What are the things you fear most? For my mother, it was storms. As a little girl growing up in the Kentucky backwoods, she lived through a devastating tornado that took several lives. From that point on, she feared storms or even threatening skies. With approaching bad weather, she ushered her children to the cellar for safe keeping. Her fear was so pronounced that it transferred to some of her children.

What is fear? I am not sure where the following originated, or where I read it initially, but it surfaced again after I met Lou Tice, the former football coach, educator and founder of the Pacific Institute.

I wrote down the following in one of his training sessions. It is the best description of fear that I have encountered.

“I am fear. I am the menace that lurks in the path of life, never visible to the eye but sharply felt in the heart! I am the father of despair, the brother of procrastination, the enemy of progress, the tool of tyranny. Born of ignorance and nursed on misguided thought, I have darkened more hopes, stifled more ambitions, shattered more ideals and prevented more accomplishments than history could record! Like the changing chameleon, I assume many disguises. I masquerade as caution. I am sometimes known as doubt or worry! But whatever I am called, I am still fear, the obstacle of achievement. I know no master only one. Its’ name is "understanding.” I have no power but what the human mind gives me, and I vanish completely when the light of understanding reveals the facts as they really are, for I am really nothing.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” which fundamentally means that we are at least partially responsible for the power and influence that fear has over ourselves. Fear embodies the power and the control it has over our mind and spirit. Fear can be overwhelming and ultimately destroy our hopes and dreams. Fear is, therefore, the beast that lives within all of us. However, we need to find ways to conquer one of our greatest foes that prevent moving forward with confidence.

How do we overcome our fears? Each of us has fears so this is a global and universal conundrum. Since everyone has fears, it is, therefore, part of being human. It is the process through which we overcome our fears which can either be constructive or destructive. We can be adversely affected by our fears or use our fears to conquer the many challenges put in our way to keep us from succeeding.

Fear has been part of our lives since the dawn of the human race. Fear is part of our core survival instinct, our number one primal emotion. We have always had to deal with fear. Although fears can stimulate powerful endorphins which can give us strength and mental capacity to deal with challenges, we have developed more fears than we ever had fear of what or how others might think about us, fear of failure or even success, fear of loss of control, fear of change, etc.

Since we were children, we have been bombarded with things to fear. “Watch out!” “Don’t go in there!” “Go to the basement, a storm’s coming!” These constant warnings planted a conscious or unconscious seed in our brain that there is danger and something to fear. Fear keeps us in an invisible cage that holds us back from anything that feels uncomfortable. We look at things that we want but are stunted in our movement to go forward and grasp onto the things we desire. Our deepest fears keep us from moving forward effectively to make the most of our lives.

To effectively deal with fear, we need to know our fears and "look them in the eye."

We can’t ignore them, so we need to find ways to confront and face our fears because they’re not going away. We need to have the courage to endure whatever it takes to overcome and learn from our fears.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “Do one thing every day that scares you … You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

To deal with and overcome our fears, we need to garner the courage to face them. In doing so, we will have taken the first step toward controlling them instead of them controlling us. Once we can do that, we can follow Mrs. Roosevelt’s advice so that we can move forward to a more fruitful and successful life.