Testing Out the Accuracy of a Fear That May Be Holding You Back from Goal Achievement

Face FearsHow are you doing on accomplishing the goal you set for yourself earlier this month? If you have achieved the goal, a big congratulations to you!

  • Which of the strategies worked best for you?
  • What resources did you call on to support goal achievement?
  • What obstacles did you face and overcome to achieve your goal?
  • What did you learn about yourself as you accomplished your goal?
  • How will you assure yourself that you will stay strong with this goal?

If you are experiencing challenges in accomplishing the goal you set earlier this month, consider the following questions, which call for deep personal introspection:

  • What are you doing that is keeping you from accomplishing your goal? Be specific.
  • What are you not doing, that if you did do, would support movement toward your goal? Be specific.
  • What are you worried about that is keeping you from accomplishing your goal? You may not have even realized it was a worry, until you gave it some deep thought.
  • What are you learning about yourself as you identify your greatest fears related to not accomplishing your goal?
  • How are you feeling about yourself as you move toward overcoming your fear?

Here is a concrete example:

Let’s say that you really want to become more coach-like in your coaching conversations with teachers. You plan to talk much less and listen much more as each teacher describes his/her goals and articulates actions to take and checkpoints to measure success. You feel that this is a very solid plan to increase the thinking and actions of teachers, which you deeply desire to happen.

Yet – when the conversations begin, you feel yourself wanting to tell the teachers what you think they need to do. And, before you know it, you are the one talking most of the time and the teacher is listening and taking notes. While you know that you are breaking your own agreement on how to be and what to do when meeting with the teachers, you feel compelled to tell, in fear that without your telling teachers, your school may not get the results that are expected by you and district leadership.

What to do? How might you test out your fear to see if it is accurate? In other words, is that fear holding you or are you holding that fear? And, if you are the holder, how might you go about releasing the fear? What data are you willing to collect in order to determine the accuracy of your fear? How might you follow through with the goal you set and collect data to see ways in which your actions really do bring about the results you desire?

Here is the SMART test that Kegan and Lahey (Immunity to Change, 2009) offer in testing out the accuracy of fearful assumptions:

  1. Safe and Modest. Perhaps you decide to work on this goal with at least five of your teachers, rather than 25 teachers. You select three high-performing teachers and two teachers that are experiencing some challenges in their performance. You plan to follow through with the goal you have set where you listen much more and talk much less during the conversation. Prior to beginning the conference, you have identified three to five open-ended questions you plan to ask the teachers. At least one of the questions addresses how the teacher’s goals align with the overall goals of the school.
  2. Actionable. Your plan seems doable rather than overwhelming since you are focused on a real and important area. You have selected one behavior to test out (listening more – talking less) instead of multiple behaviors.
  3. Research-based. You will take a research stance and gather data about yourself as you test out your fear assumption. Your data gathering will focus on what happens when you act against the fear that seems to keep you from doing what you deeply desire to do. You plan to chart student results and engagement aligned to teachers who were given a larger voice during the conversations. You will also gather data on how teachers describe the effectiveness of conversations when they are given more time to think and speak about goal acquisition.
  4. Test. You remind yourself that you are simply testing out your fear assumption to gather data and see what you learn. It’s a data-collection stance.

Want to work more on the challenge of change? Join us for one of our upcoming seminars or contact us to come to your district or place of work.

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Vicky Dearing, PCC, M. Ed.

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