The Difference between Fear and Anxiety

Have you ever set an ambitious goal and fell short due to an imaginary barrier? In my work as a motivational speaker and writer, I have always been fascinated by the difference between fear and anxiety. Like many of you, I had believed that fear and anxiety were similar emotional states. However, they are fundamentally very different, and here’s why. Anxiety is focused on future negative events and is long lasting. Conversely, fear is focused on present events and is temporary. After studying this for quite some time, I have concluded that fear can serve as our friend, while anxiety can be our greatest disability.

I am sure you have heard that if you experience fear, you must lack courage. We often think of the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz who was afraid of his own shadow. The minute we experience fear, it somehow becomes a sign of weakness. However, it seems to me that any great achievement always begins with some level of fear. In thinking about your life, when you have attempted something risky in the past, didn’t you feel fear? Fear is a noticeable indication that you are leaving the known and venturing into the unknown where new possibilities often await. When I spoke to a group of leading financial professionals at the Million Dollar Roundtable, I heard the legendary Ben Feldman say this, “Make it a goal to face fear every day; then you will know you are striving to be your very best!”

An additional benefit from embracing fear is that it affirms your resilience. Haven’t you noticed an increase in your self-confidence when you have faced fear head on and had a successful outcome? In my book How High Can You Bounce, I found many people who resisted anxiety during challenging times say to themselves “I’ve been through this before, and I’ll get through it again.” Confronting fear provides an opportunity to find out just how powerful you really are!

In contrast, anxiety is focused on future worst-case scenarios, like a preview of coming attractions with a negative ending. It is expecting a negative outcome regardless of your abilities or opportunities. In reality, most of the obstacles we envision are illusions that paralyze us from moving forward. Mark Twain said it best, “I am an old man and have known many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

We can easily fall into a trap of anxiety when we are convinced that it will prepare us for future difficulty. We inherently believe that if we are prepared for disappointment, it will make it easier to cope and find solutions. The truth is, however, when we are gripped with anxiety; and adversity does occur, our strength is hastily weakened and faith in ourselves quickly erodes.

In place of anxiety, let’s focus on our special gifts, unique talents and amazing ideas within us that are waiting to be shared. Think of the unlimited possibilities ahead when we embrace the external obstacles and resist our internal obstacles.

Driven to achieve his dream of becoming a Hall of Fame athlete while living with a physical challenge affecting all four limbs, Roger Crawford knows what it takes to redefine the possible! As a Hall of Fame motivational speaker, Roger draws upon his life lessons combined with proven principles to empower your organization and ignite a powerful “I Can” culture.

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