Four Ways to Turn Your Fears into Friends
Fear. False Expectations Appearing Real. Everyone has fears, unless the fear centres in their brain (the amygdala/hypothalamus) have been damaged. Fears can be relatively minor in effect, or massive monsters that paralyse you completely.
Fear is not a bad thing entirely. It is actually a very handy tool for our survival. If we didn’t have a fear of potentially deadly animals, we wouldn’t walk away from them –not so smart. If we didn’t fear accidental deaths, we wouldn’t be as careful as we are now with preserving our lives.
Still, most of us have a problem with fear. When looking at career transition, life transition, or career and business development, there are generally no “real” fears, as in: right here, right now threats that need to be dealt with on the spot. Career/business development and career/life transition fears are mainly thoughts about what could POTENTIALLY happen in the (near) future that is unwanted. Those thoughts then give us “the shakes” and make us feel uncomfortable.
When I decided to give up Law and –therefore- my handsome paychecks, fear took hold of me in a major fashion. I went into a steep downward spiral, thinking about all the bad things that could (and probably would!) happen to me now that I would be jobless. The physical responses to those thoughts are exactly the same as those based on “real” threats. Adrenaline was pumping, heart beat was up, blood pressure was up, body was tense and poised to fight, flight, freeze or faint, etc.
After that episode –I came out well, I am pleased to say- I figured that part of my coaching journey with clients should be to help them eradicate fear, so that they wouldn’t have to go through the experiences I went through. Now, years later, I am not so sure if that approach 1) will work at all, and 2) is the right approach anyway. Although fear is annoying, it has, as I said, its use for sure.
What I have found after studying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Neuro Linguistic Programming for a number of years is that the best way of dealing with fear (at least the fears in business/career development and career/life transition fields) is to change your perspective on it. If you can turn your fears from foes into friends, you will be better off than ridding yourself off them entirely. A change of perspective will lead to the fear not crippling you anymore when you have to face it. It will also still allow the fear to have its teaching/warning role for you to better deal with the situation. See it as a light on the dashboard of your car. If you’re running out of oil, it’s a good thing to have a light come on; otherwise you would wreck your engine and be in more serious troubles.
Four Solutions to Effectively Dealing With Fear
With the above in mind, I would like to share four ways you could interpret your fear, especially when it comes to career and business development, career and business transition and life transition.
1) Realize that fear is showing you that you are not prepared enough or not ready for what you are thinking of, and need to increase your knowledge.
2) See fear as a sign that you are walking the wrong path, so you can choose a better one.
3) Acknowledge the fear as a sign to do something, right now.
4) Take fear as a lesson to develop trust (or faith).
Ad 1) When you are not prepared, the unknown will be a fear factor for sure. In business, not knowing how to deal with finances, emerging markets, sales and marketing, client conflict, cash flow issues, etc will make you feel fearful for sure. The same goes for your personal life. Not planning ahead and eliminating risk/maximizing opportunity will make you stumble into all sorts of quagmires that you will have to deal with on the spot.
Fear in those circumstances can be used as a teacher. If you are fearful, it merely means you need to upskill, or find someone who has more skill to do the job for you. Fear also teaches you to plan, to prepare, and to weigh all your options. The better you prepare; the more backup systems you have; the more resources at your disposal, the less fearful (and therefore more confident) you will be. A bit of fear is actually a good thing, in that respect. It teaches you to stay sharp, and not slack off!
Ad 2) Fear, or unease, is also a powerful indicator of the “rightness” or “wrongness” of the track you are on. For me, that was definitely true when I was a lawyer. Although it got better and better over the years (experience and more skill), there was always a bit of unease in my attitude towards cases –especially new ones. And I can’t remember ever feeling totally confident and assertive when dealing with clients and the contra-parties. Again, short-term, that is not an issue. It keeps you on your toes. In my case, it only got a little bit less; it never left. In other words: my “heart” was not in it.
Fear or other forms of unease can teach you that what you are doing is not what you could and should be doing. Once you are on the right track, you will feel a sense of conviction that far outstrips any fear. There will be a “this is what I am supposed to be doing” feeling, and you will recognize it.
Ad 3) That’s one of the classic positive elements of fear! If you are running out of money, fear will prompt you to DO something about it! If you are facing a bear, crocodile, or other deadly creature, fear makes you RUN! Fear can be a great motivator, and should therefore not be dismissed or got rid of. Fear is an awesome power for good when you are in need. The thing to realize, though, is that fear-motivation only goes so far. Once the “fear factor” has disappeared, you want to have a “pleasure” motivation taking its place to keep you going. Otherwise you run the risk of slowing down, and losing momentum.
Ad 4) Lastly, fear can be an enormous mentor to allow you to grow your trust or faith. Some things you just cannot control. World economies, certain illnesses, people’s reactions or rejections, death, loss, etc. There are events that are (still) unexpected and uncontrollable. Each time you are faced with an uncontrollable or unexpected circumstance, you have a choice: you either tackle it with faith, or you tackle it with fear. I watched my grandfather live at least two years longer than I think he should have, purely because he was terrified of facing “the Lord” upon his death. In his eyes, he had failed in many parts of his life, and he would be held accountable for those failures; that was his idea, anyway. The last two years of his life were a struggle, only to postpone the inevitable. If he had walked this journey in faith, he would have had a better time, and –I think- a more dignified end to his life. Personally, I can’t wait to find out what’s on “the other side”. Not that I will speed up the process, mind you, but I am quite excited about the prospect of exploring new “worlds”!
The same principle goes in business. Global Financial Crises and other monsters of the deep are not controllable. You have a choice here as well: tackle the situation in faith, or stumble into it in fear. I know which one I prefer.
There are many techniques to lessen the effect of fear. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy teaches many of them, as well as Neuro Linguistic Programming, other counseling and coaching modalities. Relaxation techniques are very effective as well. The point of this article is to show you that fear is not a Bad Thing in itself. It is what it is. Fear. What you do with it is up to you. I encourage you to see the Upside of it and turn fear into a friend. The DOWNsides are fairly obvious, and don’t give you effective results. Might as well avoid them.