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The ‘F’ word: what gives you the fear?

The ‘F’ word: what gives you the fear?

Nicola Hopes

19 January 2022

So, whether you’re optimistic (borderline irritating) about 2022 or feeling as knackered as when you finished last year… I think we can all agree that the pace isn’t slowing. 

We’ve given up on waiting for more certainty to get stuff done so we’re on with the strategy and turning plans into action. 

But is something holding you back? Something that’s stopping you kicking off that project or starting that goal? 

Is it fear?  

In my career as a coach and consultant, fear is often the silent antagonist that stops fantastic clients moving forward.  

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the new. Fear of failure. 

You might not even know that what you’re feeling is fear. You just find yourself second guessing the possible (bad) outcomes, telling yourself it’s not possible or not knowing where to start. 

And before you dismiss that nagging doubt as irrelevant, fear is incredibly powerful. It has the power to hijack your brain. 

Here comes the science… 

There’s a region at the base of the brain called the amygdala that deals with your response to threat. It manages what we often call the ‘fight or flight’ response. 

But the kicker is that this part of the brain makes no distinction between an actual threat (cue the predator on the African plains) and a perceived threat (cue that Friday afternoon presentation to your bored team). 

Faced with this fear (perceived or otherwise), the amygdala hijacks the brain and silences the rational part with a sea of chemicals (cortisol and adrenaline for those of you making notes). 

Rational thinking exits stage left, and erratic behaviour enters stage right.  

But the brain doesn’t stop at ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ – the poor cousin response that we don’t often talk about is ‘freeze’. And faced with workplace fears, this is our most common response. 

Your fear of that piece of work leads to inaction. Before you know it, you’re ankle deep in concrete of your own making. Going nowhere.  

So, if you’re fearful of something you need to deliver this year, it’s time to face into it. 

Taming the beast 

If this is sounding familiar to youhere are some super simple tips to unlock it. 

1. Know your triggers – do you recognise when you’re having a fear response? Why does that project or activity scare you? Name the specific thing that holds the fear.

2. Get some perspective – what’s the impact of not doing the thing that scares you? If not doing it scares you more, that’s helpful motivation! 

3. Break it down – everything significant comes bit by bit. What’s the one thing you could do to nudge it forward that isn’t so scary? Perhaps a bit of research, a conversation or writing a plan? 15 minutes and already it seems more doable. Then do the next small thing. Repeat until awards are bestowed! 

Let’s get fearless in 2022. Come on. What’s the worst that could happen? 

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