Despite their bad rap, sharks aren’t quite the bloodthirsty animals Hollywood has made them out to be. While Jaws may have been the box-office champ of its time, reality paints a different picture of these toothy sea creatures. Thanks to that 1975 film, its sequels, its rip-offs and other pieces of pop culture across several media – including Discovery’s ever-popular, annual Shark Week – we fear sharks.
But why? Our chances of being the victim of a shark attack are far less than being involved in a car accident or even being struck by lightning. While shark attacks do occur, they are extremely rare. In fact, according to conservation organization Oceana, an average of just 4.2 fatal attacks occurs each year. Between 2006 and 2010, a total of 179 shark attacks occurred in the U.S., resulting in three fatalities. During the same time period, there were 176,937 fatal car crashes, all while you sat on the beach, afraid to get in the water because of … y’know, sharks.
You may be wondering how sharks relate to your business. All too often, we rely on fear to determine our survival, working world included.
The cavemen ages are far behind us. We no longer have to worry about the slightest rustle in the bushes for fear a lion might be our demise; yet, like our ancestors, our brains are wired to think this way: overanalyze every situation and cause ourselves anxiety over unlikely situations.
Don’t fear the ‘shark’
How do we overcome this fear? The answer to this is twofold.
First, stop worrying about the sharks. Taking precaution is smart, but spending your time sitting on the sand is no way to become the world’s best surfer. Don’t waste your energy; rather, jump in the water and start paddling, because when it comes down to it, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Becoming completely free of fear is neither easy nor something that everyone should do. It is a work in progress. However, if you can get to a point of freedom, the possibilities are endless. For a few tools to help you along the way, consider these three tips:
1. Think positively.Take a moment and think about your greatest fear right now, whether in life or in business. Now, if this catastrophe did occur, can you list ways in which it could be seen as an opportunity? This is the first step to overcoming your fear. Countering these fears with positive thinking and purpose will start to shrink those “sharks,” making them seem a little less intimidating.
2. Break the cycle. Worrying isn’t necessarily a bad thing; some things merit it. Traffic making you late for an interview; your teenager taking the car out for a spin; or not being able to find an important document you need for tomorrow’s meeting: All are situations in which a negative outcome is possible, so they demand a bit of worry. However, when your worrying becomes chronic, that’s when it becomes a bad thing.
Chronic worriers feel that by worrying, they can prevent the bad things from happening or catch them early. Thinking about your fears does not give you more control; instead, it seriously hinders your ability to move on and let go.
If you are this type of person, keep a journal of worry topics. Write them down as you experience them and you may start to piece together similarities when they appear. Another great way to overcome your worry is to retrain your brain to see what you call “threats” as challenge, and then follow through with action steps to meet said challenges.
3. Accept that you can’t control everything. Life happens as it is supposed to happen, and while you may want to manipulate every aspect as it unfolds, you can’t. Some things in life cannot be controlled, so why drive yourself crazy?Manage what is reasonable to manage; take precautions; and trust that your ability to cope and overcome is far stronger than your fear.
The second half of this two-folded answer begins after you’ve rechanneled your fear away from the “sharks.” Now it’s time to face the killer reality: that the problems you thought were worth worrying about were actually distracting you from the true problems right under your nose.
For instance, if there any situation you currently are ignoring, it might be because you don’t know how to handle it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it go away. Rather, consider taking a proactive approach and creating a to-do list to help shift it.
Or maybe there is a situation you think is beneficial, but really is not. If you’re nodding in agreement, take a step back to reassess the situation. Perhaps you’re too into your own head, in which case a third-party opinion would be beneficial.
The point is that “sharks” don’t have to be so scary; it’s all a matter of perception. By simply repositioning the way you think, those fears that once held you back are slowly diminished. Now you and your business can reach full potential.