“Wait, what? You’re going to tell me that it’s OK to be afraid of things? That’s not what any other business article I’ve ever read has advised me to do. They always talk about overcoming fear, not giving into it.”
Well first off, I’ve never wanted to do things exactly like everyone else, and it’s part of the reason I still have a job, so there’s that. One of my articles coming out of left field shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise anymore.
Second (and more importantly) off, there’s nothing wrong with the right kind of fear. After all, fear is the thing that kept our ancestors alert long enough to avoid predators and ultimately create all of us. Fear is rightly viewed as a force that holds us back, but you know what? Sometimes that’s exactly what we need.
So if you’re trying to figure out which of your fears are worth holding onto, here are a couple questions to ask yourself.
Is Your Fear Rooted In Ignorance?
What I mean here is, are you scared because you don’t have enough information to make an intelligent decision? If so, then your fear is probably a good indication that you should learn more before you commit. In the case of my fear with sharks, I am perfectly well-informed that they can eat me, so my fear may be justified according to this criteria. However, when it comes to deciding whether or not to move forward with the particular business venture, your fear may be the result of not knowing enough about the venture to justify jumping into it. A lot of times, people who are scared of change are actually just asking for more information – and that’s usually a good thing. A fear of the unknown is not necessarily a weakness; sometimes it’s an indication that you’re not comfortable with the unknown being such a mystery.
Is Your Worst-Case Scenario Truly Awful?
One great way to overcome fear is to imagine the worst thing that could happen as a result of delivering a presentation, asking someone to marry you, arguing for a promotion, or whatever it is that you’re currently scared to do. Nine times out of ten, that worst thing really isn’t all that bad – a bruised ego maybe, or perhaps the loss of a little money in order to learn a little more about what will and won’t work for your business. However, every so often your worst-case scenario is truly horrific, and when it is then your fear is probably well-placed. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to overcome it – after all, the Civil Rights Act would never have been passed if thousands of African-Americans hadn’t risked their own lives in the fight for racial equality – but it does mean it’s OK for you to think twice before you move forward.
Is Your Fear About You, or Others?
I drive a lot differently now that I’m a father. I come up on intersections more slowly, and I’m constantly looking to my right to make sure nobody is going to T-bone me. Why? Because while I’m not at all worried about me getting into an accident, I am very worried about my 7-month-old son getting into an accident. There are risks I will take for myself that I will not impose on others, and I’m sure you feel the same way. So if you’re afraid of something that only affects you, then maybe you should work harder at overcoming that fear. But if you’re afraid because of how it might affect others, you might be perfectly justified to keep things the way they are.
Ultimately, our battle with fear is an uneven one. I hope you don’t use this article to justify every fear you currently hold, because that’s not the point. The point is that it’s OK to be afraid, and you need to analyze the reasons behind your fear in order to decide if it makes any sense.