How do we effectively manage our fears and the level of fear we experience in any given situation? How can we correctly gauge what produces rational fear and what produces irrational fear?
A rational person would correctly be apprehensive to get into a cage with a lion. If someone asked you to go to the zoo to see the lion, one can reasonably assume that the lion would be locked up and it would be safe to go. But if someone asked you to go to the zoo and you refused because you were scared that the animals would break out and harm or kill you, your fears have then strayed into irrational territory. That’s not to say that that scenario is impossible, but weighing the benefits against the risks, it would be foolish to deprive yourself of life in the fear of the unlikely.
John Morales welcomed Dave Durand back onto Morning Air to talk about how to overcome fear and how fear affects us in our careers.
Dave began by talking about fear as an entity tied to our possessions, relationships, status, and reputation. All fear stems from the potential of loss in one way or another. If it wasn’t and we had “nothing to lose”, then we would feel comfortable with trying anything. The aforementioned fear of entering a lion’s cage stems from the potential loss of life. The fear of saying something to a significant other might stem from several things like being wrong or losing favor
Often, that irrational fear of loss is tied to complete ignorance of the potential of something good. Dave gave the example of someone who is afraid of commitment, giving up a relationship because they see how many things could go wrong or how many obstacles there might be, and not thinking about the potential of love, marriage, and a family. In a quirkier case of irrationality, someone might be afraid to drive because they don’t want to crash, not thinking about how they might get somewhere.
So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that we should live lives of complete detachment? From people, places, and things? Not exactly. While we are called to separate ourselves from worldly possessions, we cannot live lives of apathy and isolation. Otherwise, we risk allowing ourselves to experience true and authentic love, which is necessary for our salvation. The Catholic faith calls us to find a balance between detachment and engagement that gives us motivation but also keeps us from unnecessary harm.
John then turned the conversation to fear in our careers; how it affects our decision-making, how it can motivate us, and how it can crush us if we let it.
“There are three primary intrinsic motivators that we have,” said Dave. “The most powerful is love because it’s self-giving. The second one is self-justification. And then the third is fear.”
The reason love trumps fear is that we would let our love for something or someone override our judgment in making a decision, even if that decision required that we face something we fear. If a loved one was being threatened by a wild animal or a criminal, it might scare you but you would stand up to the danger in order to protect your loved one. Love is the primary motivator.
But in the workplace, you’re not operating under such circumstances. You’re generally dealing with people and things from an analytical standpoint that affects your well-being and livelihood. Whereas our normal decision-making might be based on past decisions, what went well, and what went poorly, fear can and will literally render us useless as a leader. It paralyzes the proper decision-making function in the brain. Our instinct is to play it safe.
In turn, that fear then dissolves the morale and order of the rest of the organization. While some opinionated minds would like to see everybody have a say in corporate matters, that’s just not the way the world works. A pilot does not get his passengers’ opinion on how to land the plane. Every organization needs a leader who’s willing to make tough decisions, even when they’re afraid. But when they can’t, the hierarchy collapses. Nobody knows their position or responsibilities. And that leads to confusion, frustration, and conflict.
Dave went on to say that there are just too many people who go through life sitting on the sidelines. When looking at the decision to do something, you should weigh the cost and the risks, but you have to understand the potential for the benefits and the good as well. Life is an adventure, and if we play it safe, we’ll get to the end of our lives and realize that we never lived at all. As long as you’re taking care of your responsibilities, make that leap. Go on that trip. Shoot for that new job or new position. Ask that person out on a date. Life is too short to let fear monopolize the driver’s seat.
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