Three Sirens of Fear

Dear Friends,
Our guest contributor this month is Braden Daniels. Braden has over twenty years of experience in business leadership, training, and coaching, with clients that include global brands such as General Mills, Lowe’s, Live Nation, Petco, and Petsmart. He engages, empowers, and transforms leaders across industries through his thought-provoking keynotes, mentorship programs and workshops.

Three Sirens of Fear
In Greek mythology, a siren’s enchanting ballad would lure sailors toward their peril by crashing their boats into the rocks, or by compelling them to leap into the ocean. Symbolically, these three sirens seem to represent temptation, desire, and risk. In modern times we recognize the sound of a siren to indicate a warning sign of potential danger.

The Siren of Temptation – Procrastination
The siren of temptation sings the verses of procrastination. It is the habit of putting off or delaying tasks. The growing temptation to do other things when one should be working on something more important. The habitual conditioning of procrastination dulls one’s concentration, attention, and focus, making one vulnerable and easily caught up in distractions. This is when we find ourselves most enchanted by the lyrics of temptation, isolating us and steering us closer and closer to the jagged coastline.

In order to prevent the slow-moving and mischievous melodies of procrastination from entering your mind, one must first recognize that procrastination is the manifestation of fear inside the body. Our body’s mechanism for handling fear, which causes stress, is to delay or put aside what is causing the fear stirred inside us. The delay can be extreme, and often triggers us to build a sense of deadline, with the hope being that it triggers adrenaline, which in theory allows us to power through it. The downside being that adrenaline can lead to increased anxiety and worry. 

If what we are working on is important but not urgent, we often do not build up enough energy to surmount the procrastination, which tends to pull us away from ever finishing it. This happens to us when we have projects we can’t seem to start or finish. In cases such as this, procrastination seems infinite.  
Here are a few strategies to block the siren song of procrastination:

  • Write down what is making you fearful. What exactly are you afraid of? Include any anger and resentments related to the work. 
  • Acknowledge the realness of the fear, and let it humble you. This humility will stimulate creative breakthroughs.
  • Set a timer for ten minutes, and just do one small task related to the project.
  • Set up deadlines related to work that have no deadlines already, and keep them.
  • Build procrastination periods into your daily activities, schedule shorter periods of times to work on your project, and give yourself a small reward for achieving some small progress.

Procrastination is best friends with distraction. Be mindful of what has your attention throughout the day. Attention is an act of magic. Ideally, our daily activities should be a reflection of our central focus, and our magic goals should be part of that. Stay off social media, e-mail, podcasts, audiobooks, and TV for set periods of time when you are getting work done.  
The Siren of Desire – Perfectionism
The siren of desire sings the verses of perfectionism. Perfectionism is the habit of holding an unachievable personal standard, attitude, or philosophy which demands perfection and rejects anything less. The never ending desire to make things “better” often serves to block our most creative instincts. While perfectionism seems useful at first, it can block our ability to see the power and the promise in the work we’ve done.

Desire wants perfection from everyone around us, and in everything we do. Perfectionism deceptively masks itself as a blanket of protection, when it keeps us isolated from the judgements of others by consuming us with our self-criticisms. 

Here are a few strategies to block the siren song of perfectionism:

  • Recognize that perfectionism is a heuristic loop, often both obsessive and compulsive.
  • Recognize that the desire to do better can block our ability to see the productive work we’ve completed. Take an inventory of your completed works and reflect on the process it took to get there.
  • Produce work by letting it flow from you unfiltered, and do the editing later.
  • Perfectionism often shows up as an extremely myopic focus. Step back and gain perspective on the greater progress you’ve made, then enter your work refreshed and relieved.
  • Ask yourself, “What would I start (or finish) if I wasn’t afraid of having to be ‘perfect’ at it?”
  • Remember that “perfect” only exists in our minds.  

The Siren of Risk – Self-criticism

The siren of risk sings the verses of self-criticism. It is a disempowering habit of expressing adverse, disapproving comments, or judgments against oneself. Risk comes to us as the voice inside our head that wants to make us feel afraid, that putting our ideas out there is risky, that other people are bound to judge us, and that they will realize we aren’t perfect. Our inner critic must be dealt with head-on because it intends to attack our credibility, so that we never take a risk. The inner critic is the voice of our self-doubt waging war on our confidence and assurances.

As we grow, our inner critic grows, and the more we fight through it, the more it comes back again. There is no end to its criticisms. For every act of creation, our inner critic wants to balance it out with an equal amount of destruction. This increasing imbalance in our minds between security and insecurity is where our inner critic gains its power. 

Here are some strategies to help you gain back your security:

  • Identify the critic. Ask yourself, “who is this critic?” Is it truly you, or is it someone else?
  • Describe this critic so you know exactly what the critic looks like when it decides to show up.
  • Seek and acknowledge the truth in any underlying points your critic is making. See if you can address those points. For example, if your critic tells you that you don’t have enough experience, and it may be true, ask what you can do to gain the experience.
  • Seek and acknowledge the false in any underlying points your critic is making. If your inner critic says you don’t have enough experience, go back and review the experience that you do have in this area to regain your confidence.
  • Create a ritual and sacred space to work freely. Push your critic out of this space, make it very clear that they aren’t allowed to enter here.  

The myth of the sirens reminds us that there are three sirens of fear to be wary of, and that we should not listen to them sing. Fear impacts our overall ability to be free and to create. Listening to the sirens calls forth procrastination, perfectionism, and our inner critic, which leads to the destruction of our ideas and the ruin of our magical productivity.

Braden Daniels

Comments are closed.