“It is not a matter of being fearless. The fear is sometimes constant, but it’s about moving forward regardless of the fear. Courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” -Gillian Anderson
Every Halloween one of my favorite videos is shown on television. Dressed as a scarecrow, a man sits on his front porch, in a rocking chair, next to a box containing trick or treat candy. When someone reached for the candy, the costumed man jumped to his feet scaring the unsuspecting trick-or-treater. The joke worked until a large man reacted by delivering a punch knocking the scarecrow to the floor.
The “Fight or Flight” syndrome describes how someone reacts when they are unexpectedly frightened.
My wife Terri and I came across a neighbor’s yard sale. The man hosting the sale told Terri he had a special memento she might be interested in. She watched as he slowly opened a box—suddenly, without warning a fake squirrel was propelled out of the box. I grabbed her arm as she began a swing at the guy’s nose. “Fight or Flight,” Terri’s instinct is to fight.
In a magazine survey, respondents were asked which golf shot they feared most. I expected the number one answer to be out of a sand trap, over water or an attempt out of deep rough. Surprisingly, the top reply was “The first shot off of the number 1 tee.” The fear of failing in front of people waiting to tee off gave rise the response.
The fear of failing in front of others is responsible for one of people’s greatest terrors, the fear of public speaking. The trepidation engendered from speaking in public is not limited to addressing a large audience; it prevents people from expressing their opinions in small meetings. I have heard people say, “I wanted to speak but I was afraid someone would find my opinion to be stupid.”
I am convinced you never truly overcome a deep-seated dread. I do believe you can learn to harness and use it to drive a favorable outcome. When you recognize and accept a fear you can take actions overcome it: golf lessons, Toastmasters, the list goes on. By working to conquer a fear, a person gains confidence that he or she will not fail. This confidence, coupled with the adrenaline caused by the fear, creates a focus and determination that can lead to success.