16 September 2016

Why we need to make peace
with fear.

The role fear plays in our lives depends on the power we give it and how we manage it. Fear can paralyse us into inaction. It can also lead us to make rash and ill-informed decisions. But between these two extremes, fear can be an emotion that leads us to constructive and positive action. We all have the power to turn fear into a positive.

Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” To understand fear, it’s important to acknowledge the role it plays in determining the choices we make in our lives, at work and at home.

Fear alerts us to physical and psychological threats. To live without fear is to be unprepared for the dangers around us. We don’t like feeling fearful, but it’s essential to keeping us safe.

However, we can’t succumb to fear, we should never become prisoners of our fears. When we let that happen, our response is to either shut down and withdraw from action, or dive headlong without thought to what might be causing us to feel fear.

When fear shuts us down, we resort to behaviours like procrastination as a means of avoiding an issue or situation. Sometimes the fear is clearly defined, like when we don’t want to speak in public, or it can be vague, but we still feel a sense of unease that holds us back from acting positively and productively.

The flip side of the coin is when we ignore the signs of fear and thrust ourselves forward, maybe making choices we have not properly thought through, or hastily acting upon a situation because we feel any action is better than none at all.

Go too far one way, where we are cowed by our fears, and we lose out on massive opportunities. Go too far the other way, where we blindly pursue action without thought, and we risk making massive mistakes. Somewhere in between is the path of understanding and mastery, where fear becomes an ally.

By developing our emotional intelligence and self-awareness, we can learn to observe and diagnose fear and find the best way to deal with it. We develop an attitude that treats fear with healthy respect and as an emotion that can guide our actions.

The constant change and turmoil of the business world today brings with it many threats and challenges. Intense competition, technological innovations and an unpredictable global economy all play a part in tapping into the psyche of many employees, making them fearful about their future. CEOs and managers need to temper and channel such fears into positive and purposeful action.

To be able to achieve something we firstly have to believe we can. But sometimes simply believing in ourselves, in our capabilities, is not enough. Fear plays a role. That’s when we have to be surrounded by people who believe in us too. In belief there is power; power to strive, to take action and achieve. If we believe, we see the opportunities and those opportunities become realities.

When we learn to master fear we turn it into a powerful guiding light that illuminates the path before us rather than a blinding one that robs us of the ability to see what lays ahead and navigate the path.

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