Have You Ever Felt Fear? My Everyday Acts of Courage

Have you ever felt fear? Many leaders pretend they are incredibly controlled, resilient and confident. The perceived ideal image is for them to show that they do not feel fear.

Want to know the truth?

I have never met anyone who doesn’t face fear.

Every day, I work with clients, teams, associates and leaders who feel fear. Many don’t want to discuss or talk about the fear. Others’ don’t know how to move through the fear. It takes vulnerability to admit and talk about fears.

The biggest fear of all? I don’t know if the actions I take will create the desired results that I want.

I am not alone.

Every single entrepreneur, leader, or executive is afraid of something. That fear is always shown in behaviour and mindset. It is shown by the way they speak to or behave with their teams or the energy they give out at work.

No matter how it is shown, fear is real.

Everyone knows fear affects your life.

Fear affects opportunities, relationships, revenue, motivation, performance, and employee morale.

Fear is formed when the mind focuses on the uncertainty of future outcomes. Confidence comes from awareness of all the facts along with a belief in a positive outcome, no matter the uncertainty present.

The good thing is there’s some research from MIT that shows you exactly how to overcome fear with some interesting research that started with multi-tasking.

Earl Miller is a cognitive specialist and neuroscience professor at MIT. His research found that humans couldn’t focus on more than one thing at a time. Most of the application of his research has focused on our inability to multitask and how to increase brainpower. Yet, when you understand that to feel fear you have to consciously think about it, then you can take the research and apply it to almost any situation. This does not apply to unconscious or instant fear, fear that is an emotion. This research applies to the main type of fear we feel daily, which is conscious fear based on our expectations and perceptions.

Since our brains only can consciously focus on one thing at a time, once you are in the act of doing, your fear fades away. Therefore, taking action reduces conscious fear.

Since fear paralyses, how do you take action? The application of Miller’s research requires a somewhat unique approach to fear. This is why commitment is so important.

Once you commit to something, nothing else matters.

If you want to take action, which will eliminate fear, the only thing you need to do is make a commitment. Why? Commitment means an action is taking place and your brain is focusing on something else besides the fear.

This is true when I first wanted to start my company, I was petrified. I used to think about it like Jumping of a Cliff (now a chapter in my first book Leadership Attitude). The one thing that helped me have the courage to jump off and move through the fear was commitment and action. I am now about to embark on another path and journey with my business and brand and for months I have been resisting it because of fear. I get it. Today there is now nothing stopping me. This is why I love speaking and coaching as I will do anything to help someone achieve what they want and be the best versions of them. I ask them commit and I am committed to them.

Commitment always leads to confidence; it is a cycle. Yes I know. Action creates success and success will create confidence. If you don’t have confidence, take action, and the confidence will come because you will find success because you will not be thinking about fear.

All fear is neutralized when commitment is proven through action. Action breeds confidence. This is how your brain works.

If you need help with commitment and action, let me share some of my favourite tips –

  • Think about where the FEAR comes from – maybe something from childhood? Find out where it comes from and remember you are not that child anymore or that previous experience cannot harm you again.
  • Squash ANTs – if you have Automatic Negative Thoughts, you are the Director of your Brain and get them off the stage.
  • Visualise what you want, write it down, create vision boards and commit to one action per day to make it happen.
  • Practice Mindfulness – if you are feeling anxious and fear about something, sit with it for a moment, breathe and remember not to judge the feelings or thoughts. Fear is an emotion and you can change your emotions.
  • Daily Affirmations (I have plenty on my mirror) – these are powerful and talk to yourself like you would someone you love. Even if it feels fake, you can trick the brain and you will soon start to feel what you are saying.
  • Surround yourself with a tribe – make sure you have amazing people who love and support you and only want the best for you. Tell them about your fears and commitments and ask for help.
  • Don’t die wondering – don’t get to your death bed (sorry for being so morbid) and regret that you didn’t do it. Don’t let the fear stop you from living and life a life you truly want.
  • Just do it and Just Rock It! – yes feel the fear and just do it. And just rock it – and be the best version of you. What is stopping you? Only you are stopping you and you can do it!
  • Call onto Courage as we are all braver and stronger than we give ourselves credit for – see the everyday acts of courage below!

Everyday Acts of Courage and Leadership

There are so many different types and ways to be courageous. My favourite story is one of a young lady who was battling severe anxiety and depression due to bullying at school. She left school at 14 and spent time in and out of hospital for 3 years. One evening it took a lot of courage to come to her mum’s book launch with a room filled with people. She seemed to change that evening which made her mum’s heart sing. On the way home she told her mum she wanted to find the courage to speak at schools around her journey to help others. A few months later her daughter’s dream came true and she spoke in front 300 students. There was not a dry eye in the room. Her courage changed her life and that of others too. That young girl is my daughter.

Here are my everyday acts of courage and leadership to practice and celebrate:

 1. Saying sorry

It takes courage to admit when you are wrong. It’s a bold act to admit when you make a mistake. Saying sorry takes you out of your comfort zone and enhances your relationships. That’s big. Do it!

2. Be yourself and own it.

Don’t imitate anyone. Take off your mask. Allow yourself to become vulnerable. Share your flaws with others. See perfection in your imperfections. Who you are is a gift to the world. Allow yourself to shine.

3. Take responsibility and accountability.

You are where you are in life because of the choices you make. If you don’t like what you see, change it. Reflection and choices are the keys and I often ask myself – I am living and leading a life I truly want? Responsibility brings freedom.

4. Keep your commitments and make goals. 

Write down everything you say you are going to do and want to achieve. Write down the promises you make to others and what you want to achieve in your life. When you keep your promises, you build self-respect. Others respect you as well. 

5. Have a voice and say no.

Speak up. Make a difference. Share your feelings when you witness an injustice. Practice sharing your opinion. Don’t allow someone to take advantage of you. Learn to say, “no.” Refuse to hold back when your gut says to move forward.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” Coco Chanel

6. Let go and forgive.

Stop wallowing over what could have been. Forgive yourself. Forgive everyone. What happened is over unless you keep it alive by reliving it in your mind. When we know better, we do better. It takes courage to move on.

7. Grow and learn.

Learn something new. Step into the unknown. Change the way you do things. It doesn’t matter if you get it the first time. Try again. Give yourself permission to learn. Seize the opportunity. Growth brings new opportunities. 

8. Listen and be present.

Listen to people who disagree with you. Listen to family members who think you are wrong. Listen to the elderly person in the coffee shop. Listen when you only want to speak and give advice. Listen and thank the other person for sharing.

9. Help others.

Help someone who doesn’t help you. Help others when you don’t have the time. Help someone who can’t pay you back. Help someone when you are the one needing help. Learn to be of service. That’s why we’re here.

10. Courage is Love.

Be kind to each other. Be truthful. Accept differences. Spend time together. Act like a loving person. You can love difficult people as well. Forgive them and wish them the best. Let them go with love.

11. Practice gratitude. 

Count your blessings. Tell the people in your life “thank you.” Be grateful for the people you love and for the people who love you. Focus on what you are grateful for.

12. Choose happiness.

Make a decision that you will think happy thoughts, speak kind words, and spend time doing things that bring you joy. Have a good attitude. See the glass half full. Look at the bright side. Expect the best. Choose to focus on what’s good. 

13. Learn from your mistakes.

Reflect on what went wrong and what you could have done better. Look for your lesson. Choose to grow forward. Be compassionate. Make a new plan. Refuse to give up.

14. Embrace the small things. 

Take time to love the small stuff. The taste of a glass of cold water, the different shades of red, a child’s laugh or an elderly person’s worn hands. Enjoy the sunrise and walk in the park. Enjoy…

15. Love Yourself. Accept your imperfections. Be your own best friend. Show yourself compassion, understanding and respect. This is the most courageous act of all.

What are your acts of courage? I would love to know…

Book Sonia today to speak at your next event, conference or workshop!

Sonia McDonald is changing the face of leadership across the globe. She believes we should lead with kindness and courage, from the heart, and is known for her mantra ‘Just Lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her transformational coaching, leadership training programs and cultural transformation for organisations and encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped thousands of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.

Sonia is a founder and CEO of McDonald Inc., LeadershipHQ and Global Outstanding Leadership Awards and Conference. For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of leadership and she is beyond committed to her mission around building a world of great leaders.

She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader. She has been recognised by Richtopia as One of the Top 250 Influential Women across the Globe and Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs. She is also rated as one of the Australia’s motivational keynote speakers.

Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is a leading coach, an award-winning published author of newly released First Comes Courage, Leadership Attitude and Just Rock It! and has become an in-demand motivational keynote speaker on leadership, kindness and courage.

Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, kindness, empathy and courage as well as building outstanding leadership across the Globe.