What Me Worry About Fear?
A great statesman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, once said, “All we have to fear is fear itself”. When we first hear this statement, we think how simple yet powerful those words are. At second blush, after we read it over a few more times, we begin to wonder what he was really talking about. Was he talking about the average person’s fears; those daily fears like whether monthly bills would be paid, whether the kids would do well in school that week, or about whether a work presentation to be given at the end of the week would be presented perfectly? No I think he was talking about something bigger and at the same time something more basic. I think he was trying to get the average person to understand what it means to face real fear not perceived fear; and secondly I think he wanted to get people to think about how to develop a healthy way to cope with fear. There are a number of ways fear impacts our lives. Ultimately we live healthier lives if we work to understand our fears. I’ve come up with a few thoughts about fear over the years.
1. Understand that a certain amount of fear is normal. A certain amount of fear is basic to our survival. Fear keeps us aware and alert. Fear helps us stay focused.
2. Put fear in perspective. Fear of anything can become as large or as small a part of our lives as we choose. It is important to keep the fear of something at a level where you can control the fear, rather than allowing it to control you. Designate a limited amount of thought time to a fear. Allot only a certain amount of personal energy to something you fear.
3. Keep the fear “state of mind” manageable. We can spend our time how we choose, thinking about what we choose. Punctuate each thought of fear with a proactive thought process. Think through what results could happen if a specific fear were to become realized; then think how you might prepare for or change that outcome. Look at what steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood that what you fear will occur.
4. Some time losing oneself in fear is necessary. If we say we are not afraid maybe we are actually being foolish. We can’t stick our head in the sand and ignore things that we should fear. Some fear is healthy it protects us from unsafe situations and forces us to face negative yet realistic outcomes.
5. Decide what is important enough to fear. This is what Mr. Roosevelt was really talking about. We need to let go of those false fears and focus on those fears important enough to truly fear. We must be strong enough to limit what we fear. We never want to let fear limit our ability to try new things or attempt to overcome obstacles in our life.
6. Fear is best served up in moderation. We need to decide if we want to live in a world where fear rules us or where we rule fear. Fear should simply be one process in our thought patterns not “the” thought process in our daily thought patterns.
7. Chronic fear leads to worry. Ninety-nine percent of what we fear never happens. When fear settle in and takes over our lives, then we tend to live in a state of worry. Worry is a negative force within our lives. Worry in general drains us of our precious energy levels and limits our ability to make decisions clearly.
8. The one percent that we didn’t plan on happening we’d never see coming. This isn’t about being fatalistic. It’s about being realistic. Unforeseen events occur in everyone’s life. Still we should spend our time positively focusing on what is most likely to happen not fearing the multiple layers of future uncertainty. Focus on what is most likely to happen not the one percent that is most unlikely to happen.
9. We should fear worry. This is what President Roosevelt was getting at in his statement. We should fear our own shortcomings when they allow us to become lost in an unhealthy focus on fear. It isn’t healthy if we fixate on our fear of things. We have more constructive ways to spend our time. We aren’t avoiding fear, we just aren’t letting it define our lives.
Letting fear linger on and morph into worry, over time, reduces our daily energy and focus levels. This in turn allows fear to more greatly impact our day to day lives. Fear loses its power when we turn and face it head on. It is up to us to choose whether we allow fear to play a healthy or unhealthy role in our lives. Maybe in the end it’s all about focusing on what we aren’t afraid of as much as what we fear.