This is a continuation from last week that focused on the roots of dread: fear of failure, uncertainty and risk, imposter syndrome, and financial pressures. This week we will look at strategies to overcome and manage this complex emotion. Did you do the stretch outlined in Part 1? It was to observe feelings of dread and explore its roots. Let’s keep building.
Overcoming dread requires a combination of curiosity and desire to make a change. Resiliency is helpful but not necessary to succeed in getting the upper hand.
Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity
Instead of fearing failure, look at it as a chance to learn. Not easy if you are a careful and thorough man like me who likes to have all the answers in advance! I’m scared to get it wrong. What I do after an event is take a moment to analyze the mistake, identify the lesson, and use that knowledge or insight to improve future decisions and strategies. The guiding question I use at this moment is What can I learn from this?
Break Tasks into Manageable Chunks
Dread can feel overwhelming and beyond the obvious advice of ‘break in down into small steps’ you’ll want to add a visualization. Ask yourself before starting the task: How do I want to feel when the task is completed?
Imagine how you’ll feel upon its completion. For this strategy to work it MUST be paired with an emotion/feeling such as fulfilled, proud, or energetic. For this to work it needs to be anchored in the body and felt. Examples are buzzing in the stomach, body feels light, excitement, etc.
It’s okay to feel dread, it’s going to show up in your life. You can’t get rid of it completely; however, you can craft a new relationship with it that leaves you feeling lighter and energized. It is about harnessing dread into an insight.
Moving past the contemporary Hallmark-esque be kind to yourself advice that falls short, we need something more advanced to help us feel better. My brand of self-compassion is to sit-observe-feel an intense emotion such as sadness, fear, or shame. In the moment of dread, allow yourself to feel it by breathing through it and ask why I am feeling dread? Then name two emotions that go with it. This is a lot more effective than saying I’ll do better next time! This kind of emotional engagement is self-compassion.
We underestimate how important celebration is and it tends to be one of our weakest spots. Didn’t you love it when you played youth soccer and heard your mom or dad hollering from the sidelines as they cheered you on?
I invite you to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. Recognizing your good work can boost morale and help you stay motivated during challenging times – just like your childhood days on the soccer field.
Where do we go from here?
Update your perspective that dread is going to be around and develop a new relationship with it. Use curiosity and self-compassion to let yourself feel dread which makes space for you to develop self-knowledge.
Last week’s stretch was to observe dread. How did it go? What observations did you make? Did one of the roots ring true?
This week reflect on this list of ways to overcome dread. Pick one that jumped out at you and make a commitment to use one of them to change your relationship with dread. The emphasis is on observation not action and to feel not think.
If dread is costing you something in your career, family, or health that you feel powerless to change, then please consider hiring a coach you connect with or talk with me about executive life coaching.