By Colin Kennedy

My 10-year-old daughter came down the stairs recently and startled me – partly because it was after 10pm – with the question, “Daddy, are there invisible things in the world?” The reason she was awake was because she was afraid of unseen ‘things’. The fear was keeping her from sleep.

As I reflected on her night time fears, I realised that our childhood fears of ‘unseen,’ or ‘invisible things’ never really go away – they just follow us into adulthood, giving us sleepless nights or preventing us from achieving the things that we most want.

And I’m not talking about public speaking. At some point people apparently feared public speaking more than death – but that’s a fallacy. Public speaking is actually way down the list of greatest fears, according to ongoing research by United States based Chapman University.

In his book, ‘The Bravest You’ author Adam Smith writes that the top three fears keeping us from living an extraordinary life are:

  1. Inadequacy, or not being skilled enough

According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives.

Psychologist Audrey Ervin says one way to deal with feelings of inadequacy is to acknowledge and observe your thoughts, and to then critically examine the thought.

“I encourage clients to ask, ‘Does that thought help or hinder me?’” Ervin told Time magazine.

  1. Uncertainty, or fear of the unknown.

Dr Travis Bradberry, the award-winning author of the #1 best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, says that when we have less information, instead of becoming more cautious, our decisions actually become more erratic and irrational.

“Uncertainty makes your brain yield control to the limbic system. You must engage your rational brain to keep yourself on track. Establish what you do know, embrace what you can’t control and focus on what matters.”

  1. Failure, or the fear of things we have no control over.

Co-author, The Innovator’s Method: Bringing the Lean Startup into Your Organization, Nathan Furr, says one way to overcome fear of the unknown (especially when embarking on a new venture) is to identify, and take, the risks you are most comfortable with.

“Focus on reducing and deferring risks. Establish the value of the risk. If you reduce the cost of your attempt, by framing it as an experiment, you reduce the cost of failure.”

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