What Does Fear Have to Do with Change? Everything.

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how to create change and overcome fear in the workplace


“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

- Nelson Mandela

We all experience fear daily, both in our personal lives and in the workplace. Of course, fear is a part of what makes us human, and in many cases, is what keeps us physically safe. But fear also can stifle the most important drivers of personal growth and workplace innovation. 




In many cases, our workplace fears are anxieties rooted deep in our reptilian brain: fear of making a mistake, of looking incompetent, of losing professional standing, of feeling embarrassed. Naturally, we retreat to “safety,” which in the workplace may mean hiding our true gifts, staying quiet, living with the status quo.


What we lose in the process is irreplaceable.



For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated about what REALLY makes people happy, and several years ago I set out on a personal mission to find out. I have developed an ambitious project - a courage movement called Scare Your Soul - which creates positive change in people’s lives by igniting our innate sense of personal courage.


For me, this is a calling. It is rooted not just as a practitioner of positive psychology, but also as the co-founder of the country’s first “happiness incubator.”


My passion is fueled by my own personal fears and traumas. I grew up as the shortest, quietest, and most painfully shy kid in the neighborhood. I was ignored at school, roughed up by two bullies for years, and could barely work up enough courage to raise my hand in class. Even though I desperately wanted to enjoy life, I felt boxed in by the fear of standing up, being heard, and making myself seen. 


After college, I was headed overseas to teach for a year. While on my flight, I realized that I had an opportunity enter this experience without fear. I finally said, “ENOUGH.”

I wasn’t going to let fear control me anymore.

I committed to say yes to every new opportunity, every day, no matter how uncomfortable or scary it might be. I had the best year of my life.


And I’ve never looked back.



Our passion at Scare Your Soul is inspiring small acts of courage which lead to big changes. How does this play a part in the workplace? Surprisingly, it does, and we’ve worked with organizations to bring people together and out of their comfort zones.


Scare Your Soul developed an employee-courage program for one of Lululemon’s busiest stores in New York City. How did it work?


The Lululemon team members each committed one act of courage per week for a month, focusing on themes of authenticity, speaking their truth, taking action toward dreams/passions. We surveyed participants at the beginning and the end of the program, and the results were significant. For the following responses we saw major improvements:  


  • “My company motivates me to contribute more than what is required”: 6% increase
  • “I am a courageous person”: 16% increase
  • “Accepting new challenges is empowering”: 17% increase
  • “I have control over my fears & anxieties”: 30.65%



The process is based on an incredibly simple concept: identify what you are afraid of, tackle that fear through small manageable acts, share your success with others, and do it all again.


Here are five simple Scare Your Soul tips to help YOU confront change in your work life starting right now:


1) Feel the Fear - when you are growing, you will always continue to feel fear. It’s actually the signal that one is making progress. The key, as Susan Jeffers famously wrote, is to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Don’t expect it to subside, accept it, and push through it. 

2) Break It Down - fears may seem insurmountable, especially if they have been playing in our heads for years. Simply take out a sheet of paper and break down how you could tackle the fear in the smallest steps possible. Bite-sized actions are almost always do-able, and you’ll be making progress.


3) Ask Yourself - when the anxiety of tackling a fear seems too much, ask yourself: what is the WORST THING that could happen? Write it out in exquisite detail. Typically, the worst-case scenario won’t be as bad as you had thought, and the risk of doing it will seem small compared to the upside of conquering it. 

Related: Tim Ferris on "Why you should define your fears instead of your goals"


4) Find a Friend - trying new, boundary-pushing acts is always easier with support. Tell a co-worker what you are doing and gain their buy-in for your success.

5) Do/Share - “Do” means take action; you’ve planned, deconstructed, and received support. Now is the time to take positive action. “Share” is just as important: tell others about your success! When we are courageous enough to tell our story, it seals in the benefit.





Want to implement a big change in your organization's culture? Connect with us to see what workshops would work best for your team to create real change:


Learn More About DH Workshops Here




About the Author

Scott Simon


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