How working on your personal bravery scale can help you better your professional career and raise your workplace game
Professional fear comes in many forms and affects most people at some point in their career, many of us will have had that moment when you wanted to push forward, speak up, make a statement but something held you back. And, that something was fear.
This could be fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of isolation, fear of exposure or simply being fearful that maybe your contribution isn’t of much value, to you, your colleagues or your company.
Accepting this trait is the first step towards being braver in yourself. To then be braver in your career will lead you to be believe in yourself and your abilities.
British wheelchair Paralympian, Carly Tait, holds a silver medal for her discipline in the 2019 paralympics. Still, she admits she has had to work on her own personal bravery scale to believe she could, and would, achieve her goals. It meant stepping outside of her comfort zone and forcing herself to do things that she would rather shy away from.
’If I want it bad enough I’ll do it,’ she said speaking to Be Braver ‘Fear holds a lot of people back and it has for me in a lot of ways but if I procrastinate then it only gets worse. I wanted so badly to achieve a goal and to prove people wrong (and myself) that I was willing to turn my life around to do it.’’
And, she did.
‘’I find with a lot of things that if I think too much of the bigger picture I can let it overwhelm me and so I have to break every goal into tasks, which leads to steps, if I follow these then it becomes a lot more doable’’
Indeed, professional fear is the root cause holding many us back from realising our full potential, achieving personal or professional goals, by maintaining jobs or situations that perpetuate the fear cycle.
This can be damaging to our ability to grow and develop, whether that’s in work or in our personal lives, as challenging and combating fear in both areas of life can benefit the other side of ourselves.
When faced with a situation you find fearful, it can manifest itself in one of three ways:
- Physiological – racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, panic attacks
- Cognitive – I will fail, bad things will happen, I will be lonely/sad/humiliated/look stupid
- Behavioural – the fight or flight response, meaning more likely you will be exhibiting defensive behaviours or protect yourself or simply running away/ignoring/avoiding/finding a bucket of sand to stick your head in!
Whether the physiology triggers the behaviour, or the cognition drives the behavior, matters less – the most important thing is knowing that we can manage and re-programme our thoughts, behaviours and actions to better serve us.
You are not your thoughts, you can control and manage these. As the conductor of what goes on inside that beautiful brain of yours you need to be able to:
• Understand your triggers
• Manage your responses
• Learn how to manage and control your fear
• Use these newfound understandings to build up your bravery scale
We are all born equal. We are all gifted the most advanced and brilliant tool, a brain. This gloriously fantastic organ is as trainable as the muscles it controls, yet far too few of us have the knowledge or skills to know how to manage it.
Understand how to update your brain
Imagine a scenario where your phone or computer has received no software updates. You are running old apps, you can’t integrate with the latest programmes others are using, the functionality stops working, your battery starts running low.
The environment in which your phone operates has changed, the world around you has changed. Solutions you used to find so useful are no longer fit for purpose. The potential your phone once offered you is gradually depleted as its performance dwindles, as does its ability to serve the purpose it was created for.
Now, think of your brain as a phone or a computer. One that you have been unconsciously programming from birth. Your experiences are what programmes your brain to think and behave in certain ways as it stores up memories, learnings and experiences.
These create a bank of automatic responses, behaviours and thoughts which in trigger response to particular environments and situations. Your brain acts like an organic Siri, triggered in the same way you would activate an app for a specific purpose, the only difference is that you aren’t consciously aware of this happening in the same way when you are when you activate (or try to) an app.
Fortunately, the no software update scenario is irrelevant as we do all get software updates for our phones and computers. A lot of the hard work goes on seamlessly behind the scenes (not by enough female developers I might add) so we don’t even notice. The technology just improves to best serve our needs without us having to put much effort in. It’s almost unconscious to us in fact.
Our brains however, whilst functionally operating like a computer, exist within our body – and until we start having electrodes and chips and things I don’t understand in our heads (perish the thought) we have to work on retraining, reprogramming and improving the way our minds work ourselves. Just as we strengthen the muscle in our body, we need to strength our brains.
The world around us changes, the environment does, our circumstances do, relationships, our experiences, jobs, society…but the thought patterns and deeply coded learnings don’t necessarily get updated. We can operate from deeply unhelpful responses to triggers.
Progress never stops, so we need to be on our ‘A’ game now more than ever to keep pace and be the most up to date brave and fearless version of ourselves we can be. No-one wants to be running on an old operating system, one that they rely on daily to perform and succeed.
To keep your brain running at its best, requires conscious appraisal of its operating system to ensure it is fit for purpose today and in the future (and defining what that is if we don’t know). Within that, is an exploration and appreciation of where fear is holding us back with the knowledge we have the tools and ability to manage it.
How to face your fears to be braver
Can facing your fears trigger the change you need to up your bravery scale? Can you simply face your fear, step in to the unknown and it will all come good? Be positive about it, think I can become a world-famous philosopher or artist and it will happen. No. It is a step by step plan that will strengthen you with each positive move.
Change can be hard, achieving seemingly impossible goals isn’t a walk in the park, and being the best version of yourself is a life-long commitment. With the right thoughts, behaviours and responses you can learn to be braver than you are today and achieve things you may have never dared to dream.
The pillars for change
To embrace and push forward with change you need a plan and a support system to get you there.
Clarity, Confidence and Courage are the pillars which will underpin your ability to overcome, persist and achieve.
These pillars will enable you Be Braver and to build on the bravery you have already achieved in your life – for we all have in our own way.
Clarity will give you the cognitive thought process you need. Clarity about your purpose, vision and values will be your core drivers to helping keep you motivated, resilient, strong and purposeful in the bold and new actions you will need to take.
Confidence will come from appraisal of your expertise, skills and knowledge. Programming a growth mindset and evaluating your resilience will strengthen your resolve to face situations and bring about change with the knowledge you are equipped to handle it. Shedding unhelpful thought processes and beliefs that have help you back and reprogramming with up to date believe that better serve your purpose.
Courage will give you the capacity to change your behaviour and experience a strongly beating heart as excitement not nerves or fear.
Understanding your fear
From an exploration and appreciation of the risks and fears, or anxiety you face, a realisation comes that the greatest risk of all, is to be driven and guided by fear.
From listening to fear and then understand what it is that is making us fearful, we can often find the bold action that we need to take in order to reach our goal, ambition or realise a change we see. Courage takes energy, and needs excitement which can be derived from clarity and purpose.
Not everyone of us needs a high achieving goal in life, to be a world-class athletes, an award-winning household name, but realising your full potential is as important to everyone. It is a progressive plan for life, or it should be. We may focus on our professional life but this is just as important in our personal life.
Being honest with yourself about what you really want to do with this one chance at life that we all get, is the first step towards change that really matters.
Everyone of us is an ordinary person, capable of extra ordinary things – things you might not yet have dared to even imagined you really could achieve.
There is so much progress we need to make in the world, needing more of us to Be Braver, dream big, be courageous, speak up, speak out, make change. We taught developers to code computers, it’s time we started realizing we can develop our own brains just as well.
I ask you, if you had no fear, if you had the tools in place to achieve or realise more than you have in your life today – what would you do?
Then ask yourself, what’s holding you back from taking the first step to Be Braver?