Fear of failing. Fear of succeeding. Doubt, worry and anxiety can take over the best of us when we dither over basic decisions and end up disappointing ourselves and those we care about most.
“What if I try and don’t succeed? I’d rather let others think I have potential than take a chance and fail. On the other hand, I see friends and co-workers with less talent and intelligence than I have getting promoted, getting on with their lives. I know the biggest difference between us is they have the courage to put themselves out there, and I don’t.”
Many people who insist that they haven’t the courage to act have forgotten that they have been tested in other ways: Some have passed tests of physical strength and human endurance; others have overcome mental and emotional challenges, destructive lifestyles, and abusive backgrounds. They have prevailed over circumstance and succeeded. Yet, when faced with the workplace challenge of reaching for more, they step back from the edge and say, with one voice, “I can’t. I’m not ready.”
Parents, friends, co-workers and supervisors, no matter how they try, can’t motivate people who won’t motivate themselves. They can, however, create positive environments that allow, encourage and sometimes demand action from the people least apt to step up.
For example, it takes self-control for enablers to stop “doing for others” so that others can learn to do for themselves. It takes self-restraint for managers to stop insisting that their way is the only way, so that others can stretch and grow by making mistakes and learning from them. It takes self-discipline for supervisors who think fast and act faster to stop long enough to allow others time to learn by doing. It takes self-confidence for leaders with all the answers to stop and ask questions, and challenge others to think independently and creatively.
When we insist on doing the work of others we limit their potential. We create porous cocoons that are neither practical nor protective. We increase the vulnerability of those we seek to protect.
It takes courage to walk away from shelters that well-meaning others provide. Two examples:
- Food, lodging, expense
- , cars and insurance from parents who have an overarching need to protect their offspring from the vagaries of life.
- Inflated performance reviews, even salary increases from bosses who haven’t the fortitude or willingness to give honest appraisals and plans for improvement.
Without realizing the consequences until too late, we needlessly encourage co-dependent relationships, protecting others from the realities of hard work, earning one’s way and failing, because it’s part of living. It takes courage to face adverse conditions that are sometimes inexplicably set in our way. And to keep on keeping on.
The grown child lets go of what’s easy. Parents and employers cut the cord to safe harbor and accompanying comfort that continues to rescue the adult who’s in no danger of drowning.
Of the clients that I see, almost all want one thing above all others: They want to believe that they have a purpose on this planet and can make a difference during the time they’re here.