We all fear how the Covid-19 pandemic will change our lives and the world.
‘What’s going to happen?’ is probably one of the most common and scary questions right now, with the accompanying planning to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and sound. At the same time, we are witnessing and taking part in remarkable acts of ingenuity, community spirit, self-sacrifice and love that would simply never have happened in ‘normal’ times.
People are showing Courageous Leadership in new, challenging and liberating ways. Doctors and nurses who have never been near ICU are hastily retraining and embarking on this new specialism. Pharmaceutical competitors are collaborating to hasten the readiness of testing centres and the availability of a vaccine. We are all exploring new ways of living, working and educating our children that would have been unimaginable a few months ago.
We are living through times that are both terrifying and awe-inspiring.
We all know these two different forms of fear – the shrinking feeling that aims to keep us safe and the bristling energy that seeks to push us forward. The ancient Hebrew language has two words that both translate to fear yet describe these two quite different sensations: pachad and norah.
Pachad refers to the projected or imagined fear of what might happen. Pachad is a future focussed, not always rational fear of what could happen if we follow a certain path. It seeks to contain us, to keep us small and safe, to avoid rejection, failure and hurt. It is the ancient human survival instinct that triggers our fight/flight response.
Pachad is the essential part of our humanity that is being triggered so viscerally by the current Covid-19 pandemic and covered in first of these articles on Courageous Leadership.
Norah is a very different kind of fear. It is the heightened energy we experience when we dare to expand our boundaries and open ourselves more fully, stretching further into what we are capable of. Aware of the risks, we become more fully ourselves and, by example, liberate others to do the same.
In ‘Be Still and Get Going’ Alan Lew describes norah as:
‘the sudden and frightening eruption of a new strength, the feeling that we are possessed of far more energy than we can handle, that our reality is not as bounded as we thought, but frighteningly boundless….. that our life is far more intense than we imagined, that we are far more powerful, and far more vulnerable to loss, than we supposed.’
Norah is both awe-inspiring and nerve-wracking. We glimpse our greater potential and with it our greater vulnerability to loss. We humans can be as afraid of living to our fullest as we are of dying. It can certainly seem easier to live a smaller, safer life than to risk the pain of failing to achieve something remarkable.
It can take an external event to free us from our self-imposed limits, to step forward to occupy a larger space with greater energy than before. We are all being called to expansion right now. Some of us in big, visible,
public ways, and others in small, quiet ways that only we will know about.
This call to expansion can come with resistance, which often takes a common path:
Lack of self-belief – ‘Who am I to take on this role?’
Doubt in our abilities – ‘Someone more experienced or skilled will do this better than me.’
Fear of rejection or losing face – ‘I will look foolish.’ ‘People won’t like me for this.’
Failure to see the uniqueness we bring – ‘someone else is probably already doing or saying this.'
Rationalizing it all away – ‘I’m not doing so badly am I? I’m needed/busy/successful in my regular role.
Following is a passage from Marianne Williamson’s book ‘A Return to Love’ that I find both terrifying and exhilarating. I have shared it with my clients for years and, whether ‘God’ has meaning for you or not, the sentiment has never seemed more pertinent than now.
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’
In this time of fear, when the need for Courageous Leadership in all walks of life is profound:
1. How might the feeling of pachad be holding you back, causing you to play safe?
What conversations are you shying away from?
How are you avoiding changing your contribution to a relationship or situation that needs to evolve?
What is the new idea or opportunity you are drawn to yet hiding from?
2. How would embracing the thrill of norah strengthen your impact and influence in the coming weeks?
If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you liberate yourself to achieve?
What would be the most exhilarating act of expansion for you? What aspect of yourself are you secretly yearning to reveal?
What is your superpower, that you underestimate or undervalue, that we would really benefit from right now?
If you’re wondering, the writing and publishing of these articles is my current act of expansion. It’s amazing how ‘busy’ and ‘not good enough at writing’ I’ve been for years! The present situation has finally caused me to face down my fears, gather my courage and set my thoughts free. Some people will love my articles, some will hate them and many will simply ignore them. But I can’t tell you how much I’m relishing the thrill of norah as I send my writing into the world.
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Photography by Russell Darling