We all experience fear. Whether or not we admit it is another conundrum, and another story. That the specter of fear is always with us is not necessarily a bad thing, from my perspective. Why not use it as motivation to succeed?

The rationale for this perspective is that fear of performing badly is the flip side of being driven to be successful at whatever you do. It can drive you to practice and do whatever else is necessary to make sure that you perform to your expectations. For instance, if your passion is to become a world class scientist - or dancer - you will find a way to secure the education and experiences necessary to accomplish your goal. When, not if, you suffer setbacks along the way, you'll use learning from the experience as stepping stones. Fear of failing to reach your destination Is much more powerful than any obstacles you encounter along your journey. You are motivated to keep moving forward, and are likely to achieve your goal.

Unmanaged Fear Cripples
When you feel helpless to mitigate a situation that you believe will cause harm, fear can become a living, breathing monster. When you can barely breathe because your imagined "what if" scenarios diminish your capacity to analyze the situation objectively, fear has taken charge. The unknown becomes a throbbing being, threatening you at every turn. That is a bad thing.

Fear exists. Instead of succumbing to it, view it through a different prism. Move away from the discomfort of the zone you've created for yourself.Living a fulfilled life is about managing what makes you fearful, and making fear work for you instead of permitting it to diminish your life.

Fear of Poverty - The Granddaddy of Fears
An often cited resource for defining and overcoming fear is Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich. The book, first published in 1937, states that there are six fears from which all other fears flow. Those six are 1) fear of poverty, 2) fear of criticism, 3) fear of ill health, 4) fear of loss of love, 5) fear of old age, and 5) fear of death.

I find Mr. Hill's assessment to be spot on. Fear of poverty is the granddaddy of all fears. Poverty can remove access - to just about everything. It can be a causal factor to all kinds of anxieties and doubts. You are more susceptible to ill health, more likely to be criticized for stuff real and imagined, and scared to death of getting old and being at the mercy of a cruel system of care. Death, perhaps, is not so fearful under abject poverty conditions.

Beyond absolute poverty, other categories of insufficient means are emerging that give rise to fear and anxiety. Economics have driven a rise in inter-generational families living under one roof, placing a larger financial burden on the core provider. Will your salary or retirement be sufficient to enable you to care for your parents or grandparents without radical changes in lifestyle? It's frightening to consider that it won't.

The Fearless Human - a Myth
No matter how fearless we say we are, each of us has a button that can trigger fear. We have all experienced it, even if we claim that we have evolved beyond it. Even if you are one of those rare, rare individuals who has managed to sit back and do nothing, chances are that you've sat around contemplating and fearing death and old age.

Keeping fear at bay is something that most of us humans have to constantly work on. We do that by arming ourselves with information, thereby reducing the number of unknowns. We also mitigate our fear factor each time we have an experience that adds to our repertoire of successes. The greater our knowledge and appreciation for what we can do, the more we know that we can leverage our resources to overcome whatever comes our way.

A Reminder:All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary. Sally Ride, Astronaut

Actionable Information and Focus - Antidotes to Fear
Mr. Hill's excellent suggestion for overcoming fear has stood the text of time: change your thoughts. The statement "all thought has a tendency to cloak itself in its physical equivalent" is absolutely brilliant. Another way of saying the same thing is "change your mind, change your life."

The process of changing one's thought is not something that occurs instantly. This is not something that someone can do for you. It absolutely begins with you. In most cases you have to unlearn some pretty harsh habits and align yourself with people and resources that can support your new direction.

The capacity to solve problems figures prominently in building self esteem and reducing fear and anxiety. If you can identify what is separating you from what you need and want, you can give a face to the problem that is causing fear and anxiety. Knowing the nature of the problem is the first step to finding a solution.

A first step in reducing fear that works brilliantly for me is to zero in on what I want for me. Do I want to be cowered in a corner, afraid to face people or check my mail? Or, do I want to be free to pursue my dreams, to contribute, to be "all that I can be" with the resources to pull it off?

With this picture clearly in mind, I can begin to identify the bogeyman in the dark (fear) as a reaction to a specific thing that is separating me from what I want for myself. The process permits me to identify the problem, to give the bogeyman a name, a dimension. It permits me to begin the process of researching how to deal with it, how to increase the chance of a favorable outcome. I can then think differently about it, diminishing its power. Each positive outcome reduces fear.

Keeping Fear at Bay - A Perpetual Journey
Dealing with fear is not a "set and forget" experience, something that you can fix once, and never have to deal with again. Unless you have found a way to eliminate confrontations with the unknown, or decide to live in a bubble, there will always be the potential to face something that makes you a bit uneasy.

Just as simply knowing of the existence of prayer and mediation will not keep you focused, knowing of the existence of tools that you can use to keep fear at bay won't keep them from running you over. You have to use the tools, continuously. Proactively using the information at your disposal, developing and deploying skills, and developing and deploying strategies that reduce your exposure to situations that lead to fear are required.

A Reminder:You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt

And Action!
Poverty, or the fear of poverty, is still the elephant in the room. While jobs are critical in that they may provide the means for immediate food and shelter, the legacy concept of jobs is no longer applicable in our ever-evolving society. The onus is on each one of us to develop a strategy that removes or at least mitigates poverty and the cascading fears that exist in its wake. I recommend that each of us leverage all our available resources to not only keep poverty at bay, but provide a means to achieve what we want for our lives.

Author's Bio: 

Hello, all. I'm Joyce. I write, primarily about what I have learned and continue to learn about excellence. Aside from the joy I get from capturing thoughts in print, my passion is listening to and interpreting dialogue in a contextual vein. This helps people I work with to fast forward through chaff and unearth a value proposition that works for all parties.

Most people my age are retired and tinkering to entertain themselves or make a little extra money. I, too, retired as a corporate VP at what was a major international airline. I am now in the process of reinventing myself, building on what I learned and what I love.

I've written a memoir, Soul Stirrings: How looking back gives each of us the freedom to move forward about growing up in pre-civil rights Mississippi. I did it for selfish reasons; I wanted to pay homage to people whose shoulders carried me to places they would never see, and I wanted to place a stake in the ground to claim where I come from.I've also co-authored a book on Collaboration, Teamwork, and Networking: A Case for Working Together Systematically to Achieve Successful Living.

My years in Corporate America taught me a lot about the way things worked, and unfortunately, continue to work on many fronts. It reminds me that change scares the heck out of people and causes irrational behavior among those who are otherwise grounded. One of my goal now is to help build a value bridge between legacy knowledge and the marvelous ideas and tools of the current generation of thought leaders. Imagine combining these insights with the genius of technology! Wow.