Fear, like stress, is a thief that paralyzes us and keeps us from living life to the fullest. I suppose it can come in handy, at least if you use it to realize the severity of a situation. But that’s about it. Usually fear makes us less productive, less brave, less willing to take risks. We put life on hold when we are afraid. But you can overcome fear, and there’s an easy way to do it. As with most positive changes, it starts with a fundamental decision.
You simply decide that fear has no place in your life.
It was my husband, an “ex”-Marine, who taught me how to overcome fear. As far as running a business is concerned (and having something I could share with others), it really clicked into place when he came up with “Find It, Face It, Fix It.” Putting this simple mantra into action takes care of just about any problem. There is one more thought: If you find it, face it, and try to fix a specific problem, and you fail over and over, it’s time to “F” it, and go to Plan B.
But he taught me how to overcome fear before we had this “Four F’s” discussion, back when we sailed our catamaran from where we had it built in South Africa to our home in New England. Just the two of us, 60 days at sea, taking an 8000-mile journey together.
People often ask me, “Were there any storms?” The question always makes me smile, because yes, of course there were. You can’t spend two months at sea without experiencing numerous storms. There are big fronts that roll through and there are squalls that sneak up on you in minutes if you’re not paying attention.
Of course, at sea, even all night long, when you’re on watch, you get up every 10 minutes from whatever you are doing and do a “360” to check the horizon for traffic or weather. So you’re not “surprised” when a squall hits, although winds going from 5 knots to 50 knots in a matter of minutes can still take your breath away—and can require quick action to make sure the boat survives the onslaught.
Which brings me to how you can keep fear out of your life.
Decide. The first step is the one I mentioned above. You simply decide that you are not going to be afraid. When you do, you will find that your chin goes up and you will experience a new resolve. You will feel yourself looking the future right in the eye. You will feel stronger and more able.
In truth, there is very little that happens in our lives that we can’t fix, if we face it. After helping my husband survive 3 battles with “fatal” cancer, and seeing the decision he made at the beginning of the first battle to fight it, I can attest to the power of deciding not to be afraid.
Fearing is really a waste of time, and it only makes us feel powerless. This is where suicidal thoughts come from; fearing that nothing will ever change. But things DO change, especially if—and precisely because—we move beyond fear and never give up.
Be Deaf to Fear. Fear is a voice that speaks to us, that tells us all kinds of terrible stories. “What if” is its favorite tool. In the midst of the current pandemic, for example, there are millions of people around the world thinking, “What if we never get past this?” “What if they don’t find a cure?” “What if I catch this and die?” “What if I lose my job over this and really get into financial trouble?”
Yes, on the scale of “what could happen,” these things could conceivably happen. The chances of them happening are very small, though, if you do the other things I mention here, starting with brushing off these thoughts. Because at the other end of the scale are the positive outcomes, and if you want those outcomes, you will move toward them. In this case, “What if” becomes a tool for the good.
“What if we come out of this better than we went into it?” “What if we learn lessons along the way that we can apply to the rest of our lives?” “What if I look for the joy in all of this?”
There is always plenty to be joyful about. Right now I am joyful every day simply because my husband and I are still in love and we are still breathing. That’s plenty. Not to mention we have water and food and a roof over our heads; we can communicate with those we love and many of us can continue working, thanks to the internet. And I love the people I work with every day—our team members and our clients. We spend every day helping people realize their dreams, which is a joyful thing to do.
Fear is a wicked master who wants to control you. Brush it off.
Be Prepared. It’s a good motto. If you are prepared for that squall, when it hits it will be a lot less destructive. It will be less of a fight.
You don’t have to go overboard, so to speak, in your preparations; there’s a saying that you only need to be 10 minutes ahead of the rest of the world to succeed, and that is largely true. The key is to be more of a prepper than a procrastinator. To keep your head up, scanning the horizon, even as you go about your normal work.
And if you really want to know what’s coming, make sure you talk to your customers continuously. Most market shifts (except for those caused by things such as pandemics and terrorist attacks) are a result of one of two things: Something new (technology, competitor, new method, etc.) or a new customer perception. If you keep an eye on these things, and you are constantly finding it, facing it, and fixing it, you won’t be blindsided very often, if at all.
Do Your Best. Another serious source of unhappiness is the thought that “I’m not good enough.” But if you always strive to do your best, you ARE good enough. You are making the most you can out of your life; you are taking what you’ve been given and making the world a better place. That’s good. That’s positive. That’s no place for fear of insufficiency.
Do your best, but also give yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself. For your life, and the people who love you and work with you, your best is definitely good enough.
Remember This Too, Shall Pass. I’ve been alive long enough now to know that things do change. Some things stay the same; we all need love and we all need to work to survive. And if you believe in a higher power, which I do, you know that love is steadfast. But pretty much everything else changes, including us, if we’re open to it. Being open to changes is one of the best ways to bypass fear and live in the present, where real life takes place.
This pandemic is going to pass, too. The business world will find its footing again; where there are people, there will be commerce, and our working lives will go on.
We will have learned from this; we will apply what we have learned so we are better prepared for similar situations.