HR & Management

We should accept and understand what frightens us in order to achieve goals

5 min read

25 August 2016

There is a current theory that we are all driven by fear, either a fear of success or failure. I’m not certain that it’s quite as clear cut as that, however I do know that fear plays a key role in the way we think about people, things and challenges.

Our thinking really can impact the way we act, and it can hold us back. On the other hand we can choose to acknowledge our fear and then carry on doing whatever it was that made us scared. If we can find a way to accept our fears and take them with us, regarding them as a minor hindrance (like having a mild cold), our fears will not be able to stop us in our tracks. 

Sometimes fear can feel utterly paralysing, so much so that we feel we can have no control over the situation. Yet it is almost always the case that we have the opportunity to control just a little bit of the predicament we find ourselves in, however small. And at the very least we can choose to take control over whether we are overcome by fear or not. We might even use procrastination to mask that fear. But once we acknowledge that procrastination is the result of our brains requiring new information in order to proceed, we are in an ideal position to master our fears. Encouraging our brains to think in a calm way, rather than in emergency “fight or flight’ mode, reduces the way fear controls our decisions.

There is no need for us to be fearful of fear itself, for it is a very natural and often necessary response; a reaction that is designed to help us to survive. Fear is simply the result of our brains processing their very natural “safe/not safe” assessment and reaching a “not safe” conclusion. A warning to us to proceed with caution, or maybe that we need remove ourselves from the scenario PDQ. Whether we are crossing a busy road, launching a new strategy, boarding a train late at night, in a café when someone we perceive to be a bit “dangerous” walks in, or starting a company, fear is a natural response because it warns you that your brain is at the boundary of what you think you’re capable of. 

Understanding what triggers your fears and how you react to them helps you stay more focused on your end goal when you do become fearful. Knowing and accepting what makes you frightened, and how you are likely to respond to being scared, means you can incorporate these fears in your journey. Yes, our fears may seem at times like unwelcome, uncomfortable and uninvited guests, but how much better to see them in this familiar way than being so frightened of them that we run away from our goals. 

Ask yourself – what is it that makes you fearful? If you find that you are more scared of the consequence of something happening, rather than the thing itself, think deeply about why this outcome concerns you so much. What strategies could you deploy to at least mitigate the effects of this outcome? 

Breaking the nature of your fears down into component parts can help you to understand them and then to face them down. For example, when giving a presentation your fear can be more about the audience’s reaction than the actual delivery of the presentation. In this scenario, you can’t control how the audience will react. However, you have control over your delivery, the information you deliver, how you deliver it, the way you look, whether or not you smile, and how much preparation you did. The more you considered all those elements, the more control you gained over it. This will lend to greater composure and will have upped your chances of success.

Remember once you have faced, acknowledged and taken steps to diminish the fear a little, you’ll be in a much stronger place to “face it down”. And once you have shown it who’s the boss there’s very little standing in your way! 

Written by Kate Tojeiro the author of “The Art of Possible – new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action”. Priced £16.99 hardback and £8.99 Kindle and eBook. 

Image: Shutterstock

With the UK being criticised for not embracing the American culture of failure, we’ve rounded up key cases of individuals with superhuman tenacity as a reminder to never back down.