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3 Easy Steps to Reframe Your Fear and Make It Work For You

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3 Easy Steps to Reframe Your Fear and Make It Work For You

Everybody is afraid of something. Common fears include fear of embarrassment, fear of speaking in front of a group, fear of not measuring up to the expectations of others’, and fear of change.

Fear brings about one of three results. It motivates, it provides safety, or it results in paralysis. The best way to respond to fear is to determine what exactly the fear is, how the fear is affecting you, and what you need to do in order to deal with the fear.

These 3 steps are what will give you control of your fears:

 

1. Defining your fear

Defining your fear requires more work than simply naming your fear. For example, let’s say you have a great new idea for a modification to one of your company’s products. You want to bring it up to your boss, but you know he will ask you to give a presentation.

The idea of doing that makes you break out into a cold sweat. Clearly, this means that you can define your fear as fear of speaking in public, right? Maybe not. Do you always fear speaking in front of others? Maybe you are afraid of your idea being rejected, or that it won’t work?

Your fear could be defined as fear of rejection or fear of failure. Nobody can figure this out for you, it is just something you have to determine on your own. Once you define your fear, you know what you are working with and you are ready to move on to the next step.

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford

2. Determine how your fear is affecting you

Right now, what is your fear doing for you? Is it paralyzing you? Is it keeping you safe? Is it motivating you? There is nothing wrong with fearing things that are dangerous. If a fear keeps you safe from actual danger, that is a healthy fear.

However, it is very easy to confuse fears that truly keep us safe with fears that paralyze us. Here is a trick that may help you determine if your fear is keeping you safe, or simply holding you back. If you stop doing something, based on fear of a legitimate danger, you won’t question yourself.  You won’t feel guilty.

However, if you stop doing something or refuse to do something based on fear, and then find yourself full of doubt and regret, chances are you are letting fear paralyze you, and that is unhealthy. The only thing this leaves is motivation. Is your fear motivating you to challenge yourself and improve yourself? This is a great thing.

 

3. Dealing with your fear

If a fear is leaving you stuck and hindering your success, it needs to be dealt with. This means taking control of the fear and turning it into a source of motivation rather than a roadblock. You’ve already done a lot of great work if you’ve defined your fear and determined the way your fear is impacting your life.

Now you can determine what to do with it. Ask yourself this question? Why do I need to turn this fear into something positive? Let’s go to the example of the presentation that was discussed above. Maybe your fear would be rejection and failure.

That’s fine. That is your definition. Maybe you’ve determined that the impact your fear has is unhealthy avoidance (paralysis). This is also fine. You know how your fear impacts you. Now is the time to make change.

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” – Bertrand Russell

A few extra action steps

Let’s begin with the one thing that you should not do. You should never belittle or ridicule yourself over your fears. It is unhelpful and you don’t deserve it. Here is a positive step that you can take. You can think of the negative results that you may face, and then figure out ways to turn those into positives.

Let’s say that your presentation goes badly, and the marketing department doesn’t go forward with your idea. Yes, that is a bad thing, but their rejection also means that you made it through your presentation. It is a well-known fact that presentation skills are vital to success, and you’ve just improved your presentation skills a bit. This doesn’t take away the rejection, but it does put it into perspective.

Another thing that you can do is to look externally. Who do you admire? How do other successful people deal with fear? Is there someone else who has dealt with a similar fear as yours and turned it into a point of motivation?

 

Thank you for reading my article! Now it is time to take control of your fears!
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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. lorraine

    Sep 8, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Great indeed, Fear does really leads to Failure,

    I will store your advises and tips to Beat Fear

  2. Dotchamou Zakari

    Aug 13, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you for this article full of wisdom. As long as we are bound by our fears we lose our freedom and our power. I want to share these quotes with readers.
    “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie
    “Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.” Colin Powell

  3. Mark Reagan

    Aug 6, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    Hey Harold,

    Great tips. I especially liked that you added the part about never belittling yourself or your fears. I think that’s so important – our emotions are very natural, and beating ourselves up over them doesn’t help. One of my favorite quotes comes from Olivia Fox Cabane: “Our emotions only ask one thing: to be felt.”

  4. Ethan Bridges

    Aug 6, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Loved how straightforward those three steps are. A long list may only mislead one, who may not reach the ultimate step–facing fear itself.

    In doing, we overcome fear.

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

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