I had a phone call to make about something that was embarrassing for me. It was so embarrassing that I actually put it off for three months; now that’s embarrassment. I kept wondering what the person on the other end would say, and how they would react. My mind kept seeing and hearing all these bad things, and I knew I was going to be trapped into something I wasn’t ready to deal with.

anticipating fear
OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay

Luckily, I’m the type who will finally reach a limit and take charge of my responsibilities. When it pertains to business, I almost never have any reservations in doing what needs to be done. When it’s personal, well, suffice it to say that I’ve had four girlfriends in my life (married the last one) and every one of them asked me out first... and broke up with me first. 🙂

I’d finally had enough. I picked up the phone, made the call, talked to the party on the other line,… and all was fine. Matter of fact, it turned out way better than anything I could have hoped for.

I was shocked and stunned... for about two minutes. Then I realized that I'd experienced the same type of thing I tell people all the time; things are usually worse in your mind than they will be in reality.

The same thing happened recently for a friend of mine. She got offered a new job and worried about the reaction of the person she was working for. She ended up taking the easy way out; she called him on the phone over the weekend. Instead of getting a negative reaction, he saw that it was a positive move for her and her family, and wished her well, saying they would discuss issues more come the following Monday.

Franklin Roosevelt said the only thing to fear is fear itself. It’s always the unknown that most of us don’t like, but it’s amazing how we can plant certain fears in our minds based on that.

Fears lead to superstitions and phobias, but they also lead to inaction or overreaction. It’s hard enough in our personal lives, but when we have work to do, and these fears pertain to others, whether we’re in a leadership position or not, fear can be detrimental to our performance, as well as the performance of others.

Almost everyone has had a project with a deadline. I'm the type who does projects immediately to get it out of the way. Whenever I was a director and it was budget time, you could bet my budget would be in the hands of the finance department within a week, even though we had a month to work on it. In my way of thinking, if I got it in early and there were mistakes, I’d be informed and then would have the opportunity to fix the errors. By doing it immediately, it was off my mind and I could move on to other things.

Everyone else? Almost every other director would wait until the week of, or a few days before, their budgets were supposed to be turned in. Most of them would say they didn’t understand how the process was supposed to go, even though it was a yearly event that hardly ever changed.

What was the real reason for the delay? The real reason is that many times the rules were that we had to find ways to cut expenses by a certain percentage. When things weren’t great, that percentage, for many directors, meant they were going to have to address staff cuts.

Even though many employees don’t believe this, no leader ever wants to be forced into cutting members of their own department. This means many of them would let their fears keep them from even starting the process, and then use those same fears to say they didn’t understand it.

This would put a lot of pressure on the people in finance, and sometimes administration would end up making the decisions instead, which the other directors were never happy with. In a way, those decisions let them off the hook; they evaded their responsibilities because they were scared. Then they could either demur to their employees by saying they were forced into it or that they tried to fight the decisions made for them so they wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings.

Dale Carnegie said “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Benjamin Disraeli said “What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expected generally happens.” What do these things really mean in the realm of fear?

Many of us allow our fears to paralyze us, and when that happens, we can’t progress or move forward. We keep things on our minds that need to be released, and those fears are what rules us until we find a way to overcome them, if we can ever get to that point.

We tend to project feelings onto something because it’s what we feel might be the worst thing that could happen. Yet, if we were on the other side, we'd rarely react to the same events as we think others would.

That’s a very interesting point, because, even if we know what someone is like, we sometimes put an emotion or reaction to that person that, if we think about it, would be totally out of character for them. Our imaginations run wild, and then we allow indecision to eat at us.

Notice how many good things come from those times when you didn’t have the time to think about something, but instead reacted out of necessity. Often things turn out alright. In those moments, all those life lessons one has learned, all those morals and mores that have been stored within join together, come up with a plan of attack, and you’re on your way. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could always generate that kind of emotion?

Buddha says “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” Something I've been saying a lot lately is "Plan for the best, prepare for the worst."

These quotes and the previous quotes might not totally take away one's fear. But hopefully they'll help minimize the fear and encourage positive action when needed.