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Rajeev Mudumba

Playing with Fear

Fear is a primal response to threat. And, it has played a crucial part in the management of human instincts and survival trends through the ages. While it served its purpose of taking a fight or flight decision when faced with physical danger during primitive times and also serves for the same, during modern times; it has also shaped into a formidable management tool through the industrial age to modern times. This time, it’s not necessarily about facing physical danger but facing uncomfortable situations as a result of not following planned direction. However, it’s usage and potency are arguable and I am sure there will be people on either side of the fence deliberating fear’s effectiveness as a management tool.

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Today, I am more interested in exploring fear for what it is and how, as an individual and leader, you need to understand it, to use it effectively to your advantage. As someone said, risk or danger is real, but fear, it’s a choice. Either you can decide to let it control you or you take over the reins and control it. And, if you do manage to take the reins in your hands to manage fear, let me assure you, you will experience freedom in its full glory.

Fear, like many things that are the most potent when used in calculated measures, is the most effective, when used sparsely. Life is a swing, there are ups and there are downs. That’s a given and most of us have experienced it and continue to experience it. There is euphoria with the ups and fear with the downs. However, with effective preparation and management of the downs, fear doesn’t have to rule you when you are experiencing them. Fear, at optimal measures, can be a great motivator for yourself as well as when applied to a team that is pursuing a goal, to nudge them in the direction of achievement, deft responsibility management, and understanding accountability. In such situations, triggering fear can help with the release of tension and buildup of energy to tackle the problem at hand and eventually result in a sense of accomplishment.

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However, when fear starts to engulf you or you end up using it beyond its potent value, it can be very damaging; its potency is lost to keep you or your team on track and as a result, chaos can take over. Knowing when to pull back is as important, if not more than to when and how much to push. When fear takes control, it tends to paralyze creativity and decision making prowess. As a result, there is a tendency to shift responsibility and depend on others’ decisions to act on, in order not to be held accountable. That just goes against the grain of accomplishment and progress. Be what you expect of others. Foster a flexible and positive atmosphere where mistakes are allowed but challenged not to recur, and when not on track, to come back to it. Knowing that it's okay to screw up, so long as you learn from it and get back on track, helps everyone and instills a sense of camaraderie and trust among co-workers. It’s also important to understand that being on a constant alert to tackle stress is not healthy and can cause burnout. Winding down, relaxing and rejuvenating before picking up the mantle, is all a part of fostering the right stress management process.

On the individual front, fear tends to curb adventure and can hold you back for no reason. Any venture can either flourish or flounder. The risk or reward for any steps you take, tend to stay defined. If you fail, have the willpower and planning to get back up and try again. It can’t get worse than that. Then, why, let fear take you over and hinder you from making an attempt for a prolonged period when there is a decent chance of you succeeding? Go ahead, and do what you plan to do. Believe me, the rest will all follow through.

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