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From Fear to Compassion: Wisdom from the Dalai Lama


Your work as a leader is stressful, with too much on your plate. This constant stress causes you to experience a never-ending fear of failure. Sound familiar?

It’s a terrible way to live and the situation is impacting your health. Cortisol is pouring into your system, causing poor decisions, increasing blood sugar levels, disrupting sleep. The list of negative physical effects goes on and on.

Yet researchers have found that it’s not the fear alone that can create this outcome; it’s how you react to it. Your immediate thought may be to shove your fear aside and just keep going. The Dalai Lama suggests that you might consider a less direct way to manage your stress and underlying fear.

The Dalai Lama was forced from his home in Tibet and his life away from his home hasn’t been easy. Yet he is known as one of the most joyful people alive. Sure, he is a lifelong meditator, but that doesn’t make fear go away. In The Book of Joy (with his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu), the Dalai Lama discusses how he manages his own fears.

When he experiences stress or fear, he thinks about others in similar situations. This helps him to connect to something bigger than himself. He seeks to see himself as interconnected and interdependent to those who may also be suffering. Compassion for himself and others follows.

If you want to do something about your stress and fear, and you don’t know where to turn, consider that others around you may be feeling the same way. Turn to them and:

Be vulnerable. Being a leader doesn’t make you infallible. The willingness to express what you’re feeling in a stressed-out world is a way to connect to others who are feeling the same way and will deepen your relationships.  

Share your experience. Share what you’re experiencing from the heart, and ask others to share their experiences too. See if you can sense that you aren’t alone. This will help you to feel compassion for yourself as well as for those around you. This may be the beginning of your collective ability to help each other.

Draw people together. Ask “How can we help each other to feel less stress and fear?” knowing that the stress will not go away but that you are in this together. You will find ways to work together that will help your “community” to alleviate your collective fear.

Pushing fear away will not eliminate it. Consider how you might connect to others to create compassion together to see you through the stress and fear you’re experiencing.

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