocolate. You ask yourself, “What am I doing?!“ Then you catch yourself and hand the trainer back the hot chocolate.

 When would you do that? Hand back the proverbial hot chocolate? Do you default too often, to comforting yourself?  Are you bold enough to do the right thing? These are the questions I am asking myself now. Sometimes you shouldn`t take the hot chocolate. What is important enough … what is the bigger stake that compels YOU to stay with the discomfort?

   2.       Fight Your Instincts … Don`t Run and Don`t Hide

Fear makes you want to “fight or flight“ … either way it is about ending the gap, coming to a resolution, forcing an outcome. What are the alternatives? Can you stay with something, endure the uncertainty and move patiently towards what you really want? Do you have the fortitude?

   3.       Stay in This Moment

When asked how a Navy Seal gets through Hell Week, Howard Wasdin, a former Navy Seal on Team Six (the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden), says simply, “You have to look at it as Hell Minute.“ Their focus is getting through the next minute. When you are in a particularly challenging time, saying I just have to get through the next month seems like an eternity, particularly if you are literally freezing and starving and in danger. Fear is pointing you to be present right now … only with that kind of focus can you assess and make choices that serve your real goals. Stress will take you right out of the moment and get in the way of clear thinking.

  4.       Stay Committed to “Your Something Bigger“

The one thing that you know about a Navy Seal is that they won`t quit. How committed are you to your new business, to your fitness goals, to finishing a project or simply to living your life on your terms? Will you stay with it, even when it gets harder than you even imagined it could be? Without passion and vision you cannot endure the challenge.

 5.       Practice Using Fear to Your Advantage

When fear strikes what do you do? Here is something I try to remember about many things … “You don`t rise to the occasion, you sink to your level of practice.“ So how do you know that you will access calm, presence, focus and clarity when you are afraid? You practice. Take time each day to breathe, slow down your heart rate, become centered and grounded. Feel it in your body physically. Don`t let the endgame come into your thinking. When fear kicks in, you have rehearsed extreme presence so many times that the training and muscle memory take over.  NOW, really is the time to begin a meditation practice. The best leaders do.

 6.       Ask Yourself Some Clarifying and Inspiring Questions

Finally … check this video out.  Johnathon Fields has a trailer for a new book called, The Uncertainty Book, coming out in September 2011. He asks three important questions. They have inspired me and moved me to action. Fear and Paralysis don`t need to live together … why not let fear trigger a whole new set of actions and convictions?

 ·         What if I fail and recover?

·         What if I do nothing?

·         What if I succeed?


   Sooo, what are YOU learning? How and what are your people leaders communicating about change and uncertainty? More importantly what are they role modelling?

 *I was saddened to hear that Navy Seals (from Team 6) were recently shot down over Afghanistan. 





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