Irrational fears. It seems twisted… If a fear is irrational, there is no way it should hold so much power over us. Even when intellectually we know it’s irrational, our rational mind simply cannot override the fear. Fear is said to be the most powerful human emotion because it is triggered in the most primitive part of our brain – the reptilian brain. Our neural priorities follow the neural development.
- to survive
- to feel
- to think
When we experience fear, the survival brain kicks into high gear, because the brain’s primary responsibility is to keep us alive.
When the brain perceives a threat (and it’s not very good at differentiating a physical threat from a psychological threat), it minimizes activity in other areas of the brain to allocate all the neural resources to address the danger.
Eventually, that fear does more than pause the thinking brain; it blindsides us and hacks into the decision-maker. This is how you explain those “what was I thinking?” moments: You weren’t thinking. You were making decisions based on fear.
Here are four signs your decision-maker may be hijacked by fear.
- Fear of failure. You are so afraid of failing that you have stopped challenging yourself to anything that isn’t a sure win. You opt out of any opportunity that is out of your comfort zone.
- Fear of scarcity. You settle for whatever you get because you’re afraid there is nothing better. You operate on a “take what I can get” mindset and are often left feeling unsatisfied.
- Fear of judgement. You avoid what could be fantastic opportunities for fear that someone will make you feel like you don’t belong or aren’t good enough.
- Fear of change. You are so afraid of change that even when you’re not happy with the status quo, the thought of the unknown is terrifying enough to keep you right where you are.
And no matter which fear cripples you, the inevitable rationalizing negative self-talk follows. Fear plays such a strong role in our cognition and behavior because it’s designed to keep us safe. The key is to remember that fear often warps our perception of reality and influences our ability to make rational decisions.
Don’t let fear drive your decisions. Instead, make decisions based upon progress, growth, and strategy. Make decisions based upon where you are and how to best get to where you want to be.