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Hurricanes, protests and mass shootings — what is the antidote for fear?

Action, of course, is the answer to fear. And not just any action — focused, deliberate action is the key. 

Sunrise at Wahweap on Lake Powell in September 1997.
Taking action today can cause current fears to evaporate as the mist before the morning sun and usher in the dawning of a brighter, and more hopeful, day.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

Fear is becoming an ever-increasing, dominant and persistent force in the life of people around the world. Currently the fears associated with Hurricane Dorian, violent protests in Hong Kong, foreboding economic indicators and yet another shooting in Texas are all filling news cycles and circling the internet. W. Clement Stone, known for his positive perspective, may have provided the best approach for overcoming paralyzing trepidation when he said, “Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.”

Developing strategies for overcoming fear are paramount in our age of rage and season of uncertainty. Successful individuals, entrepreneurs, executives and organizations are constantly facing fear and staring down uncertainty, recognizing that success rarely comes to those who cower in the corner.

Action, of course, is the answer to fear. And not just any action — focused, deliberate action is the key. Fear cannot stand and actually must give way to such action — it is a universal law.

The world is filled with fearmongers who paralyze the masses with the big news of bad news and who constantly point out the downside and potential risk of taking any action. Elected officials and citizens alike must recognize that risk-taking is the only path to security-making.

Some describe fear as a deep, dark hole. When you face that murky hole of fear, the best thing to do is to take action and step into, not away from, it. A wise man once said, “Walk to the edge of the light and even one step into the darkness. There you will find that the light will extend one step further on your path to success and achievement.”

One world religious leader added, “It is better to lean into the stiff wind of opposition than to hunker down and do nothing.”

Sometimes it is easier to look agonizingly backward rather than face the fear of required action today. I saw this in my coaching and consulting work with business executives. Often my clients would start by attempting to tell me all of the things that had gone, or were going, wrong in their lives. I soon recognized that for many, there was a certain comfort in reviewing or reliving the past, even if it was a painful past. Though uncomfortable, it was nonetheless known, which made it familiar and, in a way, comfortable. Processing that past fostered far less fear than attempting to take the bold action required for a better, but uncertain, future.

Businesses that fail often begin to unravel by succumbing to fear. Sadly, too many elected officials have likewise become more comfortable wringing their hands about and forever analyzing past tragedies than they are willing to face their fear of losing the next election. Too many citizens have become more comfortable not having uncomfortable conversations about real issues like mental health, climate, guns, education, family, faith, fatherlessness, opioids, addiction the national debt, deficit spending and a host of other issues.

Eleanor Roosevelt was right: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. ... You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

No one believes in the power of hope in the face of fear and daunting challenges more than I do. But real hope is always attached to, or combined with, action. If all we do is hope things will get better, we will be deeply disappointed in the outcome. We cannot simply hope the violence will stop, that people will change, that governments will protect rather than target or that the current storm will cease.

Hope is critically important, but hope is not a strategy. Without some starting point of a strategy, no action can ever be taken and hope will eventually yield to fear. I often look to my Matheson family heritage and our clan motto when facing fear. Three simple words, “Do and Hope!” I am reminded that the “do” comes first and “hope” is simply a natural byproduct of doing.

Utah, for example, has taken on the fear of dealing with mental health, anxiety, depression and suicide with action. A recent study, as mentioned by the Deseret News Editorial Board, contains critical “first measures” and “future measures” that should be taken to combat the crisis. They include continued expansion of resources and crisis centers, promoting knowledge on mental health, extending grants to mental health centers and increasing funding for school-based mental health providers. Legislators and residents have been encouraged to take these seriously and not delay acting on possible solutions.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced immense challenges that rocked and shook the confidence of the American people to the core. In his first inaugural address, he famously declared, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Sometimes, however, it can seem that a small glimmer of hope is about all that is left in our fear-filled world. I have found that even a smidgen of hope, combined with whatever action can be taken, can create a positive and forward-moving force. Taking such action today can cause current fears to evaporate as the mist before the morning sun and usher in the dawning of a brighter, and more hopeful, day. Stone was right, “Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.”