What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid of it? What will it take to eliminate your fear? Those are questions you should ask yourself today, while the year is still new and before you finalize your 2016 plans and resolutions.
Fear of the unknown, of failure and ridicule are common. And, if they’re persistent, they’ll prevent you from meeting your full potential. It’s time to stop and realize most if not all of that fear is in your mind, a product of anticipation. It’s time to confront the fear you carry in your mind and reconcile it with reality.
You have three primary, interconnected areas in your life which are affected by fear and in which you can work to help yourself and others make immediate, positive change.
Your mental wellbeing is directly affected by your physical health, and the manifestation of those combined areas is what you present and offer to your professional colleagues on a daily basis.
The words “fear not” are reportedly listed in the bible 365 times. Even if that factoid is irrelevant to your personal belief system, most all of the world’s spiritual traditions identify fear as a baseless mental phantom, as well as the absence of contentment.
But, even if fear is only in your mind, how do you make it go away? The answer isn’t avoiding or hiding from your fear, because that merely increases its power. It’s the illumination of your fear which causes it to dissipate.
As the philosopher Alan Watts so clearly suggests in this video, the only successful way to address your fears is to do so directly. He uses the metaphors of a ship driving directly into the wave and the ghost that always disappears when you walk straight toward it.
Your physical body reacts to fear for the same reasons dogs growl and cats arch their back. When you perceive danger your heart rate and blood pressure increases and your hypothalamus releases the stress hormone, cortisol.
Cortisol is great for fight or flight responses, for warning and avoiding actual, physical danger. But, when you allow anticipation and largely unfounded fear to dominate your life and you’re not moving those glucose-engorged muscles enough, chemicals like cortisol continually coursing through your system will eventually lead to failing health.
It’s imperative that you take regular walks, get enough sleep and spend a little time outdoors every day to physically counteract the inevitable anxious and fearful situations in life. This short video is a great reminder of what’s important when it comes to taking care of yourself, and it provides simple strategies anyone can use to help deal with anxiety and fear.
Fear kills your creativity as it guarantees a portion of your brain is held back and committed to escaping the source of the fear. Fear is emotionally corrosive and inhibits professional effectiveness and progress.
Back in 1998, Teresa Amabile, Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School wrote How to Kill Creativity, a great article for the Harvard Business Review.
In it she wrote about how fear kills creativity in two common ways; when managers frequently change goals or fail to define them clearly, and when they grant autonomy in name only. The resultant uncertainty fosters fear which kills creativity and its offspring, innovation.
Living Fearlessly With Reality
But, everyone knows executives and managers are forced to deal with scarce resources and the chaos of the marketplace. And, more often than not those realities cause executives to rely on fear as a management tool. It might be unfortunate, but it’s a business reality.
Even though hordes of professionals sell books and seminars dedicated to reforming the workplace to feel less like work, my guess is that 100 years from now there will still be managers who give crappy direction, threaten their colleagues and actually experience more fear than the people they manage. I doubt there’s a lot you or I can do to change that.
What you can do today is change how you react to that sort of management behavior and environment. You can learn to deal with anxiety and fear, while helping those seeking your advice to deal with similar situations.
The secret to a fulfilling career is controlling your reaction to your environment, and that truth is as old as mankind and will outlive any and all HR management theories.
It’s About How You React
In this blog post, “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert echoes what Alan Watts said so long ago about “being present” and confronting your fear:
“…fear is the oldest, deepest and least subtle part of our emotional life, and so therefore it’s boring. It’s dull. It doesn’t have any nuance. So have a little conversation with your fear when it starts to get riled up when you’re trying to do something creative…But don’t try to go to war against it, that’s such a waste of energy. Just converse with it and then move on.”
In the coming year you will be confronted with projects, problems and people who generate fear. It’s the human condition and there’s nothing you can do to make it go away. But, you can control your reaction and response to those fears.
You can practice living your life in this moment rather than in an unrealized moment in the future. You can eat, sleep and live more rationally and walk around outdoors to focus on the natural world for mental balance.
And, you can remember that work is called work for a reason and the world of rewards and consequences will never go away. You can choose to be fearful of that reality or you can choose to “converse with it and then move on.”