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Continuing the series on Finding Focus in 2010 – 3 powerful steps to beat procrastination and overcome fear. Click here to subscribe and never miss another post – and you’ll help us get to our big target of 500 subscribers (currently 115). Thank you!
“There is nothing to fear except fear itself” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fear – gut-wrenching, stomach-churning foreboding. Even thinking about fear sends a shiver down my spine. Despite this, we should all be quite grateful to our biology for this emotion. In its primal form it is there to protect us from harm – the sabre-tooth tiger hiding in the bushes or falling over the edge of a cliff. Unfortunately this instinct can also be a real obstacle to finding focus in our lives. It can paralyse us with inactivity, drive procrastination and avoidance, and distract us from the here and now. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway may be a a cliché, however learning to manage fear can increase our focus and effectiveness .
When we feel afraid, our ever-active brains conjure up a future scenario that typically involves failure and impending doom. Before we know it, looking for a new and more fulfilling job leads to us being rumbled by the boss, fired, losing our homes and destitute on the street, stealing to feed our families. All this imagination requires a lot of energy and takes our eye off the ball of what is happening in the present moment. Fear also generates powerful hormonal responses in our body (that tightness in the stomach) that literally make us freeze. Gripped by fear, it is normal to abandon that important phone call, and find something less scary to do (this is where Google and Facebook often kick in for me). This often causes us to lose all focus on what needed to be done and go into a loop of procrastination and delay.
Learning to understand and manage fear is the first step to overcoming it. Here is a simple three-step process to start dealing with fear:
1. Find your fear
The first step to making a change is to understand what is happening. Next time you find yourself procrastinating and wasting time, or avoiding an important task, stop for a minute. The first thing to do is to figure out what is going on, and these questions may help:
- What activity am I procrastinating about?
- What is behind this – what am I afraid of? (The most common fears include, fear of taking a risk, fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of humiliation)
- What unfortunate consequences am I anticipating and attaching to this activity? (Let your imagination really go wild here).
Often we internalise and hide our fears, so take a little extra time to ensure you get to the root cause of the problem.
2. Rationalise your fear
Next, it is time to explore the situation. Fear tends to be irrational and based on our own wild imagination’s ability to whip up a terrifying scare story. Think through some of these questions:
- How realistic is the scenario I’ve created?
- What are other potential outcomes?
- What would the consequences of these be?
- How would I handle these consequences in reality?
- How rational is this fear, really?
- What is the best decision to make in the moment based on my desired outcome?
The objective here is to come back into the present moment and decide the most logical step to take right now. If you are still stuck with your fear, try this next step:
3. The Power of Ten
Think through the activity you are planning to undertake. Now ask yourself if you are to do it, how important are the potential consequences in ten hours time? What about in ten days, ten weeks, ten months or ten years. Use these answers to assess the fear you feel. This helps to provide a better perspective on making choices and to diminish fear of the future implications.
Fear is a hardwired into our DNA and learning to manage fear’s effects takes time and determination. Not one day goes by where I don’t feel afraid about something I need to do. However, these simple steps can help us to be brave and achieve things we dreamed of but thought were impossible. This process helps us to take life one small and determined step at a time and be more focussed every day.