Nothing new about that. Fear is a force that is introduced early in your life. It has a purpose. Fear is given to you to keep you safe. Fear keeps you away from the edge of a cliff. Fear puts you on heightened alert when you’re threatened. A little fear can be a good thing.
But fear has its ugly side. Fear can:
- paralyze you.
- prompt you to make irrational decisions.
- end relationships.
- turn your life into a hell on earth.
Fear is more than a feeling. It’s a physical and mental state that demands your attention and drains your energy. Fear left unaddressed has another devastating feature — it multiplies inside you and can spread quickly to others nearby.
The bottom-line answer to fear is . . . courage.
If you were asked to visualize courage, you would likely describe images of people who do extraordinary things. A typical movie script would read, “She knew no fear. Calmly walking into the churning waters, she knew what she had to do to save the 38 children on the disabled school bus.” After the movie, you would remember her brilliance, her strength, and her resolve. But those things, while truly great, aren’t indicators of her courage.
Courage is the ability to conquer fear.
Courage manifests itself in an instant. Courage appears on the big screen when your hero, in the face of danger and tremendous odds, decides to do something. Interviews with real-life heroes rarely reveal that they knew exactly what to do in that moment — only that they needed to do something. And that something didn’t have to be anything particularly grand, just helpful.
Most of us aren’t faced with flood waters and schoolchildren in peril every day. Instead, we confront fears that stem from our fears of failure, success, and loss.
So, when you’re afraid and it’s time to do something, what do you do?
- Label your fear. Ask yourself, what am I afraid of? This doesn’t require a self-psychoanalytical session. Identify the source of your fear. This is not where you take action. Just make certain you know what you fear.
- Explore possible outcomes. What is likely to occur if your fear is realized? Counselors tell us that most people conjure up dire results that have very little chance of happening.
- Consider the possibilities of your next step. What can you do in this moment that would be helpful? Perhaps all you need to do is ask questions and get a better understanding. Maybe you need to run back into the burning building. Sometimes you simply need to take a deep breath and wait until the threat becomes more clear. Whatever you do, your next step must be helpful.
- Weigh the costs. Fear can stem from a true danger that is often associated with a possibility of loss. Loss of life and limb. Loss of a friend. Loss of an opportunity. Before moving forward, balance the potential success of your next step against those dangers.
- Take positive action. This one is a little deceiving. Sometimes the best positive action is waiting. Occasionally, avoidance is the appropriate reaction to something that surfaces fear. Most often, the next step is something rather ordinary that may appear extraordinary in the presence of fear.
Fear is an essential part of your survival system. Certainly you should take notice when you feel fear. But fear was never intended to rule your life.
Deal with your fears. Find courage in taking the next step.
Remember, you were divinely designed with the innate ability to make decisions and exercise your free will. Don’t let fear take that away from you.