You know what F.E.A.R. stands for, right?
It’s such a common platitude even a grade school student could probably tell you — Fear is nothing but False Evidence Appearing Real.
Why is it, someone comes up with a memorable rhyme or acronym, it’s accepted as self-evident fact?
Last week I spoke to a small group of entrepreneurs. As I wrapped up, the meeting organizer raised his hand. “I think a lot of our members, and a lot of entrepreneurs everywhere, are working with a lot of fear. These are uncertain times, and everyone is afraid. Can you talk to us about dealing with fear?”
Every face turned to me, hopefully, maybe. But also shamefully. Because we all know what fear stands for. And no one wants to admit they’ve fallen prey to FALSE anything.
So I told them.
Sometimes the evidence isn’t FALSE at all.
Sometimes, you have perfectly TRUE reasons to be afraid.
In the larger sense, as someone who knows that the world can’t really end because it’s just a temporary illusion anyway, and death is only real for the physical self, not the spiritual self, I know that there is nothing to fear. Because Fortunately, Everything’s All Right! (Oh! Are you sure THAT isn’t what F.E.A.R. stands for?)
But in the here and now, fear is what suggests that the pretty red cape won’t really let me propel my body UPWARD should I decide to jump off a cliff. So, unless I’m okay with having my spirit depart my body sooner rather than later, I would have every reason to be afraid of jumping, or being thrown, off a cliff. So fear might be my mind’s First Effort Against Risk. (Oh, maybe that’s what F.E.A.R. stands for.) It’s the mind’s way of asking you to STOP and reevaluate because the First Evaluation Appears Risky.
Of course, some fears are based in experiences that simply don’t relate to the present situation. Contemplating doing something that was difficult or painful before you got stronger, or when you attempted it with another partner, or under other circumstances, might instigate unnecessary fear. Former Expectations Affecting Rationale. Or a need to remember that First Experiences Aren’t Representative of future opportunities. In which case, the evidence isn’t FALSE - it just isn’t relevant. (Hmmm - you ARE noticing that F.E.A.R. is the acronym for both of those phrases, aren’t you?)
But sometimes, method is everything. Take that cliff-jumping exercise for instance. If you aren’t Superman-in-training, or an experienced cliff diver - and you DO want to keep mind, body and soul together for the immediate future, then what you’re looking for isn’t a platitude that tells you your fear is based on FALSE evidence. You’re looking for a safe way to jump off the cliff. How about a parachute? Functional, Evolutionary Action Required. (you’re getting the hang of this aren’t you?)
We F.E.A.R. the little voice that says, “If I don’t do it the way everyone says to do it I will fail, but I can’t do it the way everyone says to do it. so I’m going to fail” IF that statement were true, there would be a reason to fear that you will fail (let’s talk about fear of failure in another post, shall we?) I used to think that little voice was especially loud for entrepreneurs. Then I realized that I just have a better understanding of this fear as it relates to entrepreneurs, because I mostly work with entrepreneurs. It affects everyone. But, guess what? That statement is only true for about .5% of the things you’d ever want to do. And that .5% only exists because some bosses, bullies and bureaucrats will give you a FAIL if you don’t do it their way!
But what if you could SUCCEED any way you chose? Maybe there is a environment for you where, Finally, Eccentricities Are Rewarded! A place where individualists who insist on being free to be themselves, Find Excellence And Rewards. Aha!
Oh, and about the “uncertain times” we’re living in. I’ve been in the workforce since the early 80’s (talk about some uncertain times!) and coaching and consulting since the early 90’s. I have yet to see “certain times.” I Feel Entirely, Absolutely, Rip-Roaringly certain that I will NEVER live in certain times. And that’s okay. I don’t need certain times, I need to be certain of myself. So long as I’m doing what I need to do to Feel Entirely, Absolutely Resourceful - fear serves no purpose at all. (Let’s have a conversation about the difference between fearing the unknown, and feeling uncertain sometime soon too.)
What Barry didn’t know, when he asked that question, is that I wrote a whole section on fear in Just Blow It Up! (which you can get your hands on in January.) So I could have gone on a full day rant about fear, about platitudes, and the disservice we do ourselves when we combine the two.
Instead, I decided to play with it. Now it’s your turn.
What does F.E.A.R. stand for to you?
(Creative credit goes to Philip Penrose for “playing along” and helping me come up with all the alternative F.E.A.R. phrases.)