If you have a working brain, you feel fear occasionally. Fear originates in the amygdala, two small lobes in the limbic system or “old brain” which is the survivalist part of the brain responsible for breathing, temperature and vomiting. The amygdala may be small but produces big emotions, such as anger and fear, which can cause big paralysis in business. Whether you are afraid of failure, afraid of success or afraid you’re not good enough, it all starts here. Thankfully, we are advanced creatures with this delightful development called the prefrontal cortex which can mediate and allow us to dominate over our fears. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for all higher order thinking- the ability to prioritize, organize, and rationalize. Though it doesn’t fully develop until about age 24, the prefrontal cortex helps us to acknowledge a feeling of fear and then tell it to fuck off.
Given that we aren’t really exposed to wicked witches or environmental threats to our survival as a species (U.S. political candidates aside), fear is largely outdated and does more harm than good. Initially fear produces a heightened awareness and an autonomic response that increases our energy as it prepares us for fight or flight but over the long run it depletes the body’s resources and makes it less likely that you will have the energy or brain power you need to succeed.
When overcoming fears related to your business, exposure therapy works! If you fear it, do it! You will realize quickly that nothing bad, or as bad as you imagined, happened and the fear will lose its grip. When working with clients, I often have them do something, unrelated to business, they don’t think they can do or something they fear. Overcoming successive fears generalizes to an overall sense of fearlessness and confidence. I use this exercise myself.
In fact, my next fearlessness test is to go stand up paddle boarding here in Florida. I know people do it all the time, but I am clumsy by nature (even though I danced ballet), terribly afraid to be in/on the water with sharks and we have a lot of them, and don’t swim that well either. But I’m going to feel the fear and do it anyway. I’ve enlisted my team who will go with me so no backing out now. Just waiting for a warmer day.
Warning: overcoming fears by facing them head on results in a feeling of power that can be addictive.