*What is Fear?
According to a blog written by Dr. Paul Ekman…Fear is one of the seven universal emotions experienced by everyone around the world. Fear arises with the threat of physical, emotional, or psychological harm, real or imagined. While traditionally considered a “negative” emotion, fear is vital in keeping us safe as it mobilizes us to cope with potential danger.
Our Physiological Reaction to Fear
Back in the day, when cavemen and women were a thing, fear was essential to avoid getting eaten by a lion or some other large, hungry animal. The exact biochemical reaction in the neanderthal brain two million years ago still occurs in the 21st-century human brain. The sequence goes something like this:
A man sees a child running toward a busy street. Cortisol, along with epinephrine and norepinephrine, is released in the brain. This activates the body’s sympathetic nervous system, triggering a lineup of physiological responses that speed up respiration, constrict blood vessels, dilate pupils, and slow down the digestive system. Commonly known as the fight-or-flight response, it allows muscles to react more powerfully and move faster, priming us to fight or flee. Alan Goodman, a biological anthropologist at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, studies stress in prehistoric humans. He agrees that cortisol and the entire acute stress response system is an evolutionary design. “It’s an ancient mammalian system adapted to protect hunter-gatherers,” says Goodman.
Managing Fight-or-Flight Today
In today’s world, we rarely get chased by lions – maybe an angry dog now and then, but even that’s a rarity. I’m not sure our prehistoric ancestors could create fears without evidence. In other words, it was:
- SEE LION
- FIGHT LION or RUN AWAY
- BE DINNER or HAVE LION for DINNER
As evolution would have it, the “modern” human brain is proficient at creating fear. I once heard the second biggest fear for human beings is public speaking, second only to death by fire. Whether this is factual or not, we do create fears that aren’t based on reality.
There is a school of thought that says all fear is imagined. To a certain degree, I guess that’s true. However, if I see a shark fin while swimming in the ocean, that fear is as “real” as the caveman’s fear of the lion. In the 21st century, 95% of our fear is imagined. How often have we gotten all worked up over a presentation to the board of directors or a random meeting with the boss? Then afterward, we ask ourselves what all the worry was about?
We can all agree that fear is part of the human experience. If we didn’t have it, our planet might not exist today. Those who claim they are fearless aren’t. They acknowledge their fear and often take action in spite of it.
**My favorite business example of this is the spring of 2001. Steve Jobs was still running Apple Inc. When all his competitors were leaving the retail business, Jobs decided to start opening Apple Stores. Of course, the analysts thought he was crazy, and so did the general public. This was a bold, high-risk decision, and I’m sure it made Apple board members shake in their boots. You can’t tell me they weren’t fearful of the possible consequences, but they did it anyway.
That was the brilliance of Steve Jobs. There’s no doubt he considered the consequences but didn’t become paralyzed by them. Instead, he focused on the upside, made the decision, and never looked back. This story is an excellent lesson for all of us non-CEOs. It comes back to mindset. Fear is a choice. We can let ourselves get stuck in it or keep it in perspective.
Next time you face a meaningful life or business decision, it is natural to have some fear. Acknowledge it but don’t allow it to dominate your thought process.
*Dr. Paul Ekman was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine and ranked fifteenth among the most influential psychologists of the 21st century.
**A tale of two Apple Stores (the first two) How the tone was set for Apple’s foray into retail.By Benj Edwards
Macworld MAY 19, 2021, 12:15 AM PDT
CDude is spot on, as usual!
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