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What are you afraid of?

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Every day people make decisions based on fear, often without even realizing it. 

Fear can be a very useful instinct that helps us protect ourselves. The key is to not let fear have too much control in our lives. Fear may help keep us safe, but it also holds us back from greatness. After all, the greatest things we achieve in life usually involve some degree of risk, and where there's risk, there's fear.

Fear often leads people down the path of "playing to not lose" rather than "playing to win." When you're playing to win, you take the risks necessary to win - you take a proactive approach. When you're playing to not lose, you're in defensive mode, protecting yourself but not really moving forward. It's a completely different mindset, and you get very different results.

So how do you make sure that fear isn't curtailing your life?

Start by being aware of your feelings. When you feel the fear creep up, ask yourself these questions:

What am I afraid of?

Bring your fear into the light where you can see it, examine it, figure out just how big it really is. You may be shocked to learn that little fears have been holding you back in a big way. It's OK to have fears - we all do. You need to understand your fears if you want to control them. 

What's at stake?

What do you have to gain or lose if you play to win versus playing it safe? 

What's the worst that could happen if I take this risk?

Acknowledge the worst-case scenario - how bad would it be? Could you live with it or recover from it? Are there ways to minimize the risk while still playing to win?

What will happen if I don't take this risk?

What opportunities will you be missing out on if you play it safe? Will you have other chances in the future to take advantage of this kind of opportunity?

Whether you're navigating social relationships, workplace challenges, or investing dilemmas, learning to identify your fear and control it is an extremely useful skill. Take charge of your fear - and your life - starting NOW!

Original publish date: June 08, 2010

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