The only thing we really have to fear.

Less than 10% of our fears* ever occur, according to expert, Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

Yet many of us waste hours, years, even entire lifetimes, worrying about the 90% that never happens.

If there was ever something to be afraid of, this is it: wasting our real lives for fear of imaginary harm*.

Sadly, fearing the imaginary can cause real harm for us as individuals and as a collective, from postponing personal achievement to prolonging the current economic upheaval.

Two of the world’s most acclaimed economists, Drs. George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, assert that “animal spirits” drive the economy much more than rational market forces.

“Animal spirits,” a term coined by economist John Maynard Keynes, describes the gloom and despondence that led to the Great Depression and the changing psychology that accompanied recovery (“Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism,” Princeton University Press, 2009).

To paraphrase FDR, Akerlof and Shiller contend that we have nothing to fear but fear itself and that economic recovery comes only with positive action in spite of fear.

Dr. Jeffers offers a path to personal recovery from the paralysis of fear in her 1987 masterpiece “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway,” (Ballantine Books, 2007) which I heartily recommend reading – or re-reading.

Dr. Jeffers’ “Five Truths” bears repeating:

  1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow. (Fear is an unavoidable part of being human. If I want a bigger life, I must accept bigger fears.)
  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
  3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out and do it.
  4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.

Everyone has felt the painful frustration of being too afraid to act. It is the principle issue I work on with my clients. Their courage, their willingness to take action despite tremendous fear, has been a huge personal inspiration.

Faith without works is dead. The only remedy for fear is action.

And with action—and only after we take action—we realize we had nothing to fear in the first place.

*NOTE: “Fear” in this context refers to ordinary human fear, not phobias or stress disorders such as PTSD, which may require professional intervention.