Paradigm Shifter #4: Don’t let your fears control your actions

Paradigm Shift

What are we afraid of?  Although we live in a time where economic uncertainty and mindless violence threaten our security, the fear that I’ve observed (and even experienced) is something much more intangible – something that often arises from our internal (rather than external) environment.

While we live in times that are challenging, threatening, and often just plain scary, I’m sure that earlier generations felt the same way.  Nothing remains the same.  Everything is constantly changing.  Despite our best attempts, we can’t predict the future.  To sail forward, we must leave the shore.  But fear is an anchor that refuses to budge.

Sadly, many of our fears remain nameless, yet they influence not only what we will and will not do but also how we do or do not do it.  The sources of fear often exist on a subconscious level, but direct our conscious actions.

The good news is that because fears are thoughts, we can learn to control them.

How to Control Your Fears:  The key is to identify your root fear.  Surprisingly, many fears share some common sources:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of both failure and success

The fear of failure is often intuitively understood by most people.  Failure undermines our self-esteem, can lead to negative effects in our environment (e.g., job loss, financial insecurity, etc.), and degrades our image in the eyes of others.

Fear of success is just as pervasive.  Succeeding requires time and effort.  It requires us to lose sight of the shore and take advantage of opportunities whose outcomes might not be immediately evident.  Success requires changing that which we currently know into that which is currently unknown.

Finally, the double whammy of the fear of both failure and success is perhaps the most challenging.  Despite the strong desire to succeed, we’re too afraid of not only what will happen after we succeed, but also along the path to take as we move toward that success – so we sabotage, procrastinate, and “almost” succeed.

These are powerful fears – but they can be changed to support (rather than hinder) you.

Step #1:  Admit that you are afraid.  Recognizing your fears, understanding them, and consciously accepting that they are affecting your actions are extremely effective in getting to the root cause of your fears.

Step #2:  Define success on your terms.  Why do you want this particular type of success?  (See Paradigm Shifter #6:  Define what success means to you, not for somebody else.)

Step #3:  Be specific as to how your fears have undermined your success.  Think about the connections between your fearful thoughts, your actions, and the outcomes.

Step #4:  Change your self-talk and the associated images.  Addressing the emotions associated with your fears is just as important as intellectually understanding them.  Your self-talk is not only words, but also images that determine your behaviors.  So, rather than just focusing on the messages in the endless “self-talk” loop, also try focusing on the images associated with these messages.  Then change not only the message, but also the image for something that is desirable and speaks to your emotions and internal motivation.  Messages that are accompanied with positive, desirable images can be more powerful than simply reciting new, half-hearted messages.

Step #5:  Celebrate each time saying “no” to your fears leads to a positive outcome!  This not only feels good, but also reinforces that you are committed to no longer allowing your fears to control your destiny.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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