“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – F. D. Roosevelt
When you consider what fear really is, you find that it is mainly your imagination. Often it is your unconscious imagining the worst possible outcome from a future event. In reality, the worst possible outcome is an unlikely outcome of a multitude of possible outcomes. The French philosopher Montaigne once observed, “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened”.
Most of us fear change, for to change means we must step outside our safe comfort zone. This causes our ego some distress as it perceives that one of its roles is to keep us safe and it cannot do that when it cannot guarantee the outcome of a situation.
It helps if we understand that fear is a sign of growth. It means we have reached a point of uncertainty, a place in our lives where we perceive there is some risk associated with the step we are about to take.
It also helps us to realize that each time we push out of our comfort zone and do something new, it expands and gives us more confidence the next time we come to a new situation. It is only by stepping forward and meeting our fear that we grow in confidence and courage. Courage is like a muscle, it cannot grow unless you face a challenge and then push it. It gets stronger with use.
For example, I was faced with a situation in my 20’s where I was driven to overcome my fear by my very strong ethics. I was married, my husband was a full-time student, we had recently taken out a large loan to purchase our house and I was becoming concerned about the way employees were treated in my work environment. An incident occurred at work and I realized I could no longer work in an environment that was at such odds with my ethics. I resigned without having another job to go to. My colleagues were speechless. Many of them commented that they wished they could do the same as I had just done. I was a little bewildered at why they couldn’t until I realized that the reason was fear. They were frightened about what else they would do.
I had enough money saved to get us through the next six weeks. Fortunately I received another job offer 5 ½ weeks later. The entire experience stretched my comfort zone and gave me the courage to know that I could take a leap of faith and survive.
Several years later I was in the position of deciding whether to remain teaching at a university or leaving and starting my own training organization. I had the courage from my previous experience to know that if I stepped forward that I would survive and so I did… very successfully.
The fear that holds many of us back is the fear of failure. “Failure” as such does not exist. When something does not succeed as you hoped, view it not as failure, but rather as feedback. The next time you take action you will have a greater chance of success because you have already eliminated one thing that did not work. It is usually only through failure that success comes as failure gives you information about what does and does not work (referred to as ‘experience’).
Tips to move from fear to courage:
- The key to overcoming fear is ‘desire’. If your desire is greater than your fear, you will win.
- Generate options and have contingency plans. Ask yourself, “What are the likely outcomes from taking this action?” Then determine what action you would take if these outcomes arose.
- Ask yourself, “What is the worst possible outcome that could happen?” and “What would I do if it did happen?” Knowing this answer helps you to move past the inaction associated with fear and into action.
- See fear for what it really is, dislike of something new.
- Visualize the outcomes you want.
- Understand that the only way to get through fear is to take action.
May you find the courage to move through your fear, expand your comfort zone and grow in ways you cannot begin to imagine until you do.
(Based on an article by Petris Lapis, Director Petris Lapis Pty Ltd, published in ezine articles)