Take a moment and think back to the last big event in your life. It might have been leading an important presentation, sharing big ideas on a conference stage, running a workshop, or holding space for a vision-setting planning session. It might have been making a toast at a wedding, or celebrating a milestone birthday.
For me, the anticipation and preparation for a big event involves the dual emotions of fear and excitement. They seem to feed into each other. I recently ran a four-day women’s leadership retreat and I could feel the familiar swirl:
- Will my co-leader and I disagree on the programming?
- What if nobody shows up?
- What if I get distracted and forget what to say?
- Will everyone laugh at what I present? Will it be a massive waste of time for them?
- What will go wrong with the logistics (weather/food/lodging)?
And at the same time, I could feel the excitement and sense of possibility:
- I love speaking, talking and teaching. This energizes me.
- I can’t wait to meet and learn from the other leaders attending. They are so cool!
- I’m thrilled to spend time away from the day-to-day and in an outdoor setting.
- It’s exciting to see what will unfold.
- There’s magic in the serendipity of bringing a like-minded group of people together in person.
All these emotions are present. All these thoughts run through our ruminating monkey-minds. We can let all these emotions be present, and simultaneously reframe them to aid our leadership.
Here are four strategies to help shift fear into excitement.
1. Recognize that emotions are in our control
Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett is a neuroscientist and researcher who studies emotions. Her research argues that emotions aren’t simply something that happens to us, but a way for the brain to process the world, and tell you how to feel. In her 18 minute TED talk she explains:
“Emotions are guesses. They are guesses that your brain constructs in the moment where billions of brain cells are working…