How to Use Fear to Your Advantage

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Fear is a powerful emotion. Whether you’re facing a fear of failure, fear of rejection, or even a fear of success, it can cause you to miss out on opportunities, second-guess yourself and lose momentum in your life. But fear can also be a powerful driving factor behind positive action, if you know how to leverage it.

It doesn’t matter what you’re afraid of — taking the plunge and starting a business, saying no to a client, applying to speak at a conference — you can use the fear in a positive way. Here are a few ways you can gather up the fear and use it to your advantage.

Recognize the Fear

One of the worst things you can do is try to ignore what you’re afraid of. Denying fear exists doesn’t help you conquer it and can cause you to make poor decisions because you feel ill-prepared when faced with the problem head-on.

Instead, acknowledge that the fear exists, explore where it’s coming from and outline what needs to happen for you to overcome it. Many times, bringing your fear fully into the light of day by putting it on paper or saying it aloud will begin to remove some of the power.

Use the Fear as a Check-In on Reality

Now that you’ve admitted to yourself that you’re afraid, take a closer look at what is causing you to be afraid. Do you worry that taking the plunge and leaving your job will cause a serious financial setback, the client you say no to will pull all work from you, or your speaking application will be rejected? Well, all of those outcomes are entirely possible and valid concerns.

Instead of letting the worry about what might happen dictate the decision you make, analyze the possibilities and use it to create best and worst case scenarios you can live with, and let that drive how you decide to act.

Turn the Fear on Its Head

Fear is often a case of perception, how you view the potential negative outcomes of a situation. Adjust your opinion of what may happen by assigning positives to even the worst outcome.

For example: Quitting your job to start a business and facing a financial struggle results in you finally being rid of a job you hated and gives you an intense motivation to succeed as a business owner. The client leaving when you say no proves he wasn’t an ideal client and your business is likely better off without him. Being rejected to speak at the conference taught you several lessons about what to do and not do when submitting a speaking application.

Let the Fear Slow You Down

No, don’t let your fear stop you, but it’s okay to pause while you consider it. Sometimes one of the best ways to use your fear is by allowing it to exist for a short period of time, taking a break from the pressure to beat it, and using the time to reflect. This may not rid you of your worries instantaneously, but it can give you a clear head and a new focus as you work on getting past it.

Fear is very real and can be paralyzing, but it is possible to use to your advantage and turn it into a motivator. How have you used fear to your advantage?

Image credit: brainloc

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  • http://randomwisdom.tumblr.com pbaarn

    The message I would take from fear is: prepare!

    If you’re afraid of a client leaving you when you say no, it’s a signal for you to work hard on how you say no and what you will do to save the relationship. If you’re afraid of leaving your job for your own business, take it as a signal to work harder on preparing for your business and coming up with fall back scenarios.

    To use fear as a signal, your desired outcome must be extremely compelling. It’s a goal you feel you MUST reach. If it’s not important enough, fear will stop you in your tracks.

    Fear: I’m afraid this painful thing will happen
    Paralysis: If I don’t do anything this painful thing will not happen (yet)
    Preparation: What can I do to prevent this painful thing happening?

    My 2 cents. One day I hope to live by my own advice.

    Paul Baarn

    • johndove523

      @Paul – Tony Robbins says exactly – PRECISELY – the same thing about fear as an action signal; FEAR = GET PREPARED. If you are as prepared as you can get for whatever it is you fear, then you need to relax and have a little faith that things will work out. And I, too, hope to someday be able to apply this so well that I have nothing to fear but fear itself.