As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me for the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For February 2022, the quote was “Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you’ll have to do it afraid.”
When folks ask what I do for a living, I often reply with a smile, “I get people to do things with words and pictures.” Technically, I help leaders, managers, and organizations communicate what is changing and why through storytelling, visuals, and data. My work centers on helping people in the change move from awareness and understanding to adoption and advocacy—bringing the change into being. The irony of my work is that I’m what most would call a last adopter. I joke that I give all my change energy to my clients and have none left for me. Truth is though, I love my comfort zone. I relish my habits. I like the safety of routine.
As I started February, my mind swirled with thoughts of change. Some I sought. Some thrust upon me. Throughout this reflective month I collected several phrases over the 28 days of February:
- Embrace the messiness
- Set your goal. Find your grit. Make your pearl.
- You are a blessed piece of spirit dust
- The only way out is through
- Be authentic, bold, and vulnerable
- Let down. Let go. The world will carry you.
- Your wounded sight
- Collide against illusion
- If I can perceive things in a different way, I can experience things in a different way
- At the core, we’re all whole
- Turn to curiosity
- The freshness of living
- This is the God in you, bow to it
- Be aware
- It’s impossible to be unhappy when you’re grateful
- Please take care of yourself at all times
- You and now are a unique occurrence
- Human changemaker
- The energy of thanks
- Get the hell out, no one is coming to save you
- Be known for the excellence that you are
- Move the damn rock
- Wait for the freshness of the beginning to greet you
- Look for reasons to say yes
Here I am on the other side of the month, as well as the other side of change. Were any of the changes monumental? No. As a change specialist, I know it’s the compilation of many small changes that make the difference and are sustainable over time. For me the change was more about how I showed up in order affect the change I want in the world. So, I stepped forward with my fear.
In an effort to help women in the work force tackle their fears and build their leadership skills and executive presence, I created a 6-week master class. Alone, I loved the class I designed and was eager to share it, but fear curbed my momentum. It delayed me from sharing the opportunity with my network. My own inner whisper of doubt gave me pause. Then I saw the phrases “human changemaker” and “turn to curiosity” and realized that if I was hesitant with 25+ years of professional and leadership experience – how might young 25-year-olds feel? How might they be held back? I could help. I quickly emailed an invitation before fear gripped me again and 10 women accepted! We start in March.
In an effort to be more mindful and present in a slew of Teams calls each day, I began meditation the end of 2021 with the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class. It was hard. I didn’t like it. I thought I wasn’t good at it. I didn’t sustain the practice. My resistance to change was strong and prevented me from taking the time to learn something new. I was “should-ing” all over myself. “You should do this daily.” “You should stop complaining.” “You should be able to quiet your mind.” “You should forget about this goal.” Then I saw the phrases, “wait for the freshness of the beginning to greet you” and “embrace the messiness” and I headed back to class to begin again. This time leaving my fear of failure – that I’d never be able to “get it” and sit quietly inside my head – behind. Excited to share, three weeks in, I led my first 10 minute “awareness of breath” meditation to the class and got rave reviews. I took advantage of that boost of confidence before any fear could sneak in and invited several coworkers to a meditation session I’ll lead in March – half accepted! By April, I’ll be a certified mindfulness facilitator in the workplace.
In an effort to build a sense of belonging at work, I’ve focused on how to be a better ally and advocate for DEI&A (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) by reading, getting a mentor, and hosting “brave conversation coffee chats.” When I facilitated a work meeting recently, someone asked the group why use the word belonging rather than employee engagement. I waited and waited and waited for someone to explain. As a facilitator I held back for someone in the room to respond. Silence. Then I realized my heart was pounding in double time. I was going to have to speak up. I could feel my fear. Fear of overstepping. Fear of explaining it wrong. Fear how I’d be perceived. And then I noted the phrase, “If I can perceive things in a different way, I can experience things in a different way” and I spoke up. I shared several of the stories I’d been told that affected how I perceived belonging. “If I belong, I can wear my hair naturally without judgement. If I belong, I can talk about my partner without concern. If I belong, I can speak freely without having to code switch to fit in.” When I stopped, someone said, “oh that makes sense” and then an African American woman confirmed, “What Emily said is true.” If I’d listened to my fear and remained silent, education might not have occurred. Perceptions might not have changed. I would not have been the ally I seek to be.
What I realized this month is that whenever I stepped into the fear there were supporters there to help me. I never had to overcome fear alone. The power of fear is that it keeps us isolated. Moving into fear brings you closer to a community of encouragement.
What’s your next fear-slaying move? Your support team is waiting.