Managing Fear

Fear is a protective emotion. Without the experience of fear, we would not be able to perceive and avoid legitimate threats. However, it is the fear that surfaces without reason that troubles us and keeps us from moving forward. There are a lot of visible barriers that individuals face in terms of money, time, closed doors, injuries or sickness. Fears present special difficulties because they are invisible barriers that exist in the world of thought and feelings. You and others around you are able to see the cast on your arm and understand your inability to do the kind of things you did before the injury. It’s far more difficult to understand the excuses and refusals to do certain things that are based on unseen, inward, paralyzing restraints.

We need effective solutions to deal with the emotion of fear that holds our feet to the ground and prevents progress in the climb toward our goals. This section includes important skills that will help you recognize what is holding you back and take the steps needed to get moving again.

Confronting Fear

Fear is an instinct response that is helpful to keep us from going places or doing things that could harm us. Some of your fears keep you safe and alive. There are other kinds of fear that come from over-reacting and blowing up what we imagine will happen in the future. These are what you might call limiting fears. They keep you standing still when you need to be moving. This kind of fear will stop you from doing the things that are necessary for your forward progress and growth into the person you want to become. These fears restrict you by canceling out your desire to try anything new, putting off making a hard decision, or having a conversation with someone about a problem. It has been said that the only way out of limiting fears is to go through them. This is a very true statement. This anchor point helps you develop the self-management skills to confront negative thoughts and emotions so that you can push them out of your way and get moving forward. You will need hopeful and positive perspectives to replace the fears. You will also need to have some key relationships that will help you see possibilities and act with courage.

Conquering Avoidance

Avoidance is one of the most common human reactions to fear or situations we see as too big to take on. You don’t want to risk rejection, so you avoid going to a job interview, trying out for a team or pursuing a new relationship. If we don’t believe we can or will succeed, it is likely that we will develop behaviors that work to cancel out those opportunities. You have a project to do and end up sitting and staring at the floor because you have no idea where to even start. Most of us practice avoidance when we are overwhelmed by the size of a task. This anchor point helps to develop the skill of breaking down larger projects into smaller, attainable pieces so we can focus on things that are doable. It trains you to recognize when you are talking yourself out of doing something new or necessary and to see what you use as your go-to avoidance behaviors (I’m not feeling well, my phone died, I’m too busy, I couldn’t find a ride, I forgot…).

Embracing Failing (Growth Mindset)

We don’t read enough biographies. These honest accounts from the lives of people who have been very successful or who have accomplished great things to help a lot of people are generally diaries of repeated failing. It is remarkably easy to sanitize success and imagine that someone came up with an idea, tried the idea and became wildly successful overnight. There are a few such stories out there, but they are unicorns. Researcher Carol Dweck identified the difference between a “growth mindset” and a “fixed mindset.” People with a fixed mindset tend to look at events as success or failure. There is no “try” or practice or getting better. A growth mindset allows for the opportunity of learning even through the difficulties of loss and failing. The fact is no one gets it right on the first try and failures are part of the process of growth… if we can look at them with the right mindset. Your story is still being written today and it is far from complete. The thing you failed to do yesterday is just a page in that story. Keep moving forward. Learn all you can from it. Grow from it.

Dealing with Criticism

We live in a world where people are more than willing to point out what’s wrong and criticize the actions of others. We could just say those people are mean and avoid them, but there are a lot of other situations where we are likely to have negatives pointed out that we just can’t avoid. Employers will evaluate the quality of your work, police officers will point out the danger in the way you are driving (often with a ticket attached), educators will score your efforts on tests and essays, neighbors will complain that your dog barked all night and kept waking up their baby. Developing the ability to hear criticism, not react in anger and learn how to fix things or improve how you are working, driving, writing and training your puppy will set you up for great success in life. Sometimes people call this being thick-skinned. This means that I’m not easily offended by what people say and can take criticism as constructive advice and do better.

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