Self-Leadership: Don’t Let Fear Rule You

We all have fears that we are dealing with on a daily basis. Oftentimes, it doesn’t feel like fear, it feels like dread (which is equally painful). These feelings of fear and dread put our thoughts onto a negative track so that we are slogging through the day just trying to get through it. It may be a meeting that you must prepare and present at, it might be a networking function or going to see your most challenging client. Whatever the situation, the fear and dread that you are feeling is creating a headwind for you to muscle through. So, on top of the stress that the fear of the actual thing is creating, you must also overcome the emotions of the fear. It’s counter-productive, and it is just extra work. 

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”          -Franklin Delano Roosevelt

This quote is exactly the point. If you can ignore the fear and just stay on task, you will be much more capable of dealing with the situation. When you succumb to the fears you are feeling, you must deal with the situation and also overcome the emotions that the fear creates. This makes everything harder. When Mr. Roosevelt said these words, he was dealing with the fate of his entire country hanging in the balance during the Great Depression. People were being fear-mongered into believing that taking money out of banks was a better play that just riding out the storm. 

Now, there is much debate about what was the right course of action and how much of the actions that were taken actually made the depression longer and deeper, but the point of the quote is still dead-on the mark. Most of us aren’t dealing with anything the size of the challenge in front of Mr. Roosevelt, but fear is fear and if we let it, it can simply make things harder. 

3 Tips for Managing Fear

At work and sometimes at home, these little fears become nagging raging issues that can either paralyze us, or at the very least, make it harder to get the task at hand complete. I want to offer a counter approach that will help you. 

1. Instead of allowing the fear to sink in and become dread, try embracing the thing in front of you in a big way. If I am dreading a networking event (because I am naturally introverted), I will instead try to turn it around in my mind to say, “Finally I have a chance to go meet some new and exciting people.” I may read some online blogs and posts about networking so that I can be excited about trying to apply something that I have learned.

2. Next, set some tangible goals about the thing you are afraid of and worrying about. If I have an important meeting or sales presentation, I think through what it would feel like to be driving home feeling like I had just “knocked it out of the park.” Once I can lock on to that feeling, I can back up and say what would have to happen for me to feel like that? What would I have to do for that vision to become reality? 

Once I get #1 and #2 above firmly in my mind, then the third step in over-coming the fear is to…

3. Get busy preparing. “Preparation prevents poor performance.”  So whether it is a sales meeting, or a networking event or anything else for that matter, I prepare hardest for the things I fear the most. Once I have invested time and effort preparing, my fears are usually long gone and no longer important or relevant. I can just go and execute. 

I challenge you to embrace this way of thinking the next time you are dealing with a fear or a feeling of dread. These simple little steps will propel you from being fearful and full of dread to being able to get laser focused on the task at hand so you can accomplish the task well, and with just a little practice, grow to enjoy the challenges in front of you.