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How to Manage Fear

October 23, 2012
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224770

Amy C. Cosper

I like going fast. In cars, on motorcycles--any machine that accelerates, count me in. I realize, of course, that this is a dangerous preference. There's always the possibility I could eat pavement, get a ticket and, in general, be perceived as a hooligan. These are risks I am willing to accept in order to satisfy the adrenaline monster.

In the anticipation of pursuing my "hobby," I have no fear of speed. It is only when I am in the act of speeding and realize, I am speeding, that the perception of potential danger sinks in. This recognition sometimes scares me witless, to the point that I start making mistakes: When I feel fear, my tendency is to overthink, overanalyze, overreact. When I'm afraid, I'm not performing at my best; this leads to self-doubt, and that's when I falter. And frankly, this jeopardizes my aforementioned (and hard-earned) reputation as a hooligan.

Fear is a natural reaction to certain situations. It's hard-wired into our DNA, in the form of our fight-or-flight response and all those survival skills that have gotten us this far as a species. In business, fear becomes a problem when it gets in the way--when it runs roughshod through the course of a decision, a day or an entire existence. Fear is counterproductive and slows down creativity and curiosity. And it's not much fun, either.

But you probably already know about fear. As someone in the business of hiring, firing, raising money, expanding, setting revenue goals and driving change, you are familiar with the anxieties that come with your chosen path. Whether it's meeting payroll, that public-speaking gig you agreed to about this time last year or the angst associated with finding a work-life balance, business--and entrepreneurship in particular--can be a frightening pursuit.

While it may be easy to extol the virtues of being a badass, the actual practice of bespoke activity can prove daunting. No one likes fear, but sometimes it shows up anyway. In this issue, we decided to dissect the physiology of this most reptilian of emotions--its root causes and ways to overcome its hold on the human psyche. Contributor Christopher Hann tackles the issues in his excellent piece, "Fear factor". We hope this article will help you manage your fear and channel that emotion into something productive.

It all boils down to this: When fear shows up and threatens your curiosity and enlightenment, look it square in the eye, acknowledge it, own it and move on. Don't let it hold you back from greatness. The greatest thing to fear about fear is the inaction that often accompanies it. And that is perhaps the greatest danger to the evolution of your business.

Dale Carnegie stated it best: "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."

Amy C. Cosper
Amy C. Cosper,
Editor in chief
Follow me on Twitter, @EntMagazineAmy