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Why Are We So Afraid


Why Are We So Afraid

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For years FEAR has intrigued me. It seems to be a big part of the work we do and the lives we live. We find that many people are afraid to take risks, leaders don't delegate for the fear of losing control, lots of organizations are afraid of change, public speaking is still one of the greatest fears, and I could go on and on. It's not as though fear doesn't impact my life also. I'm afraid of losing loved ones, that my business will not be successful, and that people will be disappointed in me or what we do at Priority Learning. Ironically, the people we seem to admire most are usually defined by their courage. We call them bold and daring and they interest us. These courageous people are the topic of novels, the recipients of medals, and the focus of our admiration. So why are the rest of us so afraid when the one thing that can truly define our place on this crowded planet is courage?

America and the rest of world are safer, smarter, healthier, and less at risk than ever before in the history of mankind. Crazy talk? Not according to experts. Our children will live longer, healthier, and smarter lives than we will. The world has less war right now than it has ever had and we just passed the 7,000,000,000 (population in the world) mark. I recently read in the Sunday paper that poverty on the planet will be eliminated according to trends by 2030. I saw an article last night on the evening news about a little girl's dream to bring fresh water to the multitudes in Africa that was no longer just a dream. It is actually happening through the good work of organizations with no further motive than to simply "do the right thing."

Why The Media Likes To Scare Us - Marketers and advertisers think fear is our biggest motivator. They really do. This may sound cynical, but aren't we all a little tired of people trying to manipulate the way we think through political attack ads. Taking a look at why these capable executives in advertising and marketing think that scaring us is the answer to our vote becomes clear that they are probably right. We are easily frightened. Or at least that is what you might think if you simply watched the political ads on TV. Contrast that with the feelings of hope that springs eternal after watching the Olympi

Let me make a case for why we should breathe, relax a bit, and lower our stress.
With the aid of a good book called Science of Fear and written by Daniel Gardner in 2008 and the author's hard work and good research, I think the following may just change the way you think. It could even change the way you act and live.

  • 911 is still a stinging memory for all of us. We will always remember where we were when we got the news and have stories for our children and grandchildren.  For the first time in US history "they" could reach us. Up until September 2011, we were insulated from the crazy folk by distance and culture. What you probably didn’t know was that following the horrific events of the World Trade Center, people stopped flying. Our reaction to the fear we felt was, "I'll drive, I'm not flying." Side note; an American professor calculated that even if terrorists were hijacking and crashing one passenger jet a week in the United States, a person who took one flight a month for a year would have only a 1-in-135,000 chance of being killed in a hijacking. The odds of dying in a car crash are 1-in-6000. It turned out by the calculations from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin that the shift from flying to driving lasted one year. The resulting increase in automobile deaths was 1,595. This was more than one-half the total death toll of history's worst terrorist atrocity. These deaths didn't get any press time. We don't report single care fatalities often.
  • In England, a baby born in 1900 had a life expectancy of forty-six years. A baby born in 1980 could look forward to seventy-four years and a baby born in 2003 can count on almost 80 years on the planet.
  • In 1900, 14% of all babies and young children died; by 1997 the number had fallen to 0.58%. Since 1970 alone, the death rate among American children under five fell by more than two-thirds. In Germany, it dropped by three-quarters.
  • We're living better. In studies across Europe and the United States, researches have determined that fewer people develop chronic illnesses like heart disease, lung disease, and arthritis and, those who do, develop them ten to twenty-five years later in life than they used to and that these illnesses are less severe when they strike. People are less physically disabled than ever.
  • People are bigger. The average American man is three inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than his ancestor of a century ago, which makes it difficult for Civil War re-enactors, who used only authentic kit, to fit in army tents. We're even getting smarter - IQs have been improving steadily for decades.
  • Even politics are better if you can believe that. The trends in humanity's political arrangement are quite positive, says Gardner. In 1950, there were twenty-two full democracies. At the turn of the 21st century there were 120, and almost two-thirds of the people in the world could cast a meaningful ballot.
  • In the two decades following 1980, the proportion of people in the developing world who were malnourished fell from 28% to 17%. Still too high, but it's a lot better than it used to be.
  • Probably the best measure of the state of humanity in the world exists in what the United Nations call the HDI or Human Development Index. This HDI considers key data on income, health, and literacy. At the bottom of the HDI list of 177 countries is the African country of Niger. Consider this. Niger's 203 HDI score is 17% higher than it was in 1975. The same trend can be seen in almost all very poor countries. Mali is 31% better off. Chad is up 22%.

I could go on and on because Daniel Gardner's book is just full of the facts we don't think about but should know to get the whole picture. Let me just remind you that it is riskier to drive out of you driveway each morning than it is to attend almost any movie, concert, vacation, go swimming, or any public sporting event. That is, unless you are a drug dealer or a friend of drug dealer. They seem to have the highest mortality rate. So, if you are a drug dealer; stop doing that!

What to do? I wanted to invite you to have a discussion in the articles (September, October and November) that follow around fear. I really do want to hear from you. Please don't let me do all the work!

You, (the friends of Priority Learning) seem to intuitively know how to survive in a world where everything from the evening news to pharmaceutical ads can temp you to run out and gather the children to the local air-raid shelter.

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Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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