Fear sucks. I don’t know of one person that actually likes to be afraid. We’d all much rather be confident in what we’re doing and not afraid of anything.
Fear has been a much more noticeable experience thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and now with all the talk of a potential recession next year. It’s easy to be afraid of spending, saving, losing your job, losing your money in the stock market, and even contracting the disease in general.
I’ve started to notice fears in my own life.
Some are normal, like having a fear that something will happen to my children.
Others are because of situations that I’ve been in, like my dad passing away when I was a child and being afraid that could happen to my kids.
Other fears are just ridiculous, like being afraid that I’ll look silly if I say something to a stranger.
In my finances, I used to have a fear of investing.
This was mainly due to being afraid of making the correct decision and losing all of my money. Now, with the knowledge that the stock market always goes up in the long term, I realize the chances of that happening are slim.
All of these fears that you might experience have effects depending on the situation.
With decision making, fear has the potential to affect you in two key ways. It can:
- prevent you from making the right decision
- keep you from making any decision
Nelson Mandela said that “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Let’s dig into these a little bit and learn how to overcome them.
Fear Keeps You From Making the Right Decision
Have you ever had the feeling that you just had to do something, that it was going to be a good decision, yet something inside you was telling you no?
If you have, then you are familiar with fear.
This happens all the time.
It might be that the best thing for you is a move to a different job or move on from a friend, or let go of your romantic relationship (or take the next step!).
Instead, because of fear, you might go in the completely opposite direction, or you might do something that is a little less risky—something that isn’t such a big step.
Because of that fear, you may be making the wrong decision.
Maybe your romantic relationship suffers because you don’t want to take the next big step.
Maybe you really need to leave your place of employment to focus on other things, but instead, you accept a promotion that burns you out.
The point is that fear, if not overcome, can lead you to make the wrong decisions.
Sometimes, if we are fearful of the potential outcome, it keeps us from making any decision whatsoever.
This happened to me when I was a restaurant manager. Restaurant management is a great job for some people, but it wasn’t working out for me.
Being sleep-deprived and stressed from work and having two young kids was not great for my life or marriage. It was good for the first couple of years, but I should have left a good couple of years before I actually did.
There were a couple of opportunities for a different job over the two-year period before I left, but I didn’t want to take them.
What stopped me?
I didn’t want to move because of fear.
I didn’t want to take a pay cut—something almost always necessary with switching careers—because of fear. Fear caused me to make no decision. I think even the wrong decision would have been better than no decision in my case.
But fear kept me from making any decision.
How to Overcome Fear
So how do you overcome fear so you don’t have to worry about making the wrong decision or being stuck with no decision?
Here are 4 steps to overcoming your fear.
1. Accept the Stress
Fear puts stress on your body, but it doesn’t have to be bad stress. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal paints a new picture of stress in her TED talk.
Traditionally, we see stress as a bad thing for our bodies. Psychologists traditionally see it that way, too.
Kelly, through several different studies, proves that stress is really just our bodies getting ready to take action.
It’s preparing us for what we need to do.
These studies also show that those who are under stress do not have any ill effects on their health if they do not view stress as a bad thing.
Take this approach with the stress that you get from fear. Use it as a sign that you are ready to tackle the next step.
2. Educate Yourself
One of the most opportune times for fear to arise is when we are faced with uncertainty.
To combat this, educate yourself as much as you can about a situation. Knowledge helps alleviate fears because it brings certainty to uncertainty.
Take my fear of investing as an example. I overcame that fear by educating myself with techniques and stats as much as I could.
Techniques taught me the best way to invest to minimize loss and maximize my returns. Stats taught me how and why the stock market always goes up to minimize my fear.
Educating yourself on any situation where you are fearful. The more you know, the less fearful you’ll be.
3. Just Go For It
Since I work in customer service, I have to make phone calls to people quite frequently.
Sometimes I don’t know how these conversations are going to go and I would get nervous. Even after more than three years I still get nervous if I think it’s going to be a difficult call.
So what do I do?
I just go for it. I pick up the phone and I make the call.
No thinking about it too much. No procrastinating. I just do it.
Do you have an opportunity to do the same? Is something holding you back that you know is more than likely the right decision?
I encourage you to make the leap. If you’ve done all you can to educate yourself and you’ve accepted the stress, it might be time to do that.
“Just go for it” is also something I continue to practice with investing.
Both my wife and I have a 401K. My fear of investing didn’t stop me from getting started.
I’ve put our 401K investments in a low-cost index fund—the absolute best way to invest long-term. Even with market corrections or straight-up recessions, the market always returns.
Besides, we both take advantage of company matches, which gives me an 80% return on my 401K.
That is something I definitely did not want to miss out on despite a fear of investing when I started.
4. Think Positively
The last step to helping you overcome your fear is for you to think positively. Mindset is an important thing to master, especially when it comes to money.
I try and think positively in every situation.
If I come up against a problem I can’t solve or a fear I feel like I can face, I turn it around in my head.
It becomes a challenge to overcome, a wall to scale, a mountain to climb.
Realistically, the chances of something catastrophic happening are slim in most situations. I try and remind myself of that as much as I can.
Thinking positively will help you keep going when you do fail.
It will teach you to expect the best in every situation.
It’ll teach you to have an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset.
This one takes practice, but the more you train your brain to think positively, the easier it gets—and the more effective it gets.
Fear is something that I’ve learned is a part of life. It is natural and normal, but it can keep you from doing the wrong thing or keep you from making any decision at all.
These are the steps I take to overcome my fear and it has helped tremendously.
Learning to overcome your fear takes some work, but it can be done. It will not only benefit your financial life but your life as a whole.