Lessons About Fear From an Acrobat

A friend mentioned today that the blog post he most related to was the one about fear. That wasn’t surprising to me. Having worked for years in a newsroom where I listened all day to CNN, I noticed that one of the things many media organizations do well is package fear and transmit it through their newscasts. In fact, the news coverage of the recession earlier this year made me feel so anxious that it got me – a self-professed news junky – to turn off CNN during the day and I haven’t turned it on regularly since.

I’ve also noticed that when people are afraid of something, they tend to act – or react – quickly and rashly. You’re afraid you’ll be destitute so you take a job that you never wanted in the first place. You’re afraid of being alone so you get involved in a relationship that you know doesn’t quite fit. You’re afraid you’ll lose your job so you take on extra work and let a boss mistreat you instead of looking for a better work environment. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken on a project or client I knew I shouldn’t have because I was afraid another client wouldn’t come along soon enough. I always regretted it.

There’s no way around it; fear blocks intuition so if you’re worried about something, you’ve got to find a way to calm down and slow down so your inner wisdom has the chance to come through.

Who better to know about fear than two acrobats who risk broken bones or worse when they swing and fly 25 feet above the ground? This article by Dancer Universe poses the question about how they manage fear. Here’s their advice:

Focus on a successful outcome. The acrobats didn’t think about falling. Period. Don’t think about what can go wrong. Instead, visualize all that can go right.

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Remember successful experiences. The acrobats trusted their bodies because they had performed these daredevil stunts before. Think back to all the successes you’ve had. What makes you think this won’t be another one?

Reduce the risk. The acrobats planned their routines and had safety precautions in place in case they fell. There are steps you can take to lessen a potential blow. If you could handle the worst-case scenario, why worry about it? It probably won’t happen and if it does, you can handle it!

Intuitive Action Item: One of my favorite movie lines of all time is from Gone With the Wind when Scarlett O’Hara said, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow.” Next time you feel the grip of fear, follow her advice.

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