sales training

Think Tank Thursday: The Purpose of Fear

Nashville-based Southwestern Consulting is a sales coaching, speaking and consulting firm that operates throughout the U.S. and Canada and in Eastern Europe. Writing for her company’s blog, senior partner Emmie Brown says that it’s OK to be afraid, as long as you use that fear the right way.

“There is a use and a reason for fear. The purpose of fear is to prevent a possible negative outcome. For example, fear courses through your whole body when you get very close to the edge of a cliff so that you prevent yourself from having a terrible accident. You are very nervous going into a crucial conversation so that you are aware of your words and the long-lasting implications they could have on the relationship. Your adrenaline pumps before a sporting competition to wake you up so you can give your best effort.

Fear Has a Purpose

The problem is we often don’t use fear for its intended purpose. This can happen in two different ways:

First, we actually don’t use fear to motivate us to prevent the possible negative outcome. Instead, we allow fear to paralyze us. Do you have a presentation coming up? Instead of using fear to motivate you to study, you were paralyzed by your fear and you do nothing to prepare for the presentation. In this case, you let your worry become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course your presentation won’t go well without preparation!

Second, we continue to have fear—in other words, we worry—well beyond the point in which we can do anything to prevent the negative outcome. An example of this might be that you have an upcoming customer meeting. You do all the research and the studying that you need to prepare for the meeting. There’s nothing more you can do, and, yet, you continue to worry. In this case, you can also manifest the situation that you don’t want to happen. Worrying about what you can’t control is not only useless but, it can be potentially counterproductive.

Putting Fear to Work for You

Here is what you can do to use fear for good and not let fear hurt you:

Ask yourself, Is there anything that I need to be doing to prevent a negative outcome?

If there is something that you can and should be doing, do it. In the words of the Nike advertising team, “Just Do It.”

If there is nothing else that you can and should do to control the outcome, then stop worrying.

Be careful that you were not trying to control something that you actually do not have control over. For example, you cannot control the feelings and actions of other people. A lot of frustration in life has come from trying to control what someone else is going to do. But, you actually can only influence others. If you have done all you can do to influence the outcome that you want, then stop worrying, stop trying to control, and rest.

To everything there is a purpose. Make sure that you use fear to motivate you. Once it has done its purpose, let it go."

Emmie Brown is a senior partner of Southwestern Consulting, a sales coaching, speaking and consulting firm based in Nashville, Tennessee.