The question: Can being afraid be useful for you? It is very relevant because most companies run on fear unconsciously, unfortunately immersing their employees in an unhealthy workplace environment. Global and political events do not help people feel more secure in the world today, either. At a personal level, understanding what fear has to offer is vital to mental and emotional well-being. Fear, or being afraid, presents both an invitation and a safeguard.
In my experience, fear marks the edge of the familiar to the unfamiliar. The zone of growth is characterized by a feeling of excitement mixed with trepidation before embarking into new territory. That’s where fear serves you well. It is also preceded by anxiety, another emotion that can be useful for steering your choices.
Equally, fear can paralyze decision-making and prevent you from trying anything different. Fear of failure is the culprit there usually. To function in today’s world, putting fear to good use helps gain control. What you can readily observe are fear-based decisions are made up in your mind, not life-threatening but often based in need for emotional security. When I was forced well outside of my comfort zone, a lot of worries and doubt fell away since, when I looked more closely, it did not help with day to day functioning. My thought processes, with training, stopped being hijacked by what-ifs that really were not good ways to calculate risk.
Fear also compromises decision-making as well as serves it. This is more complicated to unpack… I did quite a bit of that in Decision Making for Dummies. Your cognitive functions are more accurate and intuition faster when you are emotionally centered and calm.
Emergency dynamic changing situations, like crisis decisions, happen in milliseconds. Your intuition takes over. However, it too needs developing because it runs on patterns. If you limit the situations you operate in, your intuitive responses will also be limited. More data coming from different contexts inform your intuitive database. Learning how to navigate in different situations, strengthens your intuitive muscle.
Humans are habitual creatures with minds that attach meaning to everything!
Remember Chicken Little?
Facing fears and asking: what is the worse that can happen? That might help put things in perspective. Or ask, how will I feel if I don’t take this risk and explore a new adventure in life? Life is to be lived so fear can both keep you safe (gut instinct) and keep you confined and repressed (where fear is a show stopper). Suppressing yourself leads to depression, which is not a fun state.
Zooming out for a moment, the challenges we face in the world today need engaged citizens to help design better solutions that care for all life, not just humans. In that sense, fear can morph into inspired action.
Fear is an emotion that can drive people to escape reality, reach for opioids and alcohol, instead of diving deep into the growth needed to live a fulfilling life.
How you use it determines the difference.