It’s not really accurate to say you are stressed.
What you really are, is afraid.
Afraid of pain.
Afraid of failure.
Afraid of rejection.
Afraid of uncertainty.
Every stress experience has a fear story hiding in the background.
And by the way, your fear story may or may not have anything to do with what is actually happening around you. That’s why it’s called a story.
When you’re in stress, everything speeds up.
Body and mind react to the fear story in your mind.
And that’s OK. It’s natural.
But it’s not always helpful.
It causes you to seek the nearest available exit.
Something to fix.
Somewhere to run.
Somewhere to hide.
Someone to blame or fight.
Your mind and emotions are hijacked.
In this state, you may choose actions that only make the problem worse.
Or choose not to act at all.
Add to this that stress is contagious.
It spreads quickly within a group or team. Sometimes through an entire organization.
Now we have the cumulative effect of a lot of people acting out of fear stories. In most cases, this is not a good thing.
The solution lies in the simple act of creating and holding space.
It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It takes practice to master this powerful form of impact and influence. Old habits have to be unlearned. Old baggage discarded.
You must practice awareness. This is the skill of noticing, without judgment, that you are in a fear story and a state of stress before you act on the impulse the stress creates.
You must practice mindfulness. This is the skill of creating inner space by focusing on your breath, quieting your mind, and slowing things down so you can see more clearly.
You must practice intention. This is the skill of using that new space to draw from your deeper wisdom and values so that you can choose your response rather than react to the stress.
It may help to begin your learning in lower-stress situations and you can speed up the process by practicing in partnership with a mentor or someone who will give you feedback and encourage your progress.
Once you learn to create space for yourself and respond calmly, decisively, and with the right action, you will exert a powerful influence on those around you.
Like stress, a calm, confident and coherent response is contagious. In a sense, you become the eye of the storm. People will look to you in difficult situations and rely on your ability to resist the emotions and noise of the moment.
In turn, they will direct their energy in ways that lead to more elegant and effective solutions to the crisis, whatever it might be. And despite the temptation to believe this approach might slow things down, the truth is quite the opposite.
This is how you hold space for others. It’s a wonderful gift you can share that garners deep appreciation and respect.
There are many practical skills that will help you to add value as a leader. This one may not be so obvious.
It’s more a way of being than doing. Yet it has the unique value of amplifying all those other doing skills you learned because it creates the mental and emotional space you need to put them to use effectively.
Now you’re also holding space for others to put their wisdom and gifts to work. They, in turn, learn to hold space for others and that’s a lot of new space you just created where all sorts of good things can happen.
Eventually, it spills over into other areas of your life and then their lives and now you just made this world a better place.
Multiplication by subtraction.
“Letting go becomes easier when you see not what you lose, but all that you gain in creating space for something new.” – Renate Vullings