How to Use Fear to be More Productive

Imagine this: You’re on the way to an interview that you were really scared of. You think of everything you can to sabotage your confidence. I’m probably not so good at communication. What if I mess up with my first impression? Is this opportunity worth facing this anxiety right now? I should have probably taken some time to upskill before I applied. Maybe, I should go home and reschedule.

Two minutes later, you’re in the interview room and people dressed in power suits are all ready to grill you. You’re nervous, maybe perspiring, regretting this bold move. But there’s nothing you can do now. Fumble, mumble or f*ck up — this is it! You might as well give it your best, right?

You gather your nerves together, stride with as much straightness you can. And it’s then that you see that smile on their faces, the warmth in their voice. They’re not here to scare you or show you down. They are simply here to understand if you are a good fit for the company and vice-versa. There’s no judgment, just fitment to be analyzed from this conversation that you’re about to have. Suddenly, you feel the jitters moving away. Your body starts relaxing and you’re ready to turn this opportunity around.

You see, fear only works at creating an ideal environment on which you can fall back if things don’t go right. If you had turned around and left before even entering the interview room, you’d never have had the opportunity to at the very least have a nice communication with a bench of people. You would have never taken a chance at yourself. And as you grow, I think it becomes evident that the more you turn away from facing your fear, the more it feeds on you. All of a sudden, you’re scared of everything. You’re in a shell. Your fight or flight response has weakened because you’ve stopped letting it learn what actual fear is and what isn’t.

Here we’re putting across five ways that could help you channel your fear into productivity:

  • “You cannot escape it” mentality

The scenario we mentioned above is the “You cannot escape it” mentality. This applies to whether you’ve already stepped into the situation or not. Speaking generally, fear is not something you can avoid. You’ve got to face it one way or the other. Adapting a mentality that encourages you to face your fear instead of stalling it would put you in a position of proactivity. You now have the rein of control in your hand. You can direct your fear and be prepared for how it can affect you. Also, since you’re putting yourself in a position of slight discomfort, you might as well get something worthwhile out of it.

  • Sweet Spot of Anxiety

The sweet spot of anxiety is where you have pushed yourself outside your comfort zone but at the same time, it’s not overwhelming. It’s the right amount of initiative that lands you in a position of challenge that you can endure. This would end up making you stronger and building emotional resilience. However remember, too much anxiety would drag down your confidence and scare you into a hole. You might never want to step into a challenging position again. And avoiding anxiety would dampen your growth and make you stagnant. Finding your sweet spot is a matter of practice.

  • The WORST that can happen

This might feel like a textbook solution, but it definitely works. Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen if my fear comes true. And then, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen to me in general.” Now, go ahead and compare the outcome of your current fear in comparison to your general fear. For me, personally, the worst thing in general is dying (cliche!). So, when I’m scared about say being fired, my immediate comparison is – Would it be worse than dying? Hard pass.

And I think you’ll notice not much of our problems are a life-or-death scenario. You’ll also notice that most of our fears are based on hypothetical scenarios. End of the day, everybody is capable of navigating through life through the worst of situations. Survival is our basic instinct. Remember that.

  • Create a moving inventory of fears

Create a continuous list of things or situations that scare you. For instance, let’s say I’m scared of group discussions. I really am. Put it on the list.

Next, try to figure out why this situation scares you and add some self-reflection to your list. Here are a few questions you can reflect on practically.

Why am I scared in this situation? Moving ahead with the example, group discussions are uneasy for me because I am scared of conflict. People-pleasing is my basic nature and I hate being put in a position where I have to disagree with people. Most of all, if the discussion is extempore, I might lack knowledge on the topic being picked.

What are the major themes through which my fear crops up? Conflict avoidance. People-pleasing. Lack of awareness.

What is the worst that can happen? I end up saying nothing during the discussion.

How can I deal with this fear in a better way? Speak your mind when you’re given the chance in informal situations to tackle conflict avoidance. Say no to things that don’t appeal to you in order to tackle people-pleasing. Read the newspaper every day to catch up on major ongoing issues even if just for five minutes a day.

Make this an ongoing list and note down your fears as and when you realise them. This will keep you prepared for the next time that you’re going to be in this situation. You can simply pick out your list and guide yourself through your fear.

  • Self-compassionate dialogue

We have all heard of the experiment where we write down all our flaws in third person and imagine screaming them to our childhood selves. Imagine talking to a five-year-old you and telling them, “YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH!” We wouldn’t be able to go ahead with it. Let alone ourselves, we wouldn’t be able to say this to people close to us, people we love. When you’re scared, show yourself the same love that you would show to others. Talk to yourself in third person. Give yourself the affirmation that you need. Instead of being hard on yourself, talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend if they were going through the same situation. Would you tell your friend, “You’re right. You should be scared. What a worthless piece of shit. You’re not ready for this!” I don’t think so. We always tend to blurt out solutions that we think can help them face their fear. Do the same for yourself. Talk yourself through solutions to the situation. Talk yourself out of the fear. Encourage yourself to be brave. If you’d do that for others, why not do some of it for yourself too?

Let us know if this helped you channel your fear into productivity!

Ri & Ved @ Productively Yours

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