We live in a world of unknowns – Will I get that promotion? Is he going to propose? Are they going to respond to my email with a signed contract? What am I going to make for dinner?
The thing about unknowns is that they can often-times trigger a tricky emotion that can undermine our well being – fear. When our mind enters a fear state our body releases hormones that slow or shut down functions that are not needed for immediate survival, such as the digestive system, and sharpens functions to help us survive, like increasing our heart rate, and blood flow to muscles so we can escape danger faster.
As experiential facilitators with improv experience, we are consciously aware that every time we walk into a conversation or a scene on stage, we risk triggering the fear of the unknown. Are you aware of this reaction in these situations as well? How is the performance review going to be received? What if the client decided to go with another vendor? Is our product development going to be executable?
There is no magic potion to gain courage. It doesn’t come from a wizard or a self help book. Courage comes from feeling the fear and doing it anyway. In improv, we rely on the axiom of Del Close’s “follow the fear”, and prepare ourselves to accept whatever happens next.
We understand that we can’t control other people or their behavior, but we can control how we let their words or actions determine our response. Immediately, the sense of fear reduces (let’s be honest, it never totally goes away), allowing us to enter into those scary or difficult conversations or situations. We can take the next step with less fear because we know we are going to just accept whatever happens and then figure out what action to take.
In the last few weeks, we have acted courageously in ways that surprised ourselves, thus the topic of this story. Allison found the courage to specifically make an “ask” to a new C-suite client, in an effort to build a relationship within their organization now that they have experienced our work.
Allison’s husband, Joel, a “behind the scenes” part of DuMore, and a fine art painter, found the courage to take his work out into the world by painting plein air as a daily commitment to get his work out of the studio and out into the world (it’s working – he sold 3 paintings in a week!).
Jim has been bolstered by a new coaching program that has encouraged him to take steps outside of his “comfort zone” by engaging with colleagues and clients in new ways.
We are finding the courage to move past our fears and see what happens next. As we like to say, the worst they can say is “no” and then we’ll at least know what our obstacles are and begin to find another route to success.
What do you wish you had the courage to accomplish? Go ahead. Ask for the “yes.”