Fear as foe and friend: How to master this important relationship.
There is a story that I love. It goes something like this: A long time ago a man was sitting in a bar in Damascus having a beer.
As he finished his last sip he looked over to the corner and staring back at him was Death. The man froze. It was widely known that the day you see death is the day you die. A few seconds later the man regained composure and ran out of the bar.
Without looking back he jumped on a horse and rode as quickly and as far away as he could. Later that day he arrived in a town called Samarra. The man checked into a motel, rushed up to his room, locked the door, and as he turned around, sitting in the corner was Death.
Noting the man’s surprise, Death said to him, “You think that you’re surprised? Just imagine how surprised I was this morning when I saw you in the bar in Damascus knowing that I had an appointment with you here, tonight, in Samarra.”
This is a story about the inevitability of death. No matter how hard we try, it’s the fate that we cannot escape. However, that’s not the focus of this article.
FACING YOUR FEARS
Instead, consider the way the man reacted to death. More specifically, how he reacted to fear. That’s something I’m sure you can relate to.
The life of an entrepreneur is filled with fear. The fear of failure, the fear of losing it all, the fear of judgement, the fear of rejection, the list goes on.
We can never eliminate these fears. Trust me, I’ve worked with the best and they still struggle with many of these fears. The thing about entrepreneurs at the top of their game is that they are better at dealing with fear.
Imagine if instead of running away, the man in our story decided to embrace his fear. Imagine he calmly (while shaking inside) walked over to death and asked him why he was staring at him.
Death might have told him about their inevitable appointment. The man could have left the bar to get his affairs in order. He could have had a final meal with family and friends.
He could have gone for a last swim in the ocean. And then, when the time was right, met death as an old friend. Does that not sound like a much better approach than to run away and hide?
But how you can embrace fear? The answer to that is simple but by no means easy. Dealing with fear is all about the context and meaning we assign to it.
When you’re working in your office, how scared are you of being bitten by a shark? Fear is very much dependent on the context. In many instances we have (some) control over context.
So, how can you control your context or environment? What can you do to actively decrease the fear becoming manifested?
Fear of public speaking? Control the context by preparing well, getting coaching, dressing well, being ready.
Fear of rejection? Control the context by understanding your prospect well, being prepared, showing up early so that you aren’t rushed, being friendly and welcoming.
This is always one of my favourite areas to play in as coach. It has to do with the meaning we assign to situations in our lives.
More simply put, the beliefs that we have and how they direct our behaviour and decision-making. Back to our shark example, and this time you find yourself in the ocean.
How worried are you now about a shark attack? Much more. However, next to you is a shark expert frolicking around.
Happy as can be. How worried is he about the shark attack? Not at all. Why? Because he understands shark behaviour, he knows the statistics and miniscule chances of a shark attack occurring.
Same context, different beliefs, resulting in different levels of fear. This means that another way of dealing with fear is to examine the belief you have that creates the fear.
Perhaps it’s an outdated or untested belief. The only way you will know is by looking at it.
THROUGH THE FEAR
Fear is a dark passenger. Ready to tell you stories of doom and gloom. Ready to make you forget about the big dreams that you have. But it does not have to be.
You journey. Your rules. Learn to master your feelings and the approach that you take towards the challenges and risks in your life, and you will not only feel lighter, but able to embrace fear as an old friend without becoming consumed by it.