Fear is good: but don't rely on it!

Fear is a powerful but essential emotion; it keeps us safe by getting the body ready to respond to threats. Fear can also be a strong motivator to strive harder to achieve success. But in a society where ‘FOMO’ is listed as a fear, many things that frighten us don’t have an actual risk of physical harm.

According to Joseph LeDoux’s and his book “The Emotional Brain” our brains are hard-wired to feel first and think second. This means that when it comes to fear, we rely on our feelings rather than facts. When we’re in ‘fear’ mode our brains are flooded with the perception that the risk is greater than it actually is. Our brains become flooded with negativity and we struggle to perceive events more rationally and look at the facts. This explains why fears are often irrational.

What can you do about irrational fears?

Start working on gaining control on what’s holding you back, step by step.

Lots of self-help books talk about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Maybe a better approach is to break down the problem, and start to take small ‘controlled risks’. Otherwise, the enormity of the task can feel overwhelming, and could shut-down attempts to change.

Next, identify the ‘why’ - why are you fearful? This means identifying the principle underlying psychological drivers perpetuating your fears.

Is it fear of:

  • failure
  • embarrassment
  • rejection
  • being judged by others
  • being blamed/held responsible
  • being inadequate/not good enough
  • losing control

Once the underlying drivers of your fears are identified, you’re better placed to work on managing them; counteracting those negative beliefs, keeping you in a fearful place. Don’t resist your fears, acknowledge them. Everyone feels fear. Instead, think about what you can put in place to reduce the likelihood of your negative beliefs being realised.

Sir James Dyson, the inventor, talks about feeling a failure in an interview. He reported that when he was building the first prototype, there were 5126 failures before he created one that worked. The message here is about resilience and re-framing what failure means. You may not be successful on the first, second or tenth attempt, but it doesn’t mean it’s game-over. Try again.

Fear stops us from reaching our full potential, paralysing our development. We become afraid to change; afraid to try. By pushing past our comfort zone, we push beyond the thresholds of what we can achieve.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear” - Jack Canefield.

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