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Fear: Life's No. 1 Paralyzer!

Joan F. Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California- December, 2002

For 19 years Jenny was stuck in a relationship that frustrated her and destroyed her self-esteem. But she was afraid to step out of it. What if it would be the wrong decision? What if things turned out worse instead of better? What if she would burn the existing bridge and be sorry in hindsight? For 19 years she dubbed on it: 19 terrible years of aggravation, frustration, tears, inhibition, and victimization. 19 years of fear...

However, in the 18th year of her self imposed detention, Jenny started to work on herself: she checked herself into the office of a psychologist, took a course in neuro-emotional intelligence, another one in personal leadership, and started to explore the World Wide Web. She began to talk to other people than the ones that enforced the fear within her, and she gradually started to understand that the world could be a very promising place with endless possibilities, but that the secret to unfolding any opportunity was inside of her!

So, the very next year, Jenny reversed the process: She shut herself down to the oppressor and opened up to the dazzling universe of change. She packed her bags, felt suitable pity but no remorse toward her now powerless tyrant, and took a giant leap into life...
Now, five years after making the big step, Jenny can't believe how far she came. Yes, it took all her courage to make this huge, life-changing decision, but the rewards were phenomenal! Since that time she has earned a degree, rediscovered her dignity, and finally found inner peace. Has she ever been sorry about her decision? Absolutely not! She just wishes that she had found the strength to do it and discarded her fear 10 years sooner!

Fear is definitely the most important reason why people cease to undertake certain actions. When it comes to fear we get confronted with one of the negative sides of the ability to think. And rightfully so: we manage to come up with tons of reasons why a plan, a product, a more efficient process, a fabulous new venture, or just a cool idea, will not "fly."

We are masters in hurdle-construction, and it's this very fact--the mental creation of blockades to reach an ideal--that either paralyzes us toward starting with something that could be wonderful and rewarding, or causes it to go wrong.

Yet, fear should be seen in its right proportions and its legitimate occurrence. Sometimes people will discourage a marvelous plan not out of fear but out of jealousy or conflicting personal agendas! It's up to you to see these possible reasons in their right perspective and -- more importantly -- to prevent them from dispiriting you, especially if you were the one having the brilliant idea in the first place! Let Churchill's shortest yet most powerful speech be your guide in these and all other situations: "Never, never, never give up."

If you are a manager, especially in a large corporation where you are basically as much an employee as any other, it may be understandable that your approach toward the execution of super-ideas will be somewhat more moderate and reserved than if you were leading your own venture. But even as a middle manager at one of the 2000-plus employee-concentrations you can overcome excessive fear and encourage the phenomenon that has grown out to be one of the most popular buzzword of these days: change.

Now, if there have ever been two conflicting phenomena in existence they are fear and change. One cannot stand the other. More strictly: one cannot survive with the other. Fear doesn't allow change, and change cannot happen if there's any fear present. But if today’s world thrives on change, shouldn't that mean that fear has to become taboo? If we are taught to hang our mental running shoes around our neck, like the two mice in the management novel "Who Moved My Cheese?" so that we can run whenever a change in our current situation demands that, then we should also understand that fear--although healthy to a moderate degree--is the big enemy here.

And why did I just state that fear should be acceptable to a moderate degree? Because, like any other emotion, it definitely has a positive side to it: a little fear will withhold us from leaping into every new idea without thoroughly considering the consequences; without developing a strategy, and without having a goal set.

All I'm stating here is that your super plan, which is now collecting dust in your supervisor's drawer, your blueprint for a new procedure that's still hanging at H.R., your report on the new product that was so well-received on last Saturday's surprise appearance, could very well remain at point zero because of somebody's fear. Just make sure that such is not the case and that there are responsible, sense making reasons behind any delay. Everything else can be resolved and accelerated. But fear, even if based on past experiences paralyzes: Unjustifiably. Perpetually!