Fear Is The Mind-Killer

The person who is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.

Too many people spend too much of their lives being afraid of one thing or another. Salespeople may be afraid of prospecting, cold calling, or closing. Business people may be afraid of changing market places, rising customer expectations, or new information technologies. And health care professionals may be afraid of new regulations from Washington or stronger pressures for cost containment.

On the personal front, you may be afraid of an impending illness, a lack of money, or a possible job loss. You may even be afraid of what is or could be happening in your relationships. Or as one person said, her biggest fear was waking up, glancing in the mirror, and looking like the photo on her driver’s license.

Of course, some of your fears are normal and healthy. They point out the dangers in life. They protect you from harm. But too many people are saddled with abnormal fear, a fear that stops them from living a full life or having a productive career.

Abnormal fear is strong and pervasive. It’s like the slogan of Paranoids Anonymous; they don’t tell you where they meet. Or as someone else said, “Why should I waste my time reliving the past when I can spend it worrying about the future?”

Abnormal fear is also prohibiting. It stops people from trying. It encourages people to make excuses rather than make progress.

I see it all the time in my speaking business. I know the information I share in my programs will unequivocally improve the lives of the people in my audience. Afterall, I’ve read the letters and taken the calls from hundreds of attendees over the years. Their stories of success go on and on.

But I also know there are people in my audiences who will not use the techniques and strategies I teach. I wonder why they’re unwilling to give it try.

The answer is fear. They get excited by what I share. They get a glimpse of new possibilities, and then they sabotage themselves with fear and doubt. As Shakespeare wrote, “Our fears do make us fail to try and gain the heights that are possible for us.”

Several years ago, motivational researcher, Napoleon Hill, wondered how many times the average person will try before giving up on a new goal. The answer was less than one. Lots of people quit before they even try.

It’s a sad thing to be saddled with fear, especially when it doesn’t have to rule your life. You have a choice. You can acquiesce and let fear dominate your life, or you can dominate your fears. I assume you want the latter. So here’s what you do.

DECIDE YOU’RE IN CHARGE. Not your fears. Every minute you spend in fear is a minute controlled by something that hasn’t happened.

STAY CALM. It’s a natural tendency to panic when you face a crisis, but panic is very dangerous. When you panic, you can’t think straight, so you won’t act smart.

So stay calm, but mind you, I said stay calm — not feel calm. To deal with your fears, you need to behave with poise and composure. Your behavior will ease your fears, open your mind, and fuel your progress.

For example, Lowell Thomas, the famous newscaster told the story about the State Legislature in Hartford, Connecticut during the 1700’s. About noon it became very dark. The sun was blotted out and stayed that way for some time. The Lower House adjourned in disorder, believing the world was coming to an end.

The Senate was more orderly because Abraham Davenport stayed calm. He arose to address his colleagues, saying, “If it is not the end of the world, we do not need to adjourn. If it is the end of the world, I would rather be here doing my duty when God finds me. I move that candles be brought and that we go on with our business.”

Then REMEMBER THE LAW OF AVERAGES IS ON YOUR SIDE. In other words, most of the horrible things you’re afraid might happen won’t happen. So don’t borrow sorrow from tomorrow.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of many fine books on positive thinking, once interviewed an elderly statistician. The older gentleman, at age 85, said he figured out over the course of his lifetime, 92% of the things he had worried about had never happened. He said, “It was foolish of me to be so anxious and full of fear about things that were never going to happen.”

So the next time fear knocks on your emotional door, ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?” Then ask, “Has it ever happened before?” And, “What are the chances of it happening now?” You’ll discover that it’s not very likely that the worst will happen.

Perhaps you’re afraid of making the wrong decision. So you spend tons of time putting it off. But you need to remember what David Mahoney, Jr., a corporate executive said, “You’ll never have all the information you need to make a decision. If you did, it would be a foregone conclusion, not a decision.”

You need to remember the law of averages is on your side. Of all the decisions you could make, you probably won’t make the worst possible decision. And once you make a decision, you’ll feel a lot better. Author Rita Mae Brown says, “A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one,” because a decision is better than living in agonizing limbo.

Of course, one of the best strategies for dominating your fear is to DO THE THING YOU FEAR. The great American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson was right. He said, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”

In other words, the emphasis is on action, not denial. You don’t get rid of your fear by pretending. You don’t get rid of it by telling yourself you’re not afraid.

It works, however, if you stand up to your fears and say, “Yes, I’m afraid. I’m scared. But I will not give in to this fear. I will not let it dominate my life.” Then go out there and do the thing you fear. That’s how you make the fear go away.

The American flying ace and great businessman Eddie Rickenbacker knew that. He said, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” And actor Gene Hackman knows that. He said, “The difference between a hero and a coward is one step sideways.” The difference is action.

I know that from my speaking experience. I’ve given some 3000 programs across the world, and I love it. But there was a time years ago when the fear of public speaking was getting in my way. So I practiced in front of my cats. You have to be very dramatic and animated to keep them mesmerized. If you don’t, they’ll just get up and walk off. I learned if I can do cats, I can do people.

You’ve got to do the thing you fear. The late Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, wrote about that in his book, Of Men and Mountains. As a small boy, while lying beside the pool, he was thrown into the deep end by the school bully. He had never learned to swim and began to sink. He went down once, twice, and then someone pulled him out.

This terrifying experience caused him to fear water much of his adult life. It constantly plagued him. But then one day Douglas walked to the lakeshore. He looked at the water and felt the old terror once again, but he said, “With the help of God, I am now going to destroy this fear. The fear is here, but so is God.” He plunged in, and it wasn’t long before he learned to swim.

As you do the thing you fear, remember a law of physics: MOMENTUM EQUALS MASS TIMES VELOCITY. In other words, fear can be a mighty mass, pushing you to make excuses instead of progress. You may even feel weak and powerless in comparison to your fears. But if you are bold, if you follow the equation and throw yourself into your task, you will be delighted with the results.

Many football players know this. Cory knew this. He was small compared to the other players. Frankly, he was afraid of some of the other great big athletes. But in one of his classes, Cory learned this law of physics.

In one game he saw an enormous fullback coming down the field toward him with the ball tucked under his arm. Cory knew that the only thing between him and the goalpost was himself. Remembering this law of physics, he hurled himself like a bullet shot out of a gun at the great big fullback. He hit him with such force that the fullback lost his grip on the ball. Cory recovered the ball and ran for a touchdown.

That’s not a bad example for all of us. Just do the thing you fear, do it with velocity, and the fear will eventually disappear.

Action:  Write down ten fears that you have. Then rank order your ten fears from 1 to 10, number 1 being your strongest fear and number 10 your weakest fear. Start with your number 10 fear and take some action on it this week. Do the thing you fear, and keep on doing it until you’ve got that fear under control or eradicated. Then move up the list to fear number 9, etc.