How to Move Past Your Hidden Fears

Today I want to share with you a secret coaching technique – a powerful question that will help you move past your hidden fears.


You see, we all engage in a running dialogue with ourselves about our abilities, goals and perceived limitations. We do it through self-talk, and we do it through the words we use to describe ourselves to others.

Elite athletes use this running dialogue to reinforce the positive things they believe about themselves, but most of us employ words that reinforce our self-doubts and hide what we’re truly afraid of. And the more we hide what we’re truly afraid of, the more stuck and confused we become about where we’re going.

That’s why I’d like to share with you a secret coaching technique that can expose the hidden fears behind your words. This tried and true technique is a question – a powerful question that requires active listening to key words and phrases.

Let’s take a look at how this technique is used in the sample dialogue below:

  • Sharon: “You sound pretty unhappy with your job. What would you rather be doing?”
  • Tom: “Well, I’ve always wanted to start my own business, but I’m no good at sales.”
  • Sharon: “What does ‘no good’ mean to you?”
  • Tom: “It means I’ve never done sales before. I wouldn’t know where to start!”
  • Sharon: “Hmm. Where might you find the information you need?
  • Tom: “Well, I do have a sister-in-law who started her own business a few years ago. Maybe I could start by asking her…”
  • Sharon: “That sounds like a great idea…”

As you can see from this short dialogue, Tom’s fear isn’t about being “no good” at sales; it’s about stepping outside of his comfort zone and trying something new. In other words, his surface fear is about competence, but his hidden fear is about change.

So when Sharon asked Tom, “What does ‘no good’ mean to you?” she exposed Tom’s hidden fear about change and enabled him to move past it in a positive direction.

The scenario described above is fairly typical in coaching conversations, but it’s only typical because of the power of this question, “What does that mean to you?”

So consider asking yourself and others this question more often. You may be surprised by what you discover, and you’ll be better equipped to move past your real fears and embrace the future you’ve been waiting for.

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Photo by Todd Quackenbush.

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