An important decision is pending. You want to bring a change in your life, you are absolutely convinced that you want to implement it, but you can feel the gnawing doubt in the back of your mind. What if it goes wrong? What if you don’t succeed? Such fears are uncomfortable and are often swept under the table. Occasionally they reappear.
We often leave no room for fear on the way to implementation. Instead, the goals are lifted onto the golden podium. Perhaps you use visualization methods, have broken them down into small intermediate goals or have a success coach who will help you to implement them. No matter what, the focus is always on the goals. But what about our fears?
When fears block you
You are on the right track. But what is holding you back from living the life you really want? What is stopping you from realizing your goals and getting them implemented?
What keeps people from realizing their goals for years. The answer is your fears.
Uncertainties, self-doubt, “what if …” scenarios – fear has many faces. It can prevent you from making important decisions, slowing down your process and, in the worst case, even leading to self-sabotage. They keep you from giving 100% of your ability.
Some fears are perfectly obvious, others are hidden behind beliefs and habits. Socially, they are often seen as a weakness in character. Little is said about fears, and if so, almost apologetically. We should talk about them and what we can learn from them. Because fear is, first of all, a survival mechanism that protects us from danger, in some cases unfounded, but there is also something to it about some fears.
What are fears?
The term comes from the Greek word “agchein” and the Latin “angere”, both meaning “choking” or “tying your throat”.
Merriam Webster defines fear as follows: “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger ”. (Source: Merriam Webster )
Fear is not to be confused with anxiety. Fear is an emotional reaction to an acute danger, but fear reacts to an indefinite, assumed danger. It can be a debilitating but also a mobilizing emotion. In psychology, a distinction is made between fear as a state (state anxiety) and fear as a property (trait anxiety). State anxiety describes a temporary fear that is felt in response to a real danger, while trait anxiety is a state of fear that is seen as a threat even without an acute reason.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
— Joseph Campbell
Fears can block you in your implementation, but at the same time, they are also an opportunity to identify real problems and risks early on and to actively prevent worst-case scenarios.
Use fears as a tool
Do “what if” scenarios also keep you from getting into action?
Of course, I could just tell you now, forget these scenarios and concentrate on the essentials: your goal.
Instead, I recommend you face your fears and find out what’s behind it. Maybe there is a real risk in the way of your goal. Ignoring it could have fatal consequences. It is therefore worth taking a very close look at these worst-case scenarios in your head and using them. In any case, you can learn something. And ideally, you can use your fears as a tool that will help you on your way to implementation and work on them at the same time.
In the following exercise, we will feel your fears on the tooth. What is behind it? Which fears are justified, which have no basis? What can you learn from them and take them into practice?
Exercise: visualize fears
Let’s get back to the important decision you want to make. Take a blank sheet of paper and a pen and think about your decision.
What happened if…
Divide your sheet of paper into three columns:
Repair anxiety prevention
Now think about your worst-case scenario. What’s the worst thing that can happen in this situation? Write each item in the fear column.
Example: If I allow myself to go on vacation, an important task may not be completed.
In the second column under Precaution, write something down to prevent this case.
Example: I appoint someone who is responsible for my tasks and define all tasks in detail in a handover document.
The third column is reserved for damage limitation: What do you do if the worst-case scenario arises to correct the situation?
Example: If there are legal difficulties, someone from the legal department can take care of it, otherwise an apology will be sent out and the task will be carried out as soon as possible.
All right, now you are ready to make your decision! Of course, in wise foresight, you should take the appropriate precautions to insure that your fear does not materialize.
What positive effects could it have if you try it?
Write down what could happen if your decision succeeds against your fears. You shouldn’t necessarily think about the best possible outcome, but rather ask yourself what kind of realistic effects your actions could have.
What happens if nothing changes?
Assuming you don’t make that decision and everything stays as it is – how would that affect your life? Think about it in a few months, in a year, in three years, in 10 years.
Would it have a negative effect on your life if it stays the way it is? In some cases, no change is much worse than your worst-case scenario could ever be.
Conclusion: risk management
If you work your way through the list of your fears so slowly, you will probably encounter some fears that have less hand and foot and others that pose an actual risk to you.
For your success, it is actually very important that you take your worst-case scenarios seriously and address them instead of simply pushing them aside. If they pose a real risk to the implementation of your projects, you should be prepared and cushion the risk. So you see, fears don’t always have to be suppressed or overcome. Instead, they can be a helpful tool for risk management.