How Do You Fight Fear?

How Do You Fight Fear?

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

The Idea:  Our biggest problem is not that our perceptions are wrong, but that they are right.  Fear paralyzes us from acting on what we already know.   This can blind us, and we become defensive as friends or associates share what they are seeing.  Problems expand and intensify when we ignore, delay, or shun responsibilities.  Monsters always get bigger when not confronted.  It is far better to confront a fear early on than hope it will magically disappear.  We spend so much of our time creating a map of the world that protects us from threats, enemies, and monsters.  It is a much better strategy to deconstruct the map and confront the fear.

Fear can be an amazing asset when channeled correctly. After all, fear is your chief defense mechanism and an essential aspect of what it means to be human. While it is important to listen closely to that internal instinct, never let it take the driver’s seat in your process. Fear often masquerades as truth, distracting us from dreams, goals, and aspirations. It saps your energy and diminishes your courage by reminding you of insecurities and past failures. Fear fuels and animates Imposter’s Syndrome, the internal worry of being exposed as a “fraud”.   Acknowledge and take charge of your fears before they hijack and derail your process.

Insecurities, lack of control, and stress sidetrack most people. It can confiscate our defense mechanisms, motivating us to overwork while demanding perfection and feeding destructive behaviors.  Many times, we celebrate workaholism and emotionally lose our way.  We forget that some things just need to be done adequately, while others need precision and excellence. It is so easy to forget that not everything needs to be perfect. Are you choosing your emotions, or do they choose you?  A healthy mindset is the consistent outflow of one’s daily practice and process.  What is your process?

The healthiest leaders have constructed a blueprint that serves and guides them, keeping them on track and holistically fit. They choose their behaviors.  Fear can seem enigmatic and daunting in the moment, but a reliable way to interrupt fear’s grip is to pause and analyze the emotion through a preset checklist.  The following is a model I utilize in my coaching practice:

  1. FEAR.   What is the biggest fear holding you back and why?
  2. REFRAME.   How has this fear served and protected you?
  3. LIES.   What pressures, triggers, or lies prompt this fear?
  4. ACCEPT.   When we fight things, we give it power.  What imperfections must you embrace?
  5. PRACTICE.  What behaviors, people, and activities bring out your best?

Doctor Atul Gawande’s classic book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, shares a disciplined protocol (or checklist) to reduce medical infections by 66 percent.  The research in medicine, like the arts, sports, and business are clear: a disciplined process delivers results.

Gawande suggests creating a personal checklist between five and nine items, which you review each day to ensure you are staying on track.  Your process cannot be too difficult.  Keep it simple.

A simple checklist is necessary to achieve success with consistent results.  It protects us from failure and helps us remain in control of our own life.


“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
-Nelson Mandela

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