Lean into Fear and Discomfort, to Move Past Them

A colleague recently described to me a specific self-defense concept from the martial arts form Akido.  Here’s the scenario:  an unexpected attacker grabs you from behind by wrapping his arms around your chest to restrain you.  For most of us, our instinct is to pull forward, to get as far away from the attacker as possible, as soon as possible.  But pulling forward only tightens the attacker’s hold, like a knot tightening when you pull a rope.  Instead, the better (akido-principled) reaction is to lean back into the attacker.  This can create some space for you, and will catch the attacker off guard, creating an opportunity for you to break free.  The lesson here is that the most effective course of action may be counter-intuitive.

If you’re not ready to sign up for self-defense classes, here’s how you might apply this lesson in your day job.  Identify something that feels  ”scary” – or uncomfortable- for you, and consider how to lean into that discomfort.  You may find that doing so will create some unexpected space, some new opportunities. Here are three examples:

I struggle to find time to step back and think strategically about my division, but I’m afraid to stop trying- I’m supposed to be a strategic thinker, right?

If day to day operations pull you into reactive mode whenever you attempt to do some strategic thinking, then stop trying to wear both hats at the same time.  Instead of being pulled in both directions continuously, give yourself permission to completely let go of the long-term priorities, guilt-free.  Be more deliberate and focused about how you handle the operational demands. Work through the most important and immediate tactical action items.  Only after you have a sense of accomplishment – after you have cleared the decks a bit – come back to the long-term thinking, and carve out some quality time.

I don’t have enough clients; I’m scared I won’t make my revenue goals.

Instead of marketing and selling more aggressively, have you tried giving away some of your value?  I’ve personally found that the best way to demonstrate my potential value to a prospective client is to give them a true sample.  Whether it’s an exploratory coaching session or even some simple tools and problem-solving help, nothing helps them understand – and begin to connect with – my value more effectively.  So try giving away what you are supposed to sell.

I’m afraid I’m not always getting the respect and authority I deserve and need as a manager.

One of my clients struggled with this challenge.  She feared that when she’d assert her authority or be direct with her staff, she might trigger push back that she could not manage.  She was often hesitant to delegate work.   However, after we worked on building up her confidence to delegate a new assignment, she reported back to me that the employee was absolutely fine with the new responsibility.  My client discovered that she could not wait for others to demonstrate their respect; instead, she needed to rely on her own self-respect, assert herself, and risk employee push-back, in order to gain their respect and be a leader.

I hope you can extrapolate from these examples.  If you feel trapped by something that seems scary, pulling away from it may only make things worse.  Try leaning into that discomfort.  I’d love to hear what you notice.