Fear can be good news!

I’ve been talking about fear with my clients quite a lot recently. (If you’re feeling fear, trust me, you aren’t the only one!) Sometimes it’s the fear of taking a step–more accurately, the fear of making a misstep. The fear of losing what you have (either material belongings or a reputation or self-identity) can be paralyzing, even if you know that you can’t get the next thing you want without giving up something you now have. And the fear of missing out has become so commonly identified that it has its own acronym, FOMO. Neither last nor least is the ubiquitous fear of rejection, which nearly everyone feels at some time.

Years ago the title of a popular book proclaimed, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. While the title is attractive, in my experience it’s hard to follow. In fact, given the typical risk resistance that most lawyers have by nature and/or nurture, it may be tougher for lawyers than for others who spend less time thinking about what might go wrong.

I was mulling how to talk to my clients about acknowledging fear, mitigating risk, and then moving forward when I found this article by Seth Godin. This sentence hit home for me: “The reason you’re afraid is that there’s leverage here, something might happen.” (The rest of this brief article is also worth a read.)

What would happen if you were to view fear as a signal both to be aware of potential snags and also to get moving?  Why not test it this week: take a moment and notice what you’ve been delaying or what has you paralyzed. Do you not have any idea how or when to take the step you’ve been contemplating? Or are you afraid that it won’t go well, that you’ll jeopardize a relationship or a position, that you might even fail? Take a breath…then take a first step.

Because in addition to the problems Godin notes about waiting for the fear to subside, there’s one more challenge: Sometimes the fear just doesn’t subside. And then you’re really and truly stuck.

So don’t wait. Get whatever assistance you may need (whether tactical or just someone to whom you can safely admit your fear), then get it done.

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