How to Use Fear to Your Advantage: It’s Not You, It’s Your Brain!

Posted by in Books, How the Top 10% Do It!, Self-Management Strategies for Optimal Performance

The number one reason that salespeople don’t reach the pinnacle of their success that they seek and deserve is the inability to manage their emotions and feelings, to develop a relationship with fear.

Many people believe that laziness or poor self-esteem are the reasons behind a floundering career, but I believe the true cause is more primal; many simply don’t know how to manage the fear centre in their brain.

At the back of the human brain is a little gland about the size of an almond called the amygdala. The amygdala is the emotional centre of the brain—it is what allows us to feel fear. Back in the days of cavemen, whenever there was danger this emotional centre is what prompted us to fight, flee, or freeze. The amygdala is just as active now as it was then. Whenever we are faced with a situation which we perceive as threatening or challenging, the amygdala flares up, and we step back from the perceived danger… from taking that chance. We feel uncomfortable and without the ability to manage that, we don’t take the next step towards success. It’s not you; it’s your brain!

Open brain sideways with Amygadala and Executive center highlighted

Fortunately, there is another area of the brain, the executive centre in the prefrontal lobes, which can be used to lessen the intensity of our fear responses. At the front of the brain are the frontal lobes, and the part lying just behind the forehead is called the prefrontal cortex. They comprise the rational and executive control center of the brain, monitoring higher-order thinking, directing problem solving, and regulating the excesses of the emotional system of the amygdala. The executive centre of the brain is responsible for logic and reason and helps us make high-level decisions. It helps us become competent. It helps us thrive in areas where others, whose fear response controls them, want to act but cannot because fear overrides their best intentions. Elite and Top Performers have command of the executive centre of their brain and use logic and reason to calm the amygdala and help move them forward to achieve their dreams and goals.

In addition to fear, there is another ‘f’ word that can really help you and that is flirt. For every aspect of the sales process, if we create a plan based on logic and reason, the fear response of the amygdala’s influence becomes less and less destructive. It still functions. It is just that its effects are mitigated so that taking that next necessary step is not as daunting. Flirting with your amygdala means that you take a chance to step out of your comfort zone. The more chances you take, the easier and more successful your efforts will be.

No matter how well we manage our response to it, fear is still an inevitable feeling. It’s just not possible to feel unafraid all the time. We are all born with that gland that every day causes us to feel fear and sometimes in everyday situations! When you meet someone and they say, “I have no fear”, your advice to them could be well, you just must take a bigger risk.

While you’re languishing in your comfort zone and repeatedly doing that which you already know how to do, of course you won’t feel fear. A great adage to live by is, if I’m not living on the edge I’m taking up too much room. Most people avoid living on the edge because it causes them to feel fear, doubt, and insecurity. These emotions can become your three best friends if you begin to take more chances! It is natural to feel uncomfortable before you try a new task. This discomfort comes from anticipating negative outcomes and feeling anxious before anything even occurs!

The million-dollar question you may be asking yourself as you read this is, how can I master fear? To master this emotion, you must first know how fear speaks to you. One way to discern fear’s voice is to examine the options you consider; if these options are always negative, chances are it is fear speaking. You may procrastinate, or offer only resistance to new ideas or challenges. You may feel tired all the time. If this describes you, it could be that your fear is trying to protect you from going out there and taking a risk even if that risk brings tremendous success. Let’s face it: we are here today because our ancestors were more afraid than the other folks in the clan. Because of their fear, they had a heightened sense of self-protection which helped to keep them alive. Survival is one of the benefits of fear!

People who don’t have a highly active amygdala, a smaller than normal amygdala or they’ve had their amygdala gland damaged, report feeling like they’re not quite alive because they don’t have the richness of emotion that the amygdala brings.

Fear is normal. It is part of our biology. You cannot just think it away. You cannot write out affirmations and expect it to go away. It’s there. So, the best we can do is to learn how to mitigate the effects of the fear. Live by this statement (that includes your next sale!):

This article is an excerpt from my upcoming publication:

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Sara Haynes, P. Eng.
Sigma Solutions

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