The Many Faces of Fear
Do you feel stressed? Are you worried about how the sluggish economy is impacting your business? Are you anxious about your results this quarter? Feeling tense about your burn rate? Concerned about how little time you spend with the family? We use words like stressed, anxious, worried and concerned daily to express how we are feeling, but what are we really saying? Most of the time, they are simply clever, disguised words for describing one thing…FEAR. Fear of failure, fear of poverty, fear of rejection or fear of loss. We are scared half to death, and too scared to admit it to anyone, least of all ourselves!
Fight or Flight
So, is FEAR a good thing or a bad thing? It’s supposed to be a GOOD thing, a core essential emotion that is critical to our survival. It is designed to keep us safe, away from danger. When we lived in caves and bears wandered nearby, our fear instantly kicked in to action to prepare us for a very real and tangible danger. This automatic response is a complex set of biochemical reactions designed to help us fight the danger or flee from it. Think about a time when you almost caused a car accident. You instantly broke out into a cold sweat, your heart raced your fists clenched and the blood drained from your face, not to mention the surge of adrenaline that shot through your body. That is your body’s reaction to real, legitimate fear.
So what`s the problem? Unfortunately, your body doesn’t know the difference between a REAL danger and a FALSE PERCEIVED danger. When you walk into a board meeting, are about to pick up an angry call from your biggest customer or on your way to fire one of your team members, you feel fear. Your body sends the danger signal and kicks all of these physiological responses into play. But wait, you are NOT ACTUALLY in any physical danger!!! There are no bears or tigers at your door for you to fight or run from! No danger actually exists. The severity of the response is not appropriate. It is overkill!
This type of fear is completely useless. It doesn’t help or serve you in any way. In fact in this situation it actually hinders and impedes your ability to think rationally and problem solve appropriately. When we are flooded with emotions our rational, logical thinking is turned off, which is not very helpful.
I need to make payroll, I hope we don’t lose another big deal this month, I have to get to that meeting on time, I hope my wife or husband doesn’t kill me for coming home late for dinner tonight, (insert your most common internal fear here).
We are chronically immersed in an unrelenting state of fear from the moment we awake to the moment our heads hit our pillows at night. We are perpetually jacked up on adrenaline in a fight or flight state throughout the majority of our days, weeks and months. No wonder we burn out, crash, feel ungrounded and become difficult to deal with. Chronic fear is extremely unhealthy as our bodies weren’t designed to operate in this state for more than a few minutes; until we escaped or were eaten!
So, what can you do differently? Here are 3 important changes you can make to reduce the impact of fear:
- Identify your fear. When you are feeling worried, nervous, stressed, anxious, be honest with yourself and identify what you are afraid will or won’t happen. Is it fear of failure? Rejection? Making a mistake? Name your fear; bring the monster out into the light where it can be seen.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway. When you are feeling afraid, ground yourself, take a deep breath and just do it. The fear won’t go away until after you,ve faced it and gone through it.
- Stay in the present. Most of the time we worry that what happened in the past will happen again in the future, which is NOT NECESSARILY TRUE! Or we make ourselves crazy with “what if” thoughts of the future. What if my business fails? Yeah, so what. You’ll survive. The past is history, leave it there, the future doesn’t exist, it’s all a fantasy and story you’ve made up in your head. Take action in the here and now. It’s the only thing that matters and that is real. The future will unfold and you will handle it just as you have handled everything else that has come up in your life up until this point.
When in doubt, always remember F.E.A.R. = F everything and RUN!!!