Growing Through Fear

leadership mindset and goals personal development Jul 09, 2021

I have to admit! I was having fun with the obstacle course during my Basic Military Officer Qualification (BMOQ) until I stood gazing up at this 40 plus foot-tower. You can never become a soldier, much less an officer, without performing the task of rappelling down this 40 foot-tower. This obstacle is geared towards a recruit growing through fear as she builds confidence and moves one step closer to becoming a soldier. After listening to the stern command of my drill Sargeant who yelled, "Spence, you are next!" I mustered up the courage, faced the challenge, and to my surprise, it wasn't that bad after all.

The truth is if you have never experienced fear, one day you will. How you respond to your fear can make a big difference in whether you succeed or fail. The most common fears that people have, include:

  • The fear of public speaking.
  • The fear of death.
  • The fear of failure.
  • The fear of the unknown.

What happens, though, when we fear? How can we manage our fear? And how may we grow through our fear?

The Truth About Fear

Fear is a flight or fight response to protect one's self amid imminent danger. Physiologically, your body summons all the energy you need for your fight-or-flight response to protect yourself. During this process, growth cannot happen, as shifting into a protective mode unavoidably restricts growth behaviors. Remaining in this state for too long will inevitably consume your energy and compromise your growth.

Therefore, it is the fear of failure that keeps a lot of people from achieving their full potential in life. According to Bruce Lipton in his book The Biology of Belief, "when you are frightened, you're dumber." That said, fear creates negative thoughts that result in shortness of breath, tight muscles, stress overload, and the conditions that make failure more likely.

Managing Fear

As noted before, fear is a normal response to a perceived threat. However, while it is a signal for you to protect yourself and get out of harm's way, it is not in your best interest if fear seizes control. So how can you manage your fear so that it doesn't take control?

The best way to manage your fear is by confronting the fear and developing a strategy on how to proceed. Since fear is generally about something in the future, calm yourself down and bring yourself back into the present moment by doing three sets of this simple breathing exercise. First, breathe in deeply as you count from 1 to 6, hold it as you count from 1 to 3, then exhale as you count from 1 to 6. Along with your breathing exercise, interrupt your negative thoughts by replacing them with positive self-talk and images of success. 

Facing your fear leads to growth 

What fears are hindering your growth? Interestingly, once you learn how to manage your fear, your chance of success increases astronomically. Truthfully! Everything you desire is on the other side of fear. It is no wonder, Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the Great Depression and a looming World War, challenged the American people; "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

If it's the failure you fear, like most people do, be aware that the only way to accomplish greatness is to risk failing. Furthermore, anyone who has ever succeeded in anything will tell you that failure is inevitable and that they failed many times on their journey to greatness.

I challenge you, therefore, to identify the things you are afraid of and confront them courageously. As Joseph Campbell posits, "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek."