The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

There is one feeling that carries with it more negative power than any other and it is fear. The very word fear itself can bring unpleasant memories to light and remind us of what we believe we cannot accomplish. It carries a negative connotation and represents an uncomfortable feeling of helplessness or hopelessness. It may be felt when a goal was not achieved, and result in a time of questioning, doubt, and second-guessing.

Fear is also associated with a time when a person becomes afraid to try something new or becomes indecisive while considering possibilities about what may or may not happen as a result of a pending decision. It is a time of uncertainty, looking ahead and not knowing what may happen or feeling an inability to control situations and circumstances. This is the reason why people eventually lose faith, don't take chances in their career, or come to a complete stop whenever they consider beginning something new – and it means they believe that their goals, ideas, and dreams can never take off.

It has been estimated that Thomas Edison tried 1,000 times to make the lightbulb – a number that people may seem unbelievable. There are two ways to view this feat. The first is to state that Edison failed 999 times and the second is to look at the success of 1,000 attempts. What do you believe it took for Edison to keep trying this many times? Would the average person continue or persist after that many perceived failures?

To overcome fear, it is important to develop a sense of determination to be in control of your thoughts and emotions, and plan ahead even when you aren't sure of future outcomes. What you have an ability to control is your mindset and your actions, which means you can create a disposition of working towards your goals regardless of present circumstances or making an attempt to complete a task no matter what the initial outcome may be.

What Triggers Fear

Fear is generally a feeling that is associated with anxiety and it can paralyze your decision-making process. It usually causes someone to experience self-doubt and even a sense of panic, especially if an important decision cannot be made or you cannot present yourself well. For example, no matter how well prepared you may be, or how well qualified you are for a job, self-doubt can sabotage an interview as it is usually reflected in your tone, body language, and even a description of your skills and abilities.

Fear can also be triggered when there are new situations to address, work through, or you have to learn something new. It can also arise when there are new expectations for a job, which means performing or working in a different manner. This is also true for a new job, when new routines and patterns of habits must be learned. Unexpected situations are also triggers and includes a job loss, a financial downturn, or similar challenges. Fear can be felt as well when a pivotal point is reached, which means that a decision must be made and cannot be put off any longer.

Getting to the Root of Fear

As I have worked with students and educators through career coaching, I have found that the root cause of fear is usually related to uncertainty about an outcome. In other words, it is the unknown they are afraid of and it creates the fearful feeling. For example, being afraid of giving a presentation. The reason that fear may be experienced is due to an uncertainly about how others will perceive them and an inability to control those reactions. What makes this feeling worse is remembering negative past events that confirm your belief about your inability to perform well. In other words, you may not believe that you have enough experience to effectively deliver a speech or remember presentations that did not go well.

What is interesting is how easy it is to consider past events from a negative perspective. It leads to feeling helpless and that is challenging for people who have a well-ordered life with everything planned out. What accompanies a feeling of fear are the "what if" questions. For example, what if I don't do well, what if I forget my lines, or what if they don't like my presentation? A helpful suggestion is to answer those questions. That removes the uncertainty and helps to relax the fearful feeling. The next step is to reframe the questions. As an example, ask yourself: what if I do well? What if they enjoyed my presentation? This helps you to approach situations in a calmer manner and utilizes fear as an indicator about your level of preparedness.

Take Control of Your Thoughts

With time you can teach yourself to transform the "what if" questions so that you maintain a positive mindset. It is a matter of taking control of your thoughts, which may be the only thing you have the absolute power to control at this moment. When you become determined not to let fear take control your thoughts, you can use those feelings as an indicator that you need to be fully prepared for any decision that needs to be made or task you want to accomplish. Instead of fearing the unknown, project possible outcomes and decide how to become prepared. If you are determined not to live in fear then you will focus on what works well and past successes, rather than the unsuccessful attempts or outcomes.

How to Overcome Fear

Fear is natural and how you work with it determines the outcome of any situation or decision. Being reactive to fear only perpetuates it. Instead, learn to be proactive and have the courage to act based upon a positive self-belief about your ability to handle any circumstance. For example, taking (or not taking) the next step in your job or career based upon negative feelings restricts your self-awareness of what you are capable of doing.

If you want to experience the best outcomes, be determined to know your strengths and have the courage to make the best decision – even if you cannot control circumstances, situations, or the final outcome. The use of determination and courage allows you to find success even if you must make more than one attempt or continue to try when the initial results are not what you had expected. Never be afraid to face your fears and you will develop a new level of self-confidence, courage, and determination that allows you to excel under any conditions.

About Dr. Johnson

Dr. Johnson has worked in the field of higher education and distance learning since 2005. He specializes in distance learning, adult education, faculty development, online teaching, career management, and career development. Dr. J has a Ph.D. in Postsecondary and Adult Education, a Certificate in Training and Performance Improvement, and a Master of Business Administration, MBA. Presently Dr. J is a Core Faculty member for one of the premiere online universities, fulfilling his life's mission to teach, mentor, write, and inspire others.

As a scholar practitioner, Dr. J was published in a scholarly journal and he has been a featured presenter at an international distance learning conference. He has also published over 200 online articles about adult learning, higher education, distance learning, online teaching, and career development.

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• Transform Online Teaching: Expert Strategies and Essential Resources Every Educator Needs

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