I have never met anyone who doesn’t face fear.
Every day, I don’t know exactly what my team is going to do. I don’t know what my clients are going to do. I don’t know what my partners are going to do. I don’t know what my future clients are going to do.
The biggest fear of all? I don’t know if the actions I take will create the exact results that I want.
I am not alone.
Every single entrepreneur, leader, or executive is afraid of something. That fear is always shown in behavior. It might be the tone of voice or the act of not taking action, or it might be shown in aggression towards a threat. No matter how it is shown, fear is real.
Everyone knows fear kills.
Fear kills opportunities, relationships, sales, product launches, and employee morale.
Fear is formed when the mind focuses on the uncertainty of future outcomes. Confidence comes from awareness of all the facts along with a belief in a positive outcome, no matter the uncertainty present.
The good thing is there’s some MIT research that shows you exactly how to overcome fear–even if that was not the point of the research, to begin with.
Earl Miller is a cognitive specialist and neuroscience professor at MIT. His research found that humans cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. Most of the application of his research has focused on our inability to multitask and how to increase brainpower. Yet, when you understand that to feel fear you have to consciously think about it, then you can take the research and apply it to almost any situation. This does not apply to unconscious or instant fear, fear that is an emotion. This research applies to the main type of fear we feel daily, which is conscious fear based on our expectations and perceptions.
Since our brains only can consciously focus on one thing at a time, once you are in the act of doing, your fear fades away. Therefore, taking action reduces conscious fear.
The first time I learned this was long before I heard of Earl Miller. I was living in Hong Kong and, as a missionary, my main assignment was to talk to strangers and help them. I was scared. Through experience, I learned that while I was actually talking and actively listening, I was not afraid. I didn’t know the science behind it, I just knew it worked for me. That same lesson of action overcoming fear has been repeated in every professional role I have held since.
Since fear paralyzes, how do you take action? The application of Miller’s research requires a somewhat unique approach to fear. That is where commitment comes in.
Commitments are not decisions, commitments are not preferences, commitments are not ideals. They are stronger and deeper, they are steadfast and immovable. Once you commit to something, nothing else matters.
If you want to take action, which will eliminate fear, the only thing you need to do is make a commitment. Why? Commitment means an action is taking place and your brain is focusing on something else besides the fear.
Commitment always leads to confidence; it is a cycle. Action creates success and success will create confidence. If you don’t have confidence, take action, and the confidence will come because you will find success because you will not be thinking about fear.
All fear is neutralized when commitment is proven through action. This is how your brain works.
And, as an added bonus, when you are committed to something, you don’t need motivation.
Originally published at www.inc.com