When things get stalled, as we saw in the article that answered the question What is a Microfear?, fear is often why. Not big fears; small ones.
- We’re afraid of failing at something we want to learn.
- We’re afraid of starting an ambitious project that might fail.
- We’re afraid of choosing the wrong job and missing a better opportunity.
Ash realized that their business partner was no longer a good fit for the business. But they were scared to have the difficult conversation, because it might destroy the relationship.
Look carefully. All those fears are about something that isn’t happening in front of you. Every one.
Fear began as a way to save us from danger that was present and immediate. We’d spot a Saber Tooth tiger or killer jellyfish and get afraid. Very afraid. And we’d run, or fight, or freeze. As long as we chose the right one for the occasion, those reactions served us well.
Our brain still has that reaction, however, even to our own imagination. We run a mental movie of our business partner getting upset during a conversation. Then we get afraid that they really are upset. But we’re really just projecting what we think will happen. Then we get scared of our mental movie and decide we won’t have that difficult conversation.
If you aren’t making progress on Something Important, blame fear. The fear comes from your beliefs and thoughts about the future.
Fear = perceived danger + emotion
Yay, Brain!! We can anticipate problems and respond in advance.
This is a good thing!
What sucks is the fight/flight/freeze response. It helps us survive a killer jellyfish, but not much else. And it certainly doesn’t help us have a difficult conversation when we need to.
When you anticipate a problem, however, you have plenty of time to be smart about it. If you can defuse fight/flight/freeze while still knowing the problem, you can use your smarts to deal with it.
Without fight/flight/freeze: Ash imagines the business partner freaking out and … calmly calmly and carefully rehearses the conversation. Ash tries several presentations, choosing the most respectful, gentle approach. (In the real case, the partner knew he wasn’t a fit. He was relieved to discuss it and left amicably.)
Without fight/flight/freeze, you can take deliberate action. You can plan. You can take action to choose your future. You don’t have to let your emotions choose your actions:
You imagine failing at something you want to learn … and you calmly identify tutors, extra reading, and other resources in advance to help.
You’re afraid you might fail at an ambitious project … and you recruit a team with the needed skills. You do good risk management up front, making success much more likely.
You believe you might choose the wrong job … and you make a plan. You keep in touch with your other prospects so you have a backup network.
Make your fears work for you
Your brain is great at projecting What Might Happen. You have plenty of time to plan. But when your fear hijacks your thinking, you end up avoiding the very things you want to do.
- Where are you stalled?
- What’s not getting done?
- Where do you shy away?
In part 3, I’ll share some tips for finding and overcoming your fears.