Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN


I recently spoke with a young nurse who had been offered a great position with incredible career potential.  She had not yet accepted it.  What is stopping you? – I asked.   She told me that she was worried about failure – what if I can’t do the job.  I asked her what is the worst thing that could possibly happen if she took and the position.  She replied that she guessed it would be if she got firedCould you survive that? – I asked.  I guess I could.- she said.

At the heart of every fear we have is one single fear: “I can’t handle it.”  Everyone has fears and for some it can be debilitating.  Dr. Susan Jeffers published the landmark book titled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.  Dr. Jeffers overs the solid advice that the more we do things we’re afraid of, thus proving to ourselves that we can handle danger, uncertainty, loss, loneliness, etc., the more we can feel confident that we will be able to handle similar experiences in the future. In other words, facing our fears is something we can practice and get better at, even if we can never completely obliterate fear from our lives.39503618 - businessman holding sledgehammer hitting 3d fear mottled concrete word isolated on white background, overcoming fear concept.

Decision making such as taking a new position often induces fear because we’re scared that if we make the wrong decision it can have disastrous consequences. She suggests that instead of thinking of a decision in terms of a “right choice” and a “wrong choice,” we think of them simply as different choices, and that with the right attitude, we can experience growth and fulfillment in our lives regardless of which choice we make. She points out how even in horrible circumstances (losing a job, being diagnosed with cancer, losing a loved one), we are given tremendous opportunities to experience personal growth, and it gives us confidence to emerge triumphant from difficult circumstances. The worst thing that could happen often turns out not to be the worst thing that could happen.  Believing in a no-lose philosophy in any decision you make, and the fact that discovering what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want.

The problem with not confronting our fears is that fear breeds fear.  When we avoid what we are afraid of – we never gain experience in confronting fears which can lead us to be paralyzed and immobile.  Fear is actually the price of progress.   Yes, any change is scary but it also has the potential to change our lives in ways that we never fully comprehend until we are transformed and safely on the other side of our fears.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “you gain strength, courage and  confidence by every experience in which you really have to stop to look fear in the face…….you must do the thing you think you cannot do”.  Great advice on how to lead and live our lives.

Dr. Rose O. Sherman, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN is a Professor of Nursing and Director of the Nursing Leadership Institute in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. To read more of her articles, visit her blog, Emerging RN Leader.