FEAR: How to Defeat the Monster

What is the greatest fear of man? Is it death? Pain? Poverty? Physical ailments? Loneliness? Surveys tell us that the number one fear among modern people is public speaking, of all things!

What is fear? We all know what it feels like, but what exactly is it? The dictionary defines fear as "A painful emotion or passion excited by the expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger; apprehension; anxiety; solicitude; alarm; dread; to be anxious or solicitous for." That sounds rather ominous, and it is. Now, what are we going to do about it?

Fear, however, can also be a positive emotion. Fear can also induce an adrenalin rush enabling us to rise to the demands of a particular situation. It could be the "extra" you need to run from the mugger, to sing in front of the crowd, to burst through the defensive line of the opposing team, to ask your boss for a raise and so on.

Fear manifests itself physically, often as a knot in the bottom of our stomach, as that tension headache in the lower region on the back of our skull, as subtle to massive perspiration levels across our bodies or dozens of other physical sensations. Is fear real? Sometimes, it is a result of very real and threatening circumstances, while at other times it is simply the resulting emotions caused by our apprehension and negative expectations concerning a certain activity, event or outcome. They feel the same however. Our bodies react in the same manner whether the fear is real or imagined.

Consider the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real. The letters spell fear, but what is the message? The obvious message is that whether or not the situation is real or imagined, our mind sees it as the same occurrence and our physical reaction is identical. Knowing this, we can now go to work.

Many years ago, Mark Twain said "Do the thing that you fear and the death of fear is certain." He was as exactly right then as he is for today, as truth never changes. I have found through personal experience that if you are fearful about a certain event or situation, there are steps that you can take to make it more logical and less emotional. In other words, identify the false evidence that is appearing real and you are on your way to reducing that situations' negative hold on you. Removing or reducing the negative emotion by identifying the false evidence will enable you to have the courage to do the thing that you fear.

For example, assume that you were called upon by your boss to do a three-month research project and present your findings and representations to the board. After you "outwardly and confidently" accept the assignment, your first gut reaction may likely be sheer panic! Right now, you are probably paralyzed with fear and shaken to the core. Where do you go from here? How on earth can you muster the fortitude to proceed?

Let's break down this project and look at it rationally. These same steps can be used with little modification to address a wide variety of circumstances. For the purposes of this paper, let's assume that you are quite capable of accumulating the data and extrapolating the results into a written report format and you now have concluded that portion of your assignment. What next?

1. Relax. Take a deep breath, hold for a 4 second count and exhale slowly. Repeat 4 times.

2. Close your eyes. Know that God gave you ample ability to do this. Be thankful.

3. On a blank sheet of paper, draw a line down the center so that you now have two columns.

4. Label column one as Positives and column two as Negatives.

5. Identify your negative emotions and write each one in the Negatives column. Write in detail as necessary. Clearly identify each feeling that you have relative to the assignment.

6. In the Positives column, write your strengths. Include your positive emotions. Examples: Do you have a pleasant voice? Is your work often complimented? Do people like you?

7. What are the likely outcomes from the assignment? Will you be promoted when you deliver your presentation? Will you receive a 20% salary increase? Will you literally die a horrid death if you deliver a poor presentation? Will they "boo" and heckle you in the boardroom? Be realistic. Examine the facts. What is the evidence supporting each possible outcome?

8. Identify the False Evidence Appearing Real. Does it look as threatening to you now in light of your recent analysis?

9. Study your audience. What do you know about each board member? Remember, they are also human beings just like you. They probably value their health and families too, just like you do. What types of presentations are they used to. What do they favor? Each board member's personal assistant can most likely answer these questions for you.

10. Plan your presentation. Make an outline using your expected time allotment. Determine which presentation tools, if any, that you will utilize. Do you need a drawing pad, a projector, a laptop or any other aid? Plan for all contingencies.

11. Rehearse your presentation several times until you are comfortable with it. Remember to do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain. Rehearse again.

12. Remember, especially just before your actual presentation, that you and only you are now the expert on this particular subject within the confines of the boardroom. Be confident.

Remember what that famous 1960's-70's philosopher, "Broadway" Joe Namath, had to say in one of his commercials; "Look sharp, feel sharp? Be sharp." Broadway Joe understood how to advance in the face or fear or adversity. He must have read Mark Twain.

These principles, altered slightly to fit any given situation, will always take the sting out of fear. "Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain." That is absolute truth that does not change with the passage of time.

Author Daniel Sitter's website is www.learningforprofit.com

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