Is Fear Driving Your Decisions?

By Kathleen E. Murphy

All of us are making continuous daily decisions, but have you stopped to think about whether your decisions are based on being completely confident with your decision, or are your decisions fear based due to your lack of confidence with trusting your gut instinct? Trusting your gut instinct is something most people in general have a hard time doing. Why? Because we are so conditioned to seeking others opinions or the acceptance and approval of others, that we often make decisions based on how other people will perceive the decision we made, and is essence, this is fear based decision making.

Many work based decision making scenarios involve having to come to a consensus.  This is often when the ultimate decision which is agreed to is less likely to be based on what would be the best decision. The result is that the decision was heavily influenced based on fear contributing to the decision inputs. When a group decision consensus is required, people will generally resort to projecting in their minds what they think others will want the decision to be, and not what it should be if fear were not part of the equation. So how do you stop having your resulting decisions being based on fear?

I often have conversations with business people about the concept of listening to the voice of reason in their brain. To convey this concept in a simplistic way, think of there being two voices in your head. One of them is a positive influence and the other is negative. The positive voice is your “gut instinct” providing you with sound and reasonable guidance, while the negative voice is the fear voice. The fear voice is not based on any type of instinct. The challenge is to practice drowning out the negative voice in your mind. You can start doing this with less complicated decisions you have to make such as thinking through a typical scenario everyone deals with. The example is to think about your response to the decision about whether you should stay a bit later at work to finish a project. If you listened to your positive and gut instinct, it would tell you it is alright to spend slightly more time at work to complete your project. As a result of doing so and listening to your positive voice, you will not be stressed all night at home about the project not being completed on time or advanced further to a point of comfort. This decision illustrates not being afraid to commit some additional time in order to have more time to relax later.

If in the example of staying later at work, you decided not to stay later, your negative voice was probably telling you fear based reasons about why you should not stay late (e.g., you don’t have the energy to stay later, you should have planned your time better to complete the project, you will be missing out on so many other things later that night due to staying longer). Another way to look at understanding why fear plays a role in our decision making is to actually think about potentially what fear really stands for. I do not know who to credit the breakdown of the word F.E.A.R. into a memorable statement, but the one I especially like is that the word fear stands for “False Expectations Appearing Real”. This particular explanation of fear nicely supports the “negative voice” concept I was discussing, and about 99% of the time, if I stop to think about something I am afraid of when making a decision, I remind myself of this fear based explanation.

When I am working with business executives or people in general, and we are talking about how they go about making decisions, I ask them to consider whether they are making the majority of their decisions based on fear. Most people will admit some percentage portion of their decisions are based on relying upon their “gut” or the positive voice, but far too many of them are making a large amount of their decisions based on fear. The first and best step to take to start eliminating making fear based decisions is to recognize and admit to doing so. The next step is to begin to slowly and consciously make and think through your decisions based on what your initial gut decision would be, and to then stick to it. The third step is to be retrospective about the decisions you have made with your gut, and to see how often these are the best and strongest decisions. Once you start to become comfortable with relying on your gut or positive voice, you will approach making decisions in an entirely different manner. You will also feel a new sense of freedom of not second guessing or making decisions once made primarily from a position of fear.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at




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