Will You Ever Overcome Fear?
In a culture fixated on security, we have reinforced the myth that there is something fundamentally inadequate about us when we feel fear. If that is the case, we construct our lives around avoiding fear and as a result, the real and best opportunities don’t even reach our field of vision. All of this strange ideology disappears as we cross a street and a large truck roars around the corner. As it heads directly towards us our biology takes over. An alarm goes off that pours powerful hormones and chemicals into our body. This system is perfectly designed for taking us into action. Why does our culture need to make up so many strange stories and myths about basic biology? My personal belief is the mythology developed around fear is used to manipulate others.
One of the most famous quotes of all time is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We sent over seventeen million Americans into World War II. I have yet to find any of those soldier’s stories repeating the president’s missive. On the other hand, we find countless narratives where those in the frontlines characterized the experience as the single most terrifying event in their lives. In some cases, they did hide. In others, they shot first. In every case where an individual or team succeeded, they took action.
Perhaps a healthier alternative statement would be, “The only thing have we to fear is to forget courage.” True courage isn’t about walking into difficult situations as a robot devoid of feelings. As famous male icon of that era, the brutish John Wayne once said,
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
Truly successful people are quite accustomed to the experience of fear. When we listen to high performers as they describe their breakthroughs, overcoming fear is invariably woven into the narrative. When Ellen DeGeneres got her first TV show, a journalist asked how she felt about it. She responded, “This elevates my terror to a whole new level.”
Rather than debating whether we should overcome fear, include fear or avoid fear, let’s move the organizational culture forward by making it OK to be frightened or not but always upholding and rewarding others for courage. Promote courage. Make courage a vital part of the organizational ethos.
“Don’t be frightened” is a phrase that has worn out its welcome. The debate about whether fear is good or bad often distracts us from taking action. However, we can always rely on courage. Courage won’t tell us we are inadequate because we are frightened. Courage won’t tell us to wait until we are more comfortable.
When you are the one taking action and someone tells you, “Don’t be frightened,” embrace your courage. Take a look back. He hasn’t broken into a sweat but you are the one that has succeeded.
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