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Facing the Fear of Something New

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

We each end up facing the fear of something new, unknown, or uncertain. It is a quintessential part of being human and growing. Yet for many, fear hinders trying new things, meeting new people, or jumping into something unknown. However, managed fear can also help us achieve outcomes we only dreamt about beforehand. 

It is useful to understand the dynamics behind fear-driven responses to change our routines when faced with it. Basically, how human beings handle fear stems from the flight or fight response to “danger” learned long ago! How we react to situations, behaviours or events can often be traced back to early life experiences. Why?

As kids, we learn to identify threats to our world, something that our brain continuously scans for. When we come across something that triggers this threat identification, our fear responses kick into high gear! 

Once fear kicks in, feelings build and can quickly lead to destructive personal behaviour to the perceived threats. So, this naturally leads us to wonder how we can better manage through fear triggers to achieve the outcomes we want.

Facing the fear of anything 

Let’s set up two very different examples against which we can apply a few skills to better manage fear responses.

The first is one facing a diagnosis of cancer – a word that triggers terror for some, fear in many, and acceptance within others. It’s a disease that will likely affect each of our lives at some point, either receiving the news ourselves or a loved one receiving it. How we respond to this trigger influences directly our well-being. 

The second example is a decision to dramatically change career paths, say going from construction to medicine. This might be driven by necessity or by personal ambition. How we approach this increasingly common situation determines our success in making the transition.

These examples may seem counterintuitive, bear with me because it will all make sense. 

Fear is a state of mind 

Our brains naturally want to find peace through knowledge. When we face the unknown, we create scenarios that often lead to worry, stress, and anxiety. Before you know it, we take every possible step to avoid those feelings. In other words, we tend to steer away from the unknown by retaining the status quo. 

The good news is that fear is a controllable state of mind. 

The four steps we can take to put ourselves back in the driver’s seat are:

  1. Embrace change and vulnerability
  2. Reduce the unknowns
  3. Choose a positive attitude
  4. Be present – here and now

Change and vulnerability

The trick here is to recognize that being vulnerable allows us to face our fears. We may not be able to control many of the things around us, like a cancer diagnosis or a job loss, but we can choose how we respond to it. When we can look at change as an opportunity (which includes all the possible outcomes, good and not-so-good), we regain a sense of control. 

Reduce the unknowns

Reflect on what scares you before taking the first step on your change journey. Make a list of the risks or worries that keep you awake at night, they might be things like:

  • What if the new company culture is a misfit for me?
  • What if no one likes me?
  • How will I cope with the loss of my loved one?
  • What if I fail to be the person I need to be right now?

Talk them over with someone you trust and that can help you manage your risk or worry list. Do a little research yourself on the options you can take to mitigate the risks identified. When fear is pulled out of the shadow into the light, it is much less scary. This allows us to tackle each one in a rational and decisive way. 

Choose a positive attitude

A positive attitude is one grounded in hope, hoping for the best possible outcome. A positive outlook allows us to deal with setbacks or bumps in the road more effectively. It also powers our stamina because having grit is a key element in successful changes. Lastly, we need to surround ourselves with positive energy individuals. This type of person helps us cope with our stressors and contributes to our overall well-being. 

Be present – here and now

Being in the moment allows us to move forward by keeping our focus on what we need to do to take the next step. Living either in the past or too far into the future holds us back. The past is littered with both positive and negative experiences, whereas the future is largely unknown. Both of these outer edges to the present can add unhelpful anxieties or worries. By focusing on today, tomorrow, next month, and in the next half a year we can see more clearly what needs to be (and can be) accomplished. 

How does it end? 

Time will tell. I know my loved one’s terminal diagnosis is irreversible, but we are facing our fears head-on. We could easily get angry, frustrated, or mope around about this disease. Understandable reactions but unhelpful to either of us now. Or we choose to make the most of every moment we have together just as we always have…close, laughing, and solving world peace! There is only one real choice for us…

As for the career change, that remains a work in progress. Such dramatic career changes require additional education, training, and planning. That said, there is a real passion and desire to achieve it so I have no doubt that the dream will be realized.

Facing the fear of anything is the first step towards success, own it and make it your own!

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your insights and tricks for how you face fear and conquer it for yourself.

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Fran Krause

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