Fear can be debilitating. There are people with phobias that are anything but trivial, and there is help to be had.
But for most of us, phobia is not an issue. Instead, we wrestle with the more petty versions of fear that can dog us all. An emotional state becomes an existential bogeyman, ready to devour if you don't stay far away.
Listen to people -- or yourself -- talk and you'll hear fear of failing, fear of succeeding, fear of looking bad or foolish, fear of talking to people, fear of ... you name it.
Sometimes fear is born of bad previous experiences. There may be some basis, like fear of falling, which can hurt or do worse, or fear of a hot stove because you don't want to be burned. Other times, it is the product of too much thinking and unnecessary worry, like being afraid of telephoning a business prospect. But in all these cases, fear is a product of the mind.
Because fear is a mental process, making directed use of you mind can help you overcome the blocks and start achieving what you want. You're dealing with the outsized reaction to a balance of the reward that you want and the risk that something you fear will prevent success. Here are ten questions to ask yourself when fear comes on strong.
IS IT REALLY FEAR?
People ascribe many things to fear, but I've noticed that often what seems to be operating is something else. Maybe the person doesn't want to put in the necessary effort to achieve an end or they've heard their reluctance be called fear by some "expert" and so assume it must be. That isn't to dismiss actual fears, but be sure you're truthful with yourself.
FEAR OF WHAT?
To simply say "I'm afraid" is to make a general statement which doesn't help you solve the problem. Until you know what you are actually afraid of, you can't address it. Say you're reluctant to call a prospect for your business. Are you afraid of not getting through? Of being rejected? Of sounding foolish? Of wasting your time? Of not making money you badly need? The more specific you can be, the more you can direct your efforts.
ARE YOU HEADED TOWARDS WHAT YOU FEAR?
Don't let a generalized fear make you assume that you're treading on thin ice. Are you really headed toward that particular fear, or is what you're doing right not actually involved with the fear's subject? Back to the point about calling prospects. Until you're ready to pick up the phone, you can't directly confront the fear, so why give into it while you're putting together your prospecting list and looking up phone numbers? Don't let a specific fear prey on you when you're doing other things, which gives it more power.
WHAT'S THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN?
Everyone has felt fear and knows what it's like. However, not everyone thinks through what the real ramifications might be. If you're afraid of making a public speech, for example, what exactly do you picture as the bad outcome? Will you look foolish or uninteresting to someone you've never met before and likely will never talk to again? Could a mistake cost a small fortune? Understand the real consequences so your assessment of the risk has context.
HOW LONG WILL THE CONSEQUENCES LAST?
In line with the previous question, a problem or embarrassment that lasts a short time isn't the same as one that haunts you for weeks, months, or years. Will your friends remind you from time to time about your attempt at standup comedy (in which case, do you really want to hang out with them?) or is this something that will land in court, make the front pages of newspapers, and become part of your obituary? Different scales of problems shouldn't be seen as equal.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE REWARDS?
So far we've been talking about the risk side of the risk/reward fear equation. Now comes the reward. Is this a life-long dream? A chance to take your business to a new level of operation? An opportunity to find the love of your life? The more important the potential result, the less grip fear may have.
IS THIS REALLY A ONE SHOT CHANCE?
If this is your only chance for a specific outcome, fear may again lose its grip because it becomes a case of now or never. If there will realistically be many other opportunities, then you can consider whether you're as ready as you'll ever be, in which case might as well give it a shot. If you're truly ill prepared, then perhaps taking time to ready yourself would actually be wise.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO LESSEN THE RISK?
Because fear is the exaggerated and ungoverned reaction to the balance of risk and reward, think whether there is something you can do to lessen the risk. Back to the prospecting example for a moment, finding people whose circumstances would seem to make them likely candidates for what you offer is a way of lessening the risk of being rejected.
ARE YOU AS READY AS YOU CAN BE?
Consider all the preparation you've undertaken to do what you wish. If you really are ready, then remember that and let fear have less of a grip.
ARE YOU FEELING EXCITEMENT?
If you are truly ready, then what you feel may be more akin to the adrenalin rush that athletes get before competition, or that many performers have when they step onto the stage. It may be a little scary, but it's so much more as well. Enjoy -- and good luck.