What Are You Really Afraid Of?

Change in our organizations is inevitable, especially if you’re growing. It can also be very uncomfortable, and often change has a friend who tags along… That friend is fear.

I was confronted with an interesting question the other day. What are you really afraid of when change is on your doorstep, and fear is standing there with it? Is it the change you’re most afraid of… or do you fear loss more?

Here’s a real-world example. My kids will graduate this year and leave for college at the end of the summer. Looking at the calendar, time is ticking away at an uncontrollable pace, sparking some fear in me. I am scared of the change associated with them leaving, but I know it’s time to launch the rockets we’ve built for the last eighteen years.

Let’s frame that up with the question above. Is it the change you fear most, or do you fear loss more?

Through that lens, the answer is simple. I am afraid of the loss.

Now, apply this to change within your business and the fears that come along with change in that environment. Often, if we are going to be honest, the fear we’re experiencing during change is tied to releasing old patterns and habits. How often is change pushed down by “we’ve always done it this way” thinking? It happens all of the time. We like things the way they are and we hate the idea that we’ll lose the comfortable ways we do things.

Sure, there are times when the fear of change is tied to risk. Hiring a new team member or leaning into offering a new product or service will create some fear. Making bold moves always will. At the same time, taking that one level deeper, some of that fear is tied back to stepping out of what we know and losing the confidence that lives in the comfort zone.

On some level, the fear is still tied to what we are about to lose.

So, what do you do with the fear? Jessica Klaustermeier framed this up perfectly for me a few years back. Fear can ride in the car, but only in the backseat. It doesn’t get to touch the steering wheel, the accelerator, the brakes, or the radio. It can be a passenger but don’t ever give it control.


Name your fear, and if it’s tied to something you’re about to lose, mourn it. At the same time, don’t give that fear the power to control you or dictate your direction. Wrestle with it, but keep it far away from the steering wheel, the accelerator, the brakes… and especially, the radio.

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