Do you know your “threshold?” In human psychology, a threshold is the lowest intensity that causes an effect. We often consider thresholds with respect to fear, e.g., the moment you first begin to feel a slight bit of anxiety. Thresholds also apply to physical pain. Once you begin to notice the lowest intensity that causes an effect, you can quickly shift to avoid triggering a potential cascade of trouble at work, in life, and definitely with a horse.

When a horse is “at” threshold, it begins to show a heightened awareness of a stimulus, including the environment. This can be a danger zone and can easily escalate above threshold to anxiety and panic. Below threshold, a horse is calm and relaxed and shows no fear to a presented stimulus, just curiosity or a neutral response. This is where optimal learning can occur. Humans are similar.

Here’s the conundrum: to grow and succeed in anything, you must stretch your comfort zone. It’s required to advance. And, challenging your comfort zone feels uncomfortable as you build confidence, trust, and ability. That is normal. So, knowing your threshold within your stretch zone (or that of your partner, teammates, colleagues, or horse) is critical. If you push yourself or others too far too fast, you may move beyond threshold and destroy the very confidence and trust you worked so hard to create.

A business of humans working at or above threshold is not stable or sustainable. If you’re experiencing anxiety, you can bet that others who work with you are also feeling it. The great news is that you are in charge. You can fix it. If you begin to feel yourself at threshold or even above, consider what you can do to dial down the intensity. Here are a few options.

1. Pause.
2. Take a step back.
3. Remove or reduce the stimulus (stressor) if possible. For example, stretch the timeline, deliver in part instead of the entire product, perhaps kill the project if it’s not aligning with your goals. This may also mean removing a toxic staff person or bad client.
4. Look at the situation from a fresh perspective to consider new options. What are you assuming? What are you so attached to? Why? How else can you think about the situation? What is the simplest action you can take now that feels good?
5. Use your body awareness to check your decisions. The right decision will give you a sense of relief.
6. Ask for feedback and advice from your team or peer group.
7. Consult an expert and/or bring in reinforcements – subcontractors, vendors or temporary help.

When I’m approaching a fear threshold, I stop everything, back up and then employ a process of inquiry, exploration, and discovery to restore confidence, open options, and gain clarity. This sometimes only takes a minute or two. But if I’ve allowed anxiety to stack, it can take a lot longer to detangle. Once you become aware of your threshold, it becomes much easier to quickly adjust and move forward.

Do what you can to give yourself and others more peace. No one wants to follow an anxious leader. Contact me if you’d like to discuss support!