As entrepreneurs, we're always on the clock, squeezing more work into fewer days with no paid time off. But this this time of year can be especially stressful, as December deadlines and decisions mingle with the tension of holiday travel, family gatherings and last-minute shopping.
All that stress, studies show, can make us more likely to operate from a place of fear. And fear, according to research, can hamper workplace performance, creativity and morale.
In short: Tension creates fear, fear creates tension, and both kill productivity. It's a vicious cycle.
But when you're caught up in it, here's a mindfulness tool I've developed to find your way out: Use your internal GPS.
Let's give it a try. Think of something you're afraid of. Missing a deadline? Botching a presentation? Not making payroll? Firing an employee? Losing a client?
Here's where your GPS comes in to conquer your fear and fuel your productivity.
First, thank the fear. I know that's probably the last thing you feel like doing. But fear always shows up to protect us from something. It has our best interest at heart.
By thanking the fear, you acknowledge it and work with it, rather than letting it work against you and keep you stuck.
What are you afraid to feel in this case? Rejected? Criticized? Ostracized? Devalued? Disappointed? Figure out what your fear is protecting you from feeling, and then throw it some gratitude for looking out for you.
This might look something like: "Hey, fear, I can see where you're protecting me from feeling embarrassed if I panic and forget what I'm saying during next month's keynote. Thank you for being there to keep me safe from humiliation."
That's it. That's the first step. Thank your fear and bring it's protection mechanism to the surface.
Pinpoint the exact location in your body where the fear is showing up.
Researchers have found that emotions like fear actually do manifest as physical symptoms. Is your fear showing up as a racing heart? Shallow breathing? Shoulder tightness? An upset stomach?
By pinpointing the physical location of your fear, you're taking your racing mind out of the equation and grounding the emotion in your body. This shifts you out of overwhelm and into a calmer, more present place from which to make rational decisions.
And when you're focusing on a physical sensation, rather than getting caught up in a mental trigger, you're activating your prefrontal cortex. That's the part of the brain responsible for productivity enhancers like learning, memory, emotional regulation and decision making.
When you find where the fear is hanging out in your body, zoom your awareness right into the spot of tightness or tension. And simply hold space for it.
Allowing, rather than resisting that physical sensation brings us to the final phase of this fear-busting tool:
Now that you've thanked your fear for protecting you and felt where it's showing up in your body, it's time to take action in the form of one small manageable step.
How do you know which step to take? Look back at what your fear is protecting you from.
Let's say it's fear of humiliation if you botch that keynote. Since fear causes inaction, you're likely putting off preparing the speech.
So hold that fear of humiliation, feel the sour stomach/shoulder tension/lump in your throat, and use it as fuel to take action in the form of working on one power point slide. Or coming up with an opening anecdote. Or visiting the venue where you'll be speaking. Pick just one manageable step that will reduce the likelihood that you'll be humiliated.
Fear contracts. Action expands.
By bringing your fear out into the open, you're inviting it to work with you to move forward, rather than against you to remain stagnant.
So the next time you feel afraid, remember your internal GPS: Thank your fear for protecting you, feel where it's showing up in your body, and choose one manageable action step to move you forward.
Then, watch fear take a back seat to success.