Fear is loose like a runaway train these days. When fear is at the helm, there are very predictable results. Fear will breed more fear. It will cloud the vision of leaders, and they will cast vision without hope. Fear redirects energy away from what is helpful. The results of fear-based leadership are all negative.
In a speech in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a nation teetering on the edge of a world war and already deep in the big Depression. He urged them to realize, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That thought has bolted the spirits and hopes of people throughout time. During the first century A.D., Epictetus said, “It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death.” In the tumultuous 1600s, Francis Bacon wrote, “Nothing is terrible except fear itself.”
Fear is not unique to a personality. It is found in all races, cultures, religions, and generations. Everyone feels it; everyone. We all feel fear. Some people appear to be fearless, doing battle like David with Goliath while everyone else is hiding or cowering. These are the ones who realize the greatest issue is the fear itself.
Avoiding fear never really makes it go away. Trying a variety of distractions just wastes energy, and our efforts don’t last. The only way to deal with it is to face it and overcome it. If you want to beat fear, don’t just sit around and let fear fester. Do something.
Learn the facts about fear. Most fear is not based on fact at all, simply on our feelings. As they say, “Worry is interest paid in advance on something that may never happen.” When you accept that most of your fears are unreasonable, you start to get free.
Admit your fears. Don’t be ashamed. When we admit fear, we can challenge it. Mark Twain explained, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
Accept that life is fragile and short at best. Worry about death and hardship takes the joy out of life. Of course those things will happen sometime. Just accept it and get on with living the life that you have right now to the full.
Realize that no progress will ever be made without facing fear. Anything worth having requires risks. Appropriate risks are well worth it. They multiply in value.
Consciously develop a desire and passion that makes risk worth taking – it will overcome fear. When your reason is big enough, it will be bigger than your fear. Take a mother who doesn’t swim. She’s afraid of water. But let her child start to go under and scream, and the mom’s fear is eclipsed by her passion for her child. Is your goal and desire bigger than the fear?
Keep your focus securely on what you can control. That will give you plenty to do and it will all be worthwhile. Like American basketball coach John Wooden said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” You can’t control others, but you have the switch for yourself.
Focus on what’s in front of you. Fear tries to make us look at all of our problems at once: yesterday’s, today’s, and tomorrow’s. But today is the only place where you have control. If a batter tried to figure out all the pitchers and pitches he would ever face at once, he would never get up to the plate. It would be overwhelming. But when you focus on what’s in front of you, you only have to manage one pitch at a time.
Remind yourself of your wins, and work on some new ones. According to Eleanor Roosevelt, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
As you review your past and remember the things you have faced and conquered, you gain courage for today and tomorrow.
Do it now. Procrastination kills good things every day. Putting things off gives space for fear to grow.
Another great leader, President Harry S. Truman, said it this way: “The worst danger we face is the danger of being paralyzed by doubts and fears. This danger is brought on by those who abandon faith and sneer at hope. It is brought on by those who spread cynicism and distrust and try to blind us to our great chance to do good for all mankind.”
Don’t lead from fear. You can do this.