During a CEO Advisory Board meeting in which I was in attendance, our facilitator asked the group, “Why are we so afraid of fear?” It took us all aback, especially since many of us are charge-ahead, jump-without-a-parachute kind of thinkers and risk takers. However, it was a profound question that deserved an answer, because every time we hesitate to take action or make a decision, could it be an element of fear that is causing this delayed reaction? Do we recognize it as fear? And most important, when is it or is it ever justifiable?
While our group was discussing this whole aspect of being afraid of fear, I found myself dissecting FEAR, the word, in my doodling on my note pad. This is what flowed out of me in a few seconds of scribbling.
F = Fiction & Fantasy: Our imaginations can propel us into a wonderment of possibilities in exciting, as well as debilitating ways. When your fear is causing you to imagine all the worst things that could happen to the point of stopping you in your tracks, you are allowing fiction and fantasy to write a disabling story, instead of an empowering one you could just as easily manifest. The real question is: What are you really afraid of? Finding reasons or excuses is a means of justifying and staying safe.
• What could be the best possible outcome?
• What would you like to see be the end result?
• What assumptions are you making that are based from your over-active imagination focusing on the negative?
E = Endurance plus Effort: It is never easy to venture into unknown territory, either in your thinking, your work, or your relationships for that matter. When we are faced with a situation that is challenging, it is because we don’t know what to expect or don’t have all the answers. This can be a scary thing. But it doesn’t have to stop you. Instead of being worried or concerned about your ability to endure the challenges, or viewing it as too much work or hassle, embrace each challenge with the idea that it is an opportunity to learn, grow and then ultimately know more than you did before. Through making the effort, what seems insurmountable evolves into something doable.
• Are you thinking more than feeling, resulting in over analysis?
• What do you need to learn or know that would help it be less challenging?
• Who could you turn to for perspective and insight?
A = All-or-Nothing Acceptance: When you care deeply about what you are doing, you also may fall into the trap of caring deeply about what everyone else thinks about what you are doing. The fear of someone disapproving of you or disagreeing with you as a result of something you are planning to do is a fear that places everyone else’s opinion and desires over your own. This aspect of fear has stopped many people from pursuing what they wanted to be doing because of what other people might think.
• Is someone’s acceptance more important than what you passionately believe?
• Are you assuming disapproval or do you know for sure?
• How can you support others to gain more acceptance?
R = Rejection or Ridicule: Acceptance is one thing, and then downright rejection and ridicule are another. When you are venturing into truly virgin or unknown territory with something new or different in your thinking, actions or activities, a fear of being outcast can stop some people from even voicing an idea or perspective. What you have to decide is how important what you want to do or believe you need to do is to your own sense of yourself and the well being for others. Oftentimes it is that lone thinker and doer that finds many others following, grateful that someone was willing to stand up and speak up.
• Is the fact that you don’t know of anyone who has thought in the way you are thinking what is really scaring you?
• Is someone who would ridicule you or reject your ideas really someone worth involving or including?
Whether it is a courageous conversation you need to have with someone, an important decision that needs to be made, or an aggressive step forward into the unknown of an opportunity, replace your fear and hesitation with impassioned and inspired action towards what you ultimately desire. Then FEAR doesn’t stand a chance.