Fear Happens: It’s How You Handle it that Counts.

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Your past successes aren’t what make you afraid.

Each time something doesn’t happen according to how you planned it, your mind registers it as failure. And since most of us hate to fail, we start to fear it.

And that fear can paralyze us.

We’re all just one project-gone-bad away from never taking another risk for the rest of our lives out of fear that we won’t succeed. Or that we’ll look foolish. Or lose a lot of money. Or hurt ourselves.

When we were kids and learning to ride a bike, we’d fall, get hurt, and try again. As we “matured” we learned to take fewer risks and to protect ourselves. How do we learn to grow young again? Here are 9 ways regain a healthy dose of risk taking:

1. Consider the worse thing that could happen to you if you try and fail.  Sure, if it’s climbing Mt. Everest, people die and that’s bad. But most of the things we fear don’t cause death. You won’t die if your boss turns down your request for a raise, or if the cutie on the next treadmill over declines your request to go grab coffee.  But a little part of you dies each time you play it safe instead of going for it.

2. What can you do to minimize the risks you face? Smarter planning creates smarter decisions, leading to a greater chance of success.  Just don’t mistake planning for avoiding taking action.

3. How can you reframe past “failures” so your subconscious understands them better? Some (including me) would argue that there is no failure, just an opportunity to learn. If you can reframe your past “mistakes” in this way, you’ll be that much closer to taking (smart) risks again.  What do you consider to be your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

4. What is your backup plan? You don’t want to plan to fail, yet having a Plan B can help you take the risk.  Maybe you have a side business you can grow if you don’t get your raise, or maybe you can start looking for a new job without feeling guilty about it if you get turned down. Circus performers use safety nets for a reason.

5. Remember the times you took a risk and how you felt right before? That adrenaline rush is pretty great, isn’t it? You can have that again and again when you take smart, calculated risks.

6. Admit you’re afraid.  Have you ever seen someone act irrationally or even get angry for no reason? That’s fear, and that person hasn’t admitted it yet. Put your fear into the light and breathe. There. That’s not so bad, right?

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7. Why are you afraid? Sometimes fear is there to protect us from doing something stupid, like walking down a dark creepy alley at 1:00am.  But for the most part, fear is just our primal, change-averse natures getting the best of us.

8. Back yourself into a corner.  Announce to the world what you’re going to do: Lose weight, start a business, start dating again.  See what happens when you become a wild beast with no way out?  Do or die works great for a lot of people.

9. Fake it ‘til you make it.  Go through the motions of whatever you fear until you conquer that fear.  I used to be terrified to speak in class; all the way through school, teachers had to pry responses out of me.  Ironically, I became an assistant professor at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, and I’d love to say that I quickly got over my fear of public speaking.

I didn’t. I used to wear jackets to class everyday so the perspiration wouldn’t show, but eventually, I did become comfortable in front of a roomful of second-career law students.  That tough audience created the perfect foundation for me, and I overcame what is most people’s biggest fear. (https://www.theegglestongroup.com/writing/fearspk1.php).

What is your biggest fear and how is it getting in the way of your goals? What are you doing to conquer that fear?



  1. sybilepowell on 11 October 2012 at 10:25 am

    I enjoyed your artical on fear, I certainly identified with it. In my case to get through a bad situation I didn’t want to face, I would go ahead and do whatever it was, you know what happened each time I did it, it got easier. I remember my first job as a sales person, it took me three hours to get through the door to see a buyer and when I got there the buyer was really pleasant and easy to get along with. I didn’t sell anything that time but I never hesatated before seeing a client again. Later the firm made me sales manager and I nearly never made it.

  2. Meg_Bertini on 11 October 2012 at 3:08 pm

    That’s an excellent point — the more you take fear head on, the easier it gets to do the next time. I think accumulating a track record of success convinces your subconscious that you can succeed again and again.