There are numerous insights, tools, and exercises that can help people face their fear. Here are three simple yet powerful ways you can get your officers started:
- Show them how to shift their judgment
Much of our fear comes from our judgment of events occurring around us.
Two friends can witness the same event, but they will experience it differently. Their experience of that event comes from their beliefs, their previous experiences, the environment they grew up in, their education, and a host of other factors.
Two people can have the same fear for different reasons.
Several people can witness or experience the same event and have different feelings about it, some judging it as “good” and some judging it “bad.”
Our response to events is driven by feelings, experiences, judgments—and fears—that usually run deeper than the event itself. These might include fear of dying, fear of loss of control, fear of commitment, fear of being able to measure up, and so on.
Whether we realize it or not, we get to choose how we respond to each event that happens.
It’s important to understand that events are value neutral. They just “are.” Our conditioning will influence to a large extent how we respond.
Here’s a simple equation that can change officers’ lives: E + R = O.
E is the Event that occurs, R is our Response to the Event, and O is the Outcome they are getting in their lives.
Your officers can’t change the Event once it’s happened. They can’t change other people; that’s up to the people themselves. It is the officers’ Response to the Event that they can change to get different Outcomes in their lives.
Your officers will change their responses through greater self-awareness: understanding what their responses have been, why they respond as they do, and being very clear about what it is they want out of life.
For example, one officer who attended my classes started improving his self-awareness and examined his life through the lens of E + R = O. He realized he wasn’t getting what he wanted in life. His most obvious and urgent challenge was his weight. When he became more clear about what he wanted, he went to the doctor, changed his diet, started exercising, and lost 35 lbs. The unanticipated benefit was an improved attitude at work, better job performance, and better relationships at home.
- Ask them to make an assessment of their lives
It’s very difficult to understand what we’re not getting in our lives if we don’t understand where we’ve been and what we have now.
In my workshops, I use a very simple exercise to help people get a quick, but impactful, visual depiction of their lives in less than a minute. I’m going to show you right now how to teach that exercise yourself.
Ask your officers to draw a circle with eight segments in it, like a pizza cut in eight slices. Each slice should have a label at the end, on the outside curve of the slice. Have them label the eight sections: health, family and friends, romance, personal growth, fun and recreation, physical environment, business/career, and finances.
Inside each slice, they should create a scale ranging from one at the center point of the pizza to ten at the outer edge.
Then, they simply circle the number that best represents where they are in their life today. For example, if their relationships with their family and friends are great, they circle number nine or ten. If their health is just so-so, they circle number five. If their finances are in the pits, they circle number one.
After they have graded each of the eight categories, reflecting how they think they’re doing in life, they then connect each number they’ve circled to the next with a line, going around the pizza. In this way, each officer is connecting the marks and making a wheel of his or her own life.
If things are really strong in each area of their lives, their marks will all be up in the eight-to-ten range.
Most of us, however, have one or several areas where things just aren’t quite up to par. We’re in debt and doing nothing to fix it. Our eating and sleeping habits are such that we’re unhealthy and frequently sick. We work too much, and don’t take time for fun and recreation. Here, our marks are typically below five.
When there are several categories with low marks, the wheel hardly resembles a circle. Your officers are trying to run their lives on a bumpy tire. They can start to face fear when they get clarity around the things they need to fix and start to put a plan in place.
- Ask them to decide what they want
Determining what we want is one of the most important tools we have. Without a specific goal, destination, or final objective, we’ll find ourselves running aimlessly or stalled out. We will end up somewhere, but it may not be a place we want to be.
Many of us don’t take the time to really decide what we want, partly because of the fear attached to uncertainty or the fear of what others would think about us. The key is getting your officers to ask themselves some basic questions to decide where they might want to go.
- What are my career ambitions in the department?
- Do I need specialized training in order to compete for the job I want?
- What path have other officers who successfully advanced their career followed?
- What kind of lifestyle do I want to have for myself and my family?
- How do I best prepare for this lifestyle on our current family income?
- Do I need to have a second job in order to create the kind of life I want?
- How early should I prepare for retirement?
- At what age and with how many dollars do I want to retire?
- What will I do after retirement?
It may be surprising how much your officers can begin to put their fear in perspective when they start asking themselves specific questions about what they want. Part of dealing with fear is preparation and taking action, showing oneself what’s possible. The first ingredient in taking action is asking questions to know what action to take.
Give them these three powerful tools to try. These tools will start to bring your officers clarity around where they are, what they want, and how to start reining in their fear.
It’s time to change our understanding of fear. Instead of “Failure Expected And Received,” we now must “Face Everything And Recover.” As Helen Keller said, “The best way out is always through.”
As I bring this to a close, there are a couple of things I think your officers should know:
- While it may not always feel like it, there are people who are rooting for them.
- While they may not always believe it, they have amazing things to offer.
- While they may not always be able to admit it, they deserve happiness and fulfillment.
- While it may not be fun to face it, self-awareness and diligence are critical to the process.
Let’s start them moving forward in order to get through. Who knows, maybe you will be part of how officers think about fear and help them improve their lives dramatically.