What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? It’s the question that ultimately spurred Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg into writing her best selling book Lean In starting a national dialogue about the role of women in the workplace. I love this question and have found myself coming back to it again and again.

I frequently ask this question of the individuals I coach and mentor.

Recently, I had the pleasure of coaching a woman, let’s call her Eleanor, who while successful by her own admission, had not achieved as much as she had hoped during the nearly two decades at her company. After much in introspection and feedback from colleagues and friends, Eleanor realized her shyness coupled with her lack of confidence in her abilities was holding her back.

We reconnected a few weeks ago and she was a changed person. She told me she had committed to working on her executive presence and acting like a senior leader. She was working on everything from her body language to how she spoke up in meetings. But she didn’t stop there.

She had accepted a high-visiblity project to position her for the promotion that had eluded her for the last three years. She told me even though she felt the project was a stretch for her, she wanted the challenge and knew she needed to get out of her comfort zone.

She signed up for events that forced her to speak to large crowds in public. And even though she “felt like throwing up” every time (her words!), she was learning how to push aside her fear to pursue her passions.

I was inspired by Eleanor’s story.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Travel the world?

Quit your job and start a business?

Learn how to swim?

Maybe you would just have the courage to be yourself.

I’d like to think that it’s not just about being unafraid but being able to recognize that fear and act in spite of it. So go on, ask yourself what you would you do if you weren’t afraid.

Then go on and do it anyway.

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