Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Believe it or not, everyone deals with fear. Call it fear, anxiety, or worry, it affects us all at some point in our lives. In fact, psychologists have found that we all deal with fear on a consistent basis. Most of us don’t feel afraid or anxious most of the time because we have a very sophisticated—and downright genius—coping mechanism that protects our emotional state. This can be good in the sense that we are not walking around in constant anxiety, but it can also be counter-productive if we are unaware of the fears that prevent us from achieving our goals.
Some people ask. “Why does fear affect some people more than others?” I think that’s the wrong question. Fear is a normal part of life. In a world that is as volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous as ours, it’s amazing that more people don’t live in a constant state of anxiety. The correct question is should be: “Why doesn’t everybody suffer from anxiety?”
There are some people who are in a state of constant anxiety. It’s possible that these individuals don’t have a very well-developed coping mechanism. It might also be that personality traits such as high agreeableness and/or high neuroticism prevent them from dealing with their anxiety well. The personality trait of neuroticism is the level to which an individual is prone to negative emotions, or who experience high levels of stress and worry. Such individuals may experience their fear on a higher level, and thus have a more difficult time coping with the emotion.
What can we do if we are aware of a fear we consistently deal with? Psychologists who work with people suffering from agoraphobia, which is essentially a fear of everything, have discovered that people don’t become less afraid. Eliminating fear is not a worthwhile pursuit. However, people can become more courageous over time regarding the thing which causes them fear. Taking small steps to develop this courage—micro habits—can help to develop that courage.
When it comes to leadership or any area of adult development, understanding the relationship between fear and courage is essential. Many of us have behaviors (or lack of behaviors) that interfere with our stated goals and prevent us from reaching them. These behaviors are often rooted in unconscious or unrecognized fears and competing assumptions that may or may not be correct. Taking a deep dive to discover our individual anxieties is one of the steps in overcoming the barriers to achieving our goals in life. Often, a good coach can help walk people through this process.
What are your fears? Are you aware of them? Do you need help discovering your unknown fears that are keeping you from being successful? These are questions everyone should be asking themselves.