79. Fear Is A Powerful Teacher

Fear has the power to motivate us to act; educate us about who we are; inspire us to change; and provide us with so very many opportunities to find ease, meaning and joy. 


Today on Crina and Kirsten Get to Work, we are talking about FEAR!!  We can do this together – pour yourself a cup of tea and take a deep breath, let’s wade into the dark waters of fear and find the clear water.  

Signposts for this episode:

How does fear help us?

How does fear stop us?

How does fear impact our brains? Our performance? Our motivation?

What do you do when you’re afraid?

What do you do to avoid the things you’re afraid of: work too much? Get angry? 

Why Deal with Fear?

The first question you may ask yourself is why should we deal with big, hairy, scary fear?  Because it gets in the way of leading our fullest lives.  Remember the saying, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  If we are too afraid to take a shot, we miss it.  And the amazing Nelson Mandela said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  And one of our favorite stoics, Seneca, said, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”  The quotations all tell us something about fear – what it gets in the way of, the benefits of conquering fear – and of course what we make up in our heads.

Addressing your fears allows you to be more of who you are in the world – oh yeah – and some of that ease, meaning and joy.

What is Fear?

At its basic level, fear is a physical and emotional response to some external stimulus. Sometimes the stimulus is known—like a loud, unexpected crash in the middle of the night—but often the trigger for fear is subconscious and is not easily traced, i.e. a dark basement or a steep ski slope.

Science tells us that some aspects of fear are evolutionary.  In other words, we are hard-wired with a set of autonomic responses that have been critical to our survival. Other fears are conditional i.e. developed through a complex set of interactions with the world and often through observing the behaviors of others.  It turns out there is quite a bit of debate about what we are born with and what is conditioned into us.  And some of the conditioning comes from the stuff we keep telling ourselves.

Is Fear Positive or Negative?

Most of us think that fear is negative because it can stop you from doing things.  Fear also has negative impacts on your physical health, memory, brain processing and mental health.

However, fear does have a positive side – the positive power to stimulate action and unlock potential. When we face our fears, acknowledge and give respect to the power within those fears (what is true), parce out what is not true and turn that power into action, we can make remarkable progress in our lives.

What are Some Workplace Fears

Workplace fears include fear of organizational change and fear of risk taking, which includes fear of failure, success, fear of what others will think, and fear of uncertainty.  Sometimes we are afraid to speak up at a meeting, express an unpopular or new view or opinion, ask for that raise – just so many things.

How Do We Overcome Fear

Tim Ferris has a great exercise – that has taken from the stoics – to overcome fear – in fact, he is such a believer in this process he says people would be better off addressing fears than setting goals.

Tim suggests three sheets for this exercise.  

On the first sheet define what you are afraid of, what are the worst things that can happen – try to come up with a column of at least 10 and closer to 20 awful things.  For each of the awful things, figure out how you might prevent the awful thing in the second column or steps for a repair in the third column.

On the second sheet list all the benefits of an attempt, of partial success or wild success. Will you be rich and famous (if you want to), will you build confidence, learn skills, have an experience, free yourself from something?

One the last sheet list the cost of inaction – what will doing nothing look like in 6 months, a year or three years.

References and Good Reads:

(PDF) Fear as a strategy: Effects and impact within the organization

Impact of Fear and Anxiety | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing

Sigal Barsade – Knowledge@Wharton

Why you should define your fears instead of your goals | Tim Ferriss – Bing video