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Fear is the Mind Killer

Posted by Kathleen Smith

Fear seems to be something that we have become very comfortable with. The activity of worrying about the unknown occupies a fair amount of our time from how will we handle a possible budget action months in advance or a weather pattern. We know being gripped in fear is one of the worst places to be if we want to move ahead in a business venture or our career and yet this is where most of us stay.

Why is it easier to commiserate about our fears? Fixate on the unknown? Or research how really bad things could possibly be? All you have to do is look at the articles on sequestration for the last 18 months or the numerous weather reports about #snowquestration to see that we tend to fixate on fear rather than be proactive.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – FDR – First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

The first time I really understood the effects of fear was actually from a very different source and reaches back to my sci fi passion (no mixing of sci fi descriptors here). Yes, the famous Bene Gesserit “Litany Against Fear” from Frank Herbert’s Dune:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Fear can be a very powerful force but it is one that tends to hinder rather than help. Yes, it can be helpful to have a little fear to create contingency plans if disaster does strike but wouldn’t it be better to be proactive rather than build a cocoon of fear?

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” – German Proverb

One of the bigger fears – besides how many inches of snow we will receive – is the effects of government budget cuts on our overall economy. Now while there will be impacts, one of the biggest impacts so far has been the paralyzing impact on business and career activities over the last 18 months. Face it we will have downturns in our economy, just as we will have upturns.

Many in our community have only been in business since 9/11 and they have only seen expansions in budgets. If you talk to anyone who has worked in our community for more than 12 years, you will hear that this business like all businesses is cyclical.  And while budgets cuts do impact us, they do spur creativity and innovation, which is not only good for business, but our economy as well.

But something that is overlooked is that not all budgets will be cut and not all agencies or companies will be laying off employees. There are still contracts being awarded, new programs that were already funded and companies who are hiring.

Out of every downturn in an economy there are always examples of companies and leaders who were prepared to move ahead because they were not gripped with fear but planning on how to make the most of the situation.

[Recessions] can cause people to think more about the effective use of their assets. In the good times, you can get a bit careless or not focused as much on efficiency. In bad times, you’re forced to see if there is a technology [that will help].” – Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel

Another example before many of us were even in the workforce:

The Toyota production system was conceived and its implementation begun soon after World War II. But it did not begin to attract the attention of Japanese industry until the first oil crisis in the fall of 1973. Japanese managers, accustomed to inflation and a high growth rate, were suddenly confronted with zero growth and forced to handle production decreases. It was during this economic emergency that they first noticed the results Toyota was achieving with its relentless pursuit of the elimination of waste. They then began to tackle the problem of introducing the system into their own workplaces… Prior to the oil crisis, when I talked to people about Toyota’s manufacturing technology and production system, I found little interest.” – Taiichi Ohno

There will be changes in your career, downturns in the economy and shifts in your priorities. Rather than being gripped by fear, hold lightly that there frequently will be some kind of “change” in your life. Try being flexible and prepared to take what comes your way rather than holding tightly onto your fear. This will allow you to move more effectively through whatever storm comes your way.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 05, 2013 11:03 am

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