As a leadership coach, it’s rather ironic how we are often challenged to practice what we preach. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of filling in at the last minute for a breakout speaker at a World Language Educators annual conference. I was very familiar with the location of the hotel, parking etc. I arrived downtown a full 90 minutes before my presentation. The first two parking lots I ventured into were full. It was a beautiful day, so I parked about ½ mile away and walked to my destination.
I got to the hotel, located the area in which the conference registration and tradeshow were taking place. I found a conference attendee who was sitting on a bench by himself. He informed me that the registration desk had closed about 30 minutes ago. Hmm, that wasn’t indicated on the organization’s website, but I figured I’d just go to the breakout room and get mentally ready to deliver my presentation. This same gentleman was kind enough to hand me a catalog of the breakouts and knew exactly where my room was located. I realized it was across the street in the convention center. I thanked him, proceeded up two levels to the skywalk which connected the hotel to the convention center above a very busy street. So far, I’d overcome a barrier regarding parking and another regarding registration. However, I honestly was not prepared for what was about to happen.
I have a fear of heights, I don’t like bridges and I’m a bit claustrophobic. As I approached the skywalk, fear, panic and terror overcame me. I found myself taking baby steps while I was carrying two bulky cases; one containing my laptop, the other my projector, my purse and a bag of stress balls. I kept looking down in order to avoid stepping on the end of the milky glass panels. Because in my head, that was a weak spot and if I stepped on it in the wrong place, I would surely fall to my death.
At this point, the skywalk looked a mile long and I found myself in the middle of a panic attack. Rather ironic that I was carrying stress balls huh? At one point, I thought about turning back and going down to the hotel lobby, walking across the street and getting to my room via an escalator. Instead, I started my own self-talk in my head. Mind you, fear, panic and terror must have been clearly visible on my face as people passing me during my deliberately slow and careful trajectory kept giving me strange looks. To be honest, at the mid-point of the skywalk, I considered dropping to my knees and crawling across. You see, that’s exactly what I did when visiting the Royal Gorge in Colorado, 30 years ago.
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing several phenomenal keynote speakers: Mark Whitacre, Michael Allosso, Kevin Brown, Jim Morris and Brian Biro. Brian is known as the Breakthrough Coach. I remembered some of the points Brian touched on during his keynote and I knew I had to push through. I made it to the other side, started deep breathing and hugged the wall outside my breakout room for about 40 minutes. By the time the session ahead of mine had finished, I’d calmed down.
Here’s the moral of my story. When confronted with a fear-based barrier, the choices we most often consider are:
1. Run from it
2. Consider an alternate approach
3. Confront it and break through
I’m glad I pushed through and I was able to use my story in my presentation. What are you running from? What barrier, if you made the choice to break through, would yield breakthrough results for you? Confronting our fears is tough, but the payoff is stunning!