The Fear Factor

Employment Matters column,

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when my fear is gone, I will turn and face fear’s path and only I will remain.”

– Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Dune, 1965

Has fear ever stopped you from starting something you wanted to do? You might not always recognize fear for what it is, because it gets buried under layers of other rationales – you’re too busy, you’re missing a key part or person or tool to get something done. Fear can lurk inside many other reasons and excuses, and this fear will send you running from a specific enemy – the fear of failure.

It’s very easy to sugarcoat our fears with perfectly valid reasons for not acting. Reaching any big goal will require effort, passage through many hurdles, and perhaps frustration, too. Shimon Peres, the president of Israel, recently said that transforming a dream into reality is never a full implementation, because it’s much easier to dream than make things real.

Failure can have painful consequences, and fear is a reasonable response to that possibility. But fear can also be like your shadow in late evening – long, exaggerated, distorted, and not at all as scary as you thought.

Take a look at the things you want to accomplish, and the reasons why they haven’t been done. Strip away the excuses and ask yourself if fear is the core reason for inaction. Make a little list of things you haven’t done due to fear. Are you afraid of some things because you’ve tried and failed before? They go on the list too.

Now take a hard look at your list. This is where we face our fear. This is where we decide what we really want. You may discard some goals because you don’t desire them as strongly as you once did. Maybe that career in firefighting isn’t quite as attractive as it seemed when you were 10 years old. Fine – toss it.

Or maybe now, as an adult, you’re looked at a range of things you wanted to do and decided that some of them were simply too costly in terms of time and money, that your energies would be better invested in other directions. That’s reasonable too. But in looking over your list, isolate those things that you’re not achieving due to fear.

Fear can affect every aspect of your life, but our focus here is on employment and business. Whatever else you’re afraid of, work-related fears can directly affect your income and thus have a much bigger impact on your life than many other fears. Everyone’s situation is different, so you’re the best person to sort through your fears and figure out how to knock them down.

But first you have to make up your mind that you want to knock them down. You must have resolve. Without a commitment and determination, your fears will walk all over you. So let’s consider some things that need attention.

Are you afraid you don’t know enough to succeed? The answer to this one is simple – more training, more education. Did you try to learn before and fail? Get up and try again. If you want something badly enough, this is the only way. You do not give up. You fall down six times, you get up seven times. You keep moving toward your goal, you find a way, until you reach it.

Does reaching your goal feel like a gamble? Maybe it is a gamble, but if you don’t bet, you can’t win. What you can do is examine the risks surrounding your goal and work out ways to reduce those risks, or reduce the impact if you gamble and lose. Have a Plan B when Plan A doesn’t work out. Partner with other people and spread the risk.

Whether you want a better job or think about running your own business, fear is one of the hurdles you’ll have to jump over. Fear can appear anytime – you may start out confident and later feel like you’re in over your head. You may face a crisis and feel panicked. When fear strikes – and it will – recognize it for what it is and face it. Make the path yours – don’t let fear make it for you.