Imagine you are enjoying a leisurely stroll through the forest. The path winds around fragrant rose bushes and wildflowers and cuts through towering oak and maple trees. Your mind is free to wander as it pleases. It uses its imagination and creativity to daydream or think up new ideas. As you follow the winding path around a blind curve, you stumble upon a mountain lion. According to research, there are three potential ways for you to respond to the fear racing through your veins: fight, flight, or freeze. Regardless of your choice, your mind has gone from free and wandering to hyper-focused and attentive. You will choose whichever option your brain has been wired to select, likely without very much thought.
When we allow fear to take over our emotions, we miss out on the other potential opportunities in our periphery.
While the likelihood of running into a mountain lion is low, the lesson can be applied to almost any scenario where fear is present. Perhaps you’re asked to give a big work presentation or represent your company at an upcoming conference. How you handle either request will depend heavily on your relationship with each zone: Comfort Zone, Fear Zone, and Learning Zone. The best way to think of the Fear Zone is like a moat between the Comfort Zone and the Learning Zone. It serves as a deterrent to leaving the Comfort Zone and a barrier to arriving at the Learning Zone.
When an opportunity arises, the best way to face our fear is to swim through it. If we ignore the fear, perhaps by trying to jump over it, we run the risk of getting wet unexpectedly. But if we swim acknowledging its presence and actively make plans to swim through it, we take away fear’s power.
When we try to jump over the Fear Zone, all of our time, energy, and, effort goes into the jump. We see it as our only choice and put a lot of pressure on ourselves to avoid failure. Fear hinders our ability to see anything else besides that one jump.
However, if we lean into our fear and acknowledge its existence, suddenly, everything feels less intimidating. Opportunities and possibilities we hadn’t previously noticed begin to emerge, enhancing our chances of success. This closely aligns with Barbara Frederickson’s Broaden and Build Theory. This theory posits that positive emotions and experiences broaden our lens and allow us to see all of our options. The problem is that when we get stuck in the Fear Zone, we typically need a creative solution to escape. But fear and creativity do not mix.
So, one way to overcome the fear in the Fear Zone is to take a step back into the Comfort Zone and assess. Start by identifying and defining the fear and its root causes. With this information, you’ll have a better chance of developing solutions to help you manage your swim across the Fear Zone moat. The Learning Zone can often feel intimidating, but if you embrace the change it took to get you to the Learning Zone, you’re more likely to overcome your fears the next time they arise.
One way to avoid getting trapped in the Fear Zone is with education. If you’re looking to upscale your business, we can help you take the fear out of the process.