Everyone has fears. They’re important, and they’ve helped keep us alive throughout our evolution. Think about the fears characters understandably feel at certain points in Game of Thrones, the hugely successful HBO dramatic series which combines elements of medieval times and fantasy. We're talking outrageously murderous kings here, plus scheming lords and ladies. Large men with even larger swords. Even fire-breathing dragons.
In Season One of GOT, a great line illustrates the point about fears perfectly. The speaker is Robb Stark, eldest son of the lord of Winterfell and generally a good guy, who decides to declare war and march south to Kings Landing, the capital of the Seven (usually warring) Kingdoms and home to a lot more of those men with swords . Theon Greyjoy, the son of another royal house, asks Stark if he’s afraid. And Stark, his hands trembling, replies, “I guess I must be.” To which Greyjoy’s response is perfect: “Good, that means you’re not stupid.”
It certainly was appropriate for the denizens of GOT's medieval era to be afraid, but does the same apply to you? For, while fear was an important factor in our hereditary past, in our modern day and age, our fears today are often based more in psychology than actual physical threats. Drawing on some of the books I've enjoyed, I offer six thoughts on why facing your fears will assist you in creating massive success.
1. Fears help you decide what’s real.
I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened. — Mark Twain
When you take the time to actually define your fears, you learn to separate fact from fiction. This is an important distinction. Some things you’re afraid of will be valid, but many will be mental worst-case scenarios that have simply spiraled further in your mind than they ever will or would in reality.
2. Fears help you create appropriate responses.
What about the fears on your list that you’ve defined that are actually valid, like losing a client or employee, getting backlash from a layoff or encountering some other tangible fear? Easy. When you face fears that have merit—now that you’ve defined them—you can come up with an action plan of responses to mitigate the damages.
Think of this list as your "fear emergency plan." You know what you’d do in the case of a fire or earthquake, so why not enact a plan of appropriate responses you could take against some of your more valid business fears?
3. Fears help you develop courage.
Bran thought about it. "Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?" "That is the only time a man can be brave," his father told him.” — George R.R. Martin, series author, A Song of Ice and Fire, on which HBO's GOT series is based.
Perhaps I’m just missing Game of Thrones in the offseason, but this quote really struck me and is an important facet of facing your fears. You don’t develop bravery and courage in the good times, you develop them when you actually confront fears. If you were once afraid of starting your own business, but did it anyway, you know the terror, but also the reward, that comes from facing fears head on. Your courage grows with each fear you face.
4. Fears help you develop wisdom.
There is wisdom that comes from the experience of working through fears. Some of your fears may have even come true. If you are a business owner and have seen your business falter or fail, perhaps you’ve already lived through adversity. The silver lining of these experiences is that you learn from them. Wisdom comes from all of life’s experiences, but the fearful or bad ones in particular teach us great lessons. Wisdom is always the by-product of facing your fears, and that’s an important quality to develop.
5. Fears help you develop compassion.
Dealing with fears helps your develop compassion. When you yourself have been afraid, you’re more likely to have patience and feel compassion toward others experiencing similar situations. After all, we all want a good life. When you push hard for what you want, and experience the joys and failures of success, you learn compassion you can use to help others push through their early fears.
You can put yourself in the shoes of someone who is just starting out, and that empathy can help guide that person to have deeper courage.
6. Fears help you develop resilience.
“Life doesn't get easier or more forgiving; we get stronger and more resilient.” — Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Resilience comes from facing your fears. You become better than your surroundings and transform yourself above the fear and into bigger and bigger success. Resilience starts with you, and it begins in your mind. Face your fears and learn to rise to face whatever is in front of you.
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This article also appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editor.
Photos from Flickr (Alex Bramwell)