There’s a lot in the world today that evokes fear. The world economy, terrorism, superbugs, the environment…the list goes on. But fear serves a purpose. It has a role in our lives and our businesses. In fact, the survival of both depends on it. Fear protects us. It also prompts us to move forward and take action in order to overcome it. But, knowing how much freedom to give fear is the difference between letting it run your life and business or using it as an impetus to become stronger and achieve more.
Some of the most famous people in the world have experienced intense fear in their profession. Adele, Barbara Streisand, Laurence Olivier and Carly Simon all suffered (or still suffer) from acute stage fright. In fact, Olivier had it so bad that his manager had to push him on stage every night when he was performing at London’s National Theater. To do what they love, they had to face their fear. Had they avoided fear, it would have impeded their creativity and prevented them from sharing their talents.
The interesting thing about fear is the more you overcome it, the more confidence you gain. It actually drives us to move forward. If we were always comfortable, finding the initiative to improve, grow and advance ourselves—effectively breaking out of our secure surroundings—would be difficult at best. Fear drives us toward success only if we work to overcome it. Otherwise, we fail to succeed and develop the resilience we need to thrive in life.
If you think about it, how can you focus on advancing yourself when your actions are taken in fear? For example, if you’re focused solely on not getting fired, every action you take is in fear. How much is left for truly excelling at your job? Or if you’re afraid of your customers and will do anything to please them, no matter the cost to your business, your coworkers or your ethics, what are you left with? Unreasonable customer expectations that are now set for any future projects and interactions, the contempt of your coworkers and potential damage to your company’s health and stability.
It’s natural to experience fear when considering a new idea that’s never been done before. Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and cofounder of Tesla, has said that he feels fear quite strongly. Based on the many advanced technologies he’s helped develop and bring to market and the goals he has for his companies, you wouldn’t think that Musk would give much thought to fear. However, he is an ideal example of using fear as a reason to drive forward. For example, his fears about the world’s energy supply and overpopulation have been an impetus behind creating electric vehicles and exploring the colonization of Mars.
Fear is a natural part of our lives and our businesses. It heightens our senses and helps inform our decisions. As unpleasant as it can be to face, fear can help us realize our goals. Knowing how much freedom to give it is the key. The bigger you let it become, the less likely you’ll be able to get past it and succeed. Instead of falling victim to fear and letting it hold you back, use it to move forward and achieve.