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Fears of All Sizes

"Feel the fear and do it anyway." - Susan Jeffers

From our children we can learn so much. Parker, my precious 9 year old, brought home his progress report on Friday. It showed a missing spelling assignment. We were puzzled, as we knew he had done the assignment, and asked Parker why it hadn't been turned in. He told us he had been asked to rewrite the assignment during recess. He went on to say that at the end of recess he still had one more definition to write, for the word perseverance, then he forgot to finish it and turn it in. We encouraged him to work on tasks to completion and talked about remembering to turn things in on time. We counseled him to turn it in Monday morning, that even if he wasn't going to credit, he needed to complete his assignment, to fulfill his commitment to his teacher.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon, when we asked if he had turned in the homework. He hadn't. Fast forward again to this morning, Tuesday morning, when some skillful questions from Mom helped us see the rest of the picture. Parker was intimidated to turn in the paper now. He had rewritten the words during recess, but had not finished. The main reason he didn't turn in the paper last week, or Monday morning, was not that he had forgotten, but that he was scared. Scared of being yelled at. Scared of a late assignment sheet. Scared of whatever.

Dad's Story

I am currently working on a very important project, and as a step in this project, want to get an audience with a pretty influential person. I built a good plan to try to get an audience with this person. If I can make this contact and persuade them to partner with me, it will go a long way towards me reaching some of my goals for this project, in fact, some of my life goals.

So I had a good plan, but I procrastinated. I didn't put the plan into effect as soon as I could have. I waited. Why did I wait? I waited, out of a fear of failure, of being told "no". Will I be any further from my goal if I get a "no"? Of course not. So the down side is nil, the upside is great. But still I procrastinated.

Fear's Definition

Parker and I had both succumbed to fear. The best definition of fear I've read is found in using the word as an acronym.

  • F alse
  • E vidence
  • A ppearing
  • R eal

    We both made up potential situations in our heads. Situations of rejection, situations that on close examination are not likely; and even if they do occur, won't be as awful as we would think.

    Father and Son

    Through Parker's tears I pulled him close and hugged him. I told him I understood. I explained a bit about my current situation, mentioning that I had waited, then once I did act, good things started to happen. While I haven't yet had my conversation, but it is looking very likely. We talked about the best way to reduce and eliminate fear, and we determined that action is the best cure.

    The World

    After the tragic attacks in the United States, there is certainly talk of fear here in the U.S. There is no doubt that there are things to be concerned about. But I am also convinced that our fears become worse when we "stew" about them. When we start thinking, "What if this?" and "What if that?" The risks in the world right now are much larger than in Parker turning in a homework assignment late. But the principles are the same.

    President Bush, almost from the start, told us to "get back to work". Now a week after the tragedy, we are starting to see the wisdom in that. Action is a cure. Many have taken action directly related to helping, whether that is to pray, send donations, offer their time, or whatever. The secret is in the action. The fear is reduced when we act. All of us have begun to get back to our lives, and that action is helping.

    False Evidence Appearing Real

    There are many things real in the world, but our minds have wonderful imaginations. We can build amazing scenarios to fear. Yes, our leaders need to be thinking about potentially devastating situations. Yes, there will be changes because of those possibilities. But for me as an individual, I got my lesson from Parker this morning. We can all deal with all kinds of fear; big and small, personal and international, better, when we take action.

    Perseverance was the word Parker hadn't defined. In my dictionary the definition reads "the act of persevering; continued patient effort." Perseverance will help us whip our fears. Making continued patient effort will help erase the false evidence, and illuminate that which is real. From our efforts and successes we will know how to deal with those real situations as they come, one at a time.

    (c) Copyright 2000, the Discian Group. All rights reserved.
    Kevin Eikenberry is a speaker, trainer, author, and President of the Discian Group. discian.com - a learning consulting company. He authors a monthly article on learning from life's events called Vantagepoints. If you liked this article, you can read more or subscribe for free at VantagePoints