I am intrigued by the notion of fearlessness. This sense that as individuals, eliminating our fears is desirable and necessary. This idea that to be fearless means we must fight and battle; conquer and defeat. We run full steam ahead as if our fear never existed or as if we never saw it to begin with. Blind courage can come at great peril.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about moving through fear. Countless books have embraced the title, and even my own book, “Leading without Fear” discusses the need to manage this emotion. However, I am a believer in the power of recognizing, understanding and managing fear. What I seek to appreciate is that fear must not be ignored or denied; it must be known and embraced.
I find myself contemplating the sheer blessing our fear provides. Being fearless can be defined as “to be without fear”. What might be useful is to think of fear from the perspective of trust, courage and risk (and our relationship to these aspects of the emotion); recognizing that to be fearless, one must actually come to terms with fear and establish a friendship with fear that looks very different than what we are accustomed.
Fears were designed for protection and defense. They exist and serve a critical purpose in our survival. The key is not the elimination of our fears, but rather the ability to be aware of precisely where our fear is coming from, discern the reality from the risks, embrace fears teaching, and learn from our own personal process of navigating fear.
Our fear is such a gift. It informs us in so many ways. Fear helps us understand what’s important to us, it offers us direction and clarity, and it shines a spotlight on our values. Fear grants us permission to slow down, and it helps us to better understand the threats around us. Fear allows us to be bold, courageous and hopeful.
It also encourages us (sometimes forces us) to bring forward our greatest strengths and rise up with power and pride. Our greatest dilemma with fear is not listening to its messages with our head and heart; not paying attention to the meaning and then acting from our personal resilience.
Befriend your fears. They will move you forward in ways beyond imagination. Listen to them. Manage them. Act on them. They bring forth courage, trust and peace as long as we can partner with them and use them to our greatest advantage.