I don’t believe there is real “fear of the unknown.” Over the past decade, as I’ve asked people what about the UNKNOWN frightens them, they have always listed KNOWN fears such as pain, loss, embarrassment, death, rejection, etc.
The Unknown acts as a blank screen onto which we project our Known fears. What we’re afraid of is the Uncertain. More accurately, we are afraid that what we want to avoid WILL happen, or that what we want to experience WON’T happen. We’re afraid of discomfort, pain or loss of some kind; not the Unknown, but of the Known that is Undesirable.
Every fear starts with the words “What if.” To deal with a fear realistically, you have to answer the “What if” question in the following way: 1. State what the fear is — be specific and honest. 2. Ask yourself: What is the worst thing that can happen? 3. Think: If the worst thing actually happened, how would I deal with it? Make a plan of action — be realistic.
Its not enough to just “think positive” when dealing with fear. Removing fear requires awareness, planning, courage, and support. Here are 10 tactics for dealing with fear, use these when fear arises, whether the fears are about war, job change, or change in management.
Remember, fear is a normal part of the process of change and evolution.
1. Define the fear The first step is to acknowledge and define the fear. Colleen told me that she was afraid of failure. She defined failure as “not wanting my boss to think poorly of me.” Steve, on the other hand, defined failure as being destitute and losing his house. We followed very different paths to deal with the fear even though it had the same name
2. Practice Mindful Sitting Our natural inclination is to either run from the fear, or to become angry and battle the fear or the object of fear. Rather than reacting with fight-or-flight learn to respond by turning on the Observer Mind.
When a fear arises in your mind and body, observe the fear. Notice how it flows and changes, but resist the temptation to get caught up and swept into it. Imaging that you are studying an ocean storm from an island’s vantage point.
This mindful sitting will do four things: calm your body, calm your mind, provide you greater clarity about the nature of your fear, and show you that the fear subsides a lot faster than if you give in to it.
3. Use mental rehearsal Rob imagined himself doing whatever it is that he was afraid of. He planned what he’d do if that scenario were to happen. He regularly visualized the entire activity or situation both with the best-case scenario, and the worst.
After mental rehearsal, Rob engages in the activity or situation and then compares to what he prepared.
4. Exercise your body Fear results from mental perception but has physical manifestation. Move, exercise, and engage in some physical activity. I like to go for a brisk walk just before I present. Fear tenses the muscles and diverts blood from the brain to the extremities. Moving stretches the muscles and gets the blood and breath flowing.
Exercise helps to “exorcise” fears!
5. Whistle in the dark! This is in the category of “fake it till you make it.” Pretend that you are courageous and confident and you will experience a surge in these feelings.
Soldiers are famous for feeling their fears, but sidelining them and doing whatever they have to do, in spite of their fears. This is only one of several tactics. To JUST ignore the fear is an ineffective technique.
6. Engage your community Talk about your fear with someone who cares about you. Getting an objective and caring point of view can be clarifying, encouraging, reassuring, or even solution oriented.
Get support, help and encouragement. Inevitably, you will face your fear by yourself. But support and help are natural aspects of life, and especially important in times of fear.
7. Affirmations work! On Tuesday mornings, his cold calling days, Randy would say to himself “I know they’re going to slam the door on me.” He kept thinking about the rejection and failure and his fear grew with these thoughts.
When he switched his self-talk to expecting positive results, and focusing on the value he brings to his clients, he was able to reduce his inner negativity and anxiety.
8. Get some perspective Ask yourself, “Is this thing I fear really going to affect my survival?” Survival fears are the most debilitating, and most fears really won’t affect your survival.
Separate between fear and panic. Mentally separate your mind from your fears. When you feel fears, use LOGIC to make decisions, not the fears.
9. Strength is built with repetition Every time you give in to a fear you make it stronger. Conversely, every time you practice courage you make THAT stronger. Courage isn’t the lack of fear; without the presence of fear an action would not be perceived as courageous.
10. Do SOMETHING! Even small action is a step toward dismissing your fear. Mindful, supported, planned and purposeful action is key to a courageous life.