I’m not gonna lie, last week was rough. As I know you are well aware, there was a palpable sense of fear and anxiety everywhere you looked. Even my friends in other countries reached out to say they, too, were watching our elections in the U.S. with fear and anxiety. No matter who you voted for or what country you call home, I believe the U.S. election this year caused ripples of anxiety and fear around the world.
Now that we are (hopefully) on the other side of that period of intense fear, it seems like a good time to talk about how disempowering fear can be.
That’s not to say fear doesn’t have it’s place. If you feel fear, it’s a good time to take a break and figure out what’s going on, what you’re afraid of, what that fear is trying to tell you.
But it is NOT a good time to make decisions .
That’s because fear places you firmly in the camp of scarcity. When you are held in the grips of fear, you are fully embracing the belief that there is not enough — you are not supported, you are not safe, you don’t have what you need. And making decisions from the place of fear and scarcity completely undermines your inherent power.
Think about it for a second.
The only time fear helps you to make good decisions is when your life is actually at stake. If you have a giant lion standing in front of you, your automatic fight, flight or freeze fear response is right on target. Definitely follow that guidance.
But how often are we actually standing face-to-face with a literal lion? Not very often. Despite the lack of actual physical danger typically present in the social change sector, fear abounds.
Fear is everywhere if you think about it.
It bounces liberally around nonprofit and foundation boardrooms, hallways, events, conferences. Here are just a few examples of the fear I’ve heard lately from social change leaders and how to claim your power back from that fear:
“I’m afraid of trying to fundraise during the pandemic”
This fear is really a belief that there is not enough money to solve all of the many problems the pandemic has uncovered. But there is so much money. The U.S. government created trillions of dollars as part of the CARES Act , and billionaires continue to grow their wealth during it. Money is out there — SO much money is out there. Choose to move past your fear of scarcity and start asking for some of it.
“I’m afraid we will have to close our doors”
I fundamentally believe that nonprofits never close their doors because of uncontrollable outside forces (like a pandemic). Rather it is because of a lack of organizational will to adapt, pivot, change — lead forward. So again, fear is your enemy here. Only fear can close your doors.
“I’m afraid of appearing too political by talking to policymakers or influencers”
This is fundamentally a belief in the scarcity of your own agency. There is an erroneous belief in the sector that nonprofits should limit their activity around influencing policy. But there is actually quite a lot that you can do as a nonprofit to influence policies that impact your mission. Again, only fear is in your way.
To move beyond fears like these, first recognize that fear is an emotional response, not a way to make smart decisions. When you feel that fear rising up in yourself, your staff, your board, or your funders, hit the pause button. Take a step back and examine those fears and the scarcity worldview that is likely behind them.
Then choose a different, more empowering path.
Next week I’m going to talk about how you can move from a fear-based, scarcity worldview to the much more powerful abundance worldview. So stay tuned!
And you can read much more about overcoming fear-based, scarcity thinking in my upcoming book, Reinventing Social Change, out February 2021. To get book previews, pre-sale announcements, and other exciting offers related to the book, make sure to join the Social Velocity e-list here (and BONUS! download a free guide on moving your organization from scarcity to abundance).
Photo Credit: Alexandra Gorn