“The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
This is often misinterpreted to mean that we should not fear, in fact, we should avoid it altogether and just plow forward in life regardless of our fears.
FDR went on to say: “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
What FDR was talking about is when we react out of fear instead of responding to our fear. When we react, we are mindless with no vision for the future nor thought for the consequence of our actions.
All we know to do at that moment is the first thing that comes up which often is a poor long-term approach to lie.
Roosevelt was making a demand that instead of reacting, that we respond to our fears, face them, frame them in terms of what would be best for us in the long run.
Responding Over Reacting
FDR was dealing with a run on the bank in the depression. We are dealing with preparing ourselves and our children for the future.
Getting to know our fears, explore them even increases our self-awareness and self-knowledge, a major leg of resilience.
Understanding that our reaction is not always beneficial and making a habit of questioning our first response to some fears allows us the space to consider the fear in the context of the goals and vision we have for our lives.
Conscious habit building, and understanding our role in our own future are also part of building resilience.
Explore Your Relationship With Fear
Here is a getting to know your reaction to fear exercise:
1) Pick a time when something went really wrong that you were afraid of before it happened, losing a big client? losing your family? anything that fits the bill. 2) Grab a pen and paper and do some journaling around the following questions:
a) situation that you were afraid of that came true
b) How did it come true?
c) How did you feel when you first realized it was happening?
d) What did you do in the midst of your feelings about the crises?
e) What actions did you take?
f) What worked? What did not?
g) How did you feel a week after this happened? a month after?
h) Who helped you? who judge you? said I told you so?
i) How did your pre-worry about the fear help when the situation came to fruition?
J) What did you learn about yourself?
k) Do you see yourself as resourceful? as resilient?
l) If you could have a do-over, how might you have explored the fear? How might you have planned or prepared for what you were afraid of?
j) What actions might you have taken in advance to mitigate the consequences of the situation you were afraid of?
Facing Fear = Risk Management
The purpose of the exercise is for you to see first where you react, and second how you might respond if you explored the fear in advance.
It is the exploration of the fear, facing it, embracing it as a possible outcome, and planning on how to manage the risk that builds resilience. resilience lies in our ability to bounce back from adversity, and facing our fears is central to that ability.
When we face fear, examine how real it is, and plan for it, we are engaging in risk management. Risk management is a tool with which we plan and execute habits of resilience.
It is the space where we get real about the fear, what resources we have to manage it, and who we can be in the matter.
In an uncertain world, risk management in facing our fears ensures that we recover faster and even thrive in the face of fear.