Fear comes in many forms…
Fear of failure.
Fear of change.
Fear of judgement.
Fear of public speaking.
Fear of the unknown such as uncertainties in your life, like fear of losing your job or starting a business.
Fear of rejection.
…and so on.
Fear is one of the most powerful human emotions and affects more people than you care to think. In fact, everyone experiences some kind of fear – even those people you consider the boldest, strongest or most daring.
It is a primal instinct that is super necessary for our survival, even though we may no longer be the hunters and gatherers of yore.
How to Overcome Fear: Tailwind or Headwind?
Knowing how to overcome fear is a survival tactic in its own right. That’s more so in this modern world where a lot of your success in life hinges on your ability to overcome fear.
Fear has two sides to it, you see: it can either be your biggest motivator, or it can paralyse you into inaction. You can choose to use it as a tailwind to propel you towards the achievement of your goals, or allow it to become a headwind that stands in the way of your success.
Here is a quote from the famous writer, Judy Blume:
“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”
An example of a common fear that affects many people is the fear or public speaking.
Even some of the best speakers in the world have felt nervous speaking in front of people at some point. The years of experience notwithstanding, many still admit to getting the jitters each time before they walk into the stage. But it is by confronting their fear head-on that they have learned to overcome their fear of public speaking – even if it may not be easy at first.
A good example I have shared in The Irrepressible Mind: Nine Steps to Overcome Adversity, involves stock market guru, Warren Buffett. His fear of speaking in public was so intense at one point that the idea of standing up and saying his name in front of people would fill him with anxiety.
Buffett realised that to make inroads in his career as a stockbroker, he either needed to confront his fear of public speaking or continue letting the fear paralyse him and risk reaching his full potential.
He would later take the necessary step of enrolling in a public speaking class
(in which he dropped out before he even started) but eventually forced himself
to go through with it.
Buffett's advice on how to overcome fear – whether it’s fear of public speaking or something else – is that fear will always be there, but “you have to go out there and do it” if you want to succeed.
As a career public speaker myself, I couldn’t agree more.
Overcoming Fear of Failure
The best gift you have as a person is the gift of choice in deciding how you want to react to your fears. You can choose to use it as fuel to get closer to your goals, or you can decide to play it safe and opt for the path of least resistance, aka the most unrewarding path.
Here is a favourite quote on fear from Jimmy Iovine:
“Fear is a powerful thing. I mean it's got a lot of firepower. If you can figure out a way to wrestle that fear to push you from behind rather than to stand in front of you, that's very powerful.”
It is important to realise that fear will always be part and parcel of us. But it doesn’t have to hold you back. Confronting your fears is never going to be easy, but it’s one of those things you need to learn to deal with in the pursuit of your goals.
This particularly applies in the job context. Whether you are employed or are an entrepreneur, fear is something you need to learn to cope with to get ahead. Because the road to success will be paved with many fears and trials, and how you navigate around them will determine where you end up.
Always remember this:
“Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.” ~Suzy Kassem
How to Overcome Fear Final Thoughts
‘It is better to try and fail than fail to try’ is a common saying that encourages us to confront our fears and take risks than to live a life of what-could-have-been.
Like Thomas Edison, you don’t have to succeed 100% of the time in your efforts. What matters more is that you tried. If you succeed, well and good. If you don’t, then you know how to improve or what tweaks you need to make in your approach next time.
Check out my career guidebook – The Irrepressible Mind: Nine Steps to Overcome Adversity – in which I detail the many instances I have had to overcome fear at different stages of my life, including some amazing tips you could borrow to reach your goals!