Trust Over Fear
Personal Insights from an Executive Coach
A month ago I left my job; I wanted more. I was working with good people and I was growing, but a part of me was in denial; I was not being true to myself. I could not always distinguish between my own desires and the expectations of others. When I really looked at those expectations, however, I realised that they were just beliefs I had cooked up in my head, they were not real, but had somehow masqueraded as integral parts of my identity. The decision to leave my job and set up my own coaching practice has been just one of several decisions I have made over the last few years towards living a more authentic life.
I have not made this journey alone. I have had the help of a coach and I have also gone in search of wisdom in less conventional places. Several months ago I went on a shamanic retreat in Peru to help clarify where I was holding myself back and what direction I could take.
In Western society we are often encouraged knowingly or unknowingly to cling on, to control, to persevere and, ultimately, to resist. The quality of a clenched fist comes to mind. But if we were to listen, really listen to ourselves, we would realise that we are resisting a far more powerful force and that is the essence of who we already are. Who we are and what we value is already there, it is as core to us as our jugular vein. It doesn’t need to be ‘thought up’ or ‘found’. We shouldn’t have to ‘remind’ ourselves of what is important to us, because every time we do not honour our values there is a visceral reaction. We can become moody, disinterested, tired, upset. Wherever there is a lack of resonance, there is a core value being trampled on or ignored. When things aren’t going our way our natural tendency is to resist further, dig in the heels and this self-perpetuates the misery.
By way of example, a core value of mine is courage. That is not to say that I am courageous, but only that I hugely value courage in myself and in others. I know this because when I have an opportunity to show courage and I do not, I find it difficult to live with myself for days afterward. To live by our values is to live a fulfilled life. However, we do not choose our core values and we cannot negotiate with them; at times they can make our lives more challenging.
How liberating is it to realise that instead of having to ‘work it out’, we have an inbuilt compass in the form of our value set? Whenever we feel resonance and fulfillment we are on track, when we don’t, we are not. As the Shaman on the retreat explained, the most important thing we can do is ‘abide in our hearts’. We need to unclench the fist and be open and receptive to ourselves and fall back into our own being.
I say ‘fall’, because that is the sensation that I am feeling at the moment. I feel I am in a state of free fall, after years of living in my head, controlling, analyzing and ultimately resisting, I am now in the unfamiliar yet deeply resonant path of following my heart. My heart has been like an eager puppy dog, waiting patiently, loyally and selflessly by my side, yet I have not had the courage or the self-compassion to take it for a walk and play with it. I’ve been too scared of what that might reveal about myself, the gap between where I am and where I could be and the fear of disappointment.
Now I am choosing trust over fear, choosing to be pulled by what might fulfill me, rather than be pushed by my fear. And yes, it is a choice. To choose to follow your truth every day takes courage, but it spreads like contagion to those around you. Our truth is our unique way of being that differentiates us from every other human being, and when we submit to it we are at our most powerful.
There has been much said about the importance of trust in leadership. But before we can lead others we must first be able to understand and trust ourselves and to really explore the depths of our fears and dreams and evolve from our experiences with both. How strange is it that I cannot think of a time when my heart has let me down, yet I have found it so difficult to trust it and put myself completely in its hands?
Now that I have made another important leap, I have no idea where things are going to lead. Yes, I have more uncertainty, and I have a great deal of self-doubt, but my life is full of energy, fun and purpose. As the shaman in Peru explained, we are all so averse to uncertainty but consider for a moment what a life of certainty would be like. If one knew the outcome, one wouldn’t strive for anything or dedicate oneself to anything, life as we know it, wouldn’t be worth living. The not knowing must be embraced, it gives us reason to hope and grow and build a life that without our efforts would not exist.
What life are you choosing at the moment? How can you abide more in your heart?
Hamish is a 2011 NexGen South Africa Emzingo alumnus from IE Business School. Having had a varied and international career working across a number of different sectors, he is now transitioning to starting his own coaching practice. Visit his website to learn more.