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Inertia: The Fear Factor

“Wringin your hands only prevents you from rolling up your sleeves”

For many a year (before I actually grew up) lots of things irked me – none more so than worriers – now we all worry over certain things but I am referring to those people that worry about everything. “Oh get over yourself, how are you ever going to get anything done if you persist in using all your energy worrying?” It frustrated me, it appeared to cause so much inertia and the worriers seemed to go through life moving from one worry to the next, never really pushing through to move forward.

What frustrated me most was the thought that these people were standing in their own way – imagine how different life would be if they could only stop worrying – stress levels would drop, self confidence levels would rise as they began to do and achieve. Instead of life being a chore it could become a space of endless opportunity.  So, me being me, I tried telling them this, assuming of course that they could just flick a switch and stop, I never considered the underlying reasons for the worry.

Then I went back to college to study Executive Coaching- this journey while sometimes painful was insightful and hugely rewarding.  It was here that I was introduced to the Fear Quadrant (thanks Michael Comyn and the penny dropped – “Why do people worry?” – because they are afraid – underlying the worry there is a fear of something – this can be anything – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of loss of control, fear of that which they can’t control.. the list is endless.

The concept that there is an underlying fear that may be unknown even to the “worrier” began to worm its way into my psyche, as did the notion that if that fear can be uncovered and broken down then progress can begin.

So to backtrack – the Fear Quadrant – what is it? It encompasses four types of fear


This type of fear is felt when facing an actual threat, for illustration purposes- you wake up while on safari and find a lion breathing down on you, what do you do? As a rule humans are well adapted to deal with this type of fear. There are three responses – fight, flight or freeze, these responses are innate and when faced with a real threat one of these kicks in.


This is fear that is learned – maybe from your parents/guardians or your past experiences. If you have had a bad experience with something the fear factor kicks in and you become more reluctant to try it again. Generations of women in the same family afraid of spiders


Intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people

And finally…

Anticipatory fear

This is the fear of what might/could happen if action is taken or if one doesn’t have control over the outcome.

I have seen this type of fear cripple people – bright, capable people so worried/fearful about what might happen that they are rendered incapable of action.  When unmasked and worked on a lot of these fears are unfounded or can be managed.

As stated earlier if you are worrying you are not doing, the consequences of this are many – you limit your possibilities, may not live up to your potential,  not to mention the mental and physical manifestations of stress and anxiety due to the worry.

While I hold a strong belief that the individual has it within their power to effect change and break through the fear and push forward, I am not by any means suggesting that this is an simple process and that people should just up and quit worrying.  It takes time, self reflection and commitment to change but for me the starting point to moving forward is building awareness – not accepting that its ok to be constantly worried but to question the reasons for it, recognising the consequences of stress and inertia. It is only when the awareness is raised that meaningful progress can be made.

So next time you find yourself “wringin your hands” and not “rolling up your sleeves”, start building that awareness and ask yourself “What am I afraid of?

A qualified Executive coach and experienced HR Professional with a passion for leadership development and team coaching.

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  • Hi Julie Anne, my two biggest fears are 2Fs: flying & failing. I’ve managed to get the second one under control but I still hate flying even though I make myself do it, if I have to fly, I begin to start thinking and worrying about it months in advance 🙁

  • Julieanne Lawler

    Hi Niall,
    I know your pain too well – I don’t experience it personally but my husband used to be crippled with the fear of flying – he is like you now – doesn’t like it but will do it! Its funny you mention it – Michael Comyn has a specific programme for those afraid of flying! – very successful too apparently!!

  • Emartin030508

    A great insight to why we might hold ourselves back Julieanne – I really enjoyed reading that.

  • Thanks for the heads up! Ill go check it out. Please if the hubby ever manages to get it out of his system, I’d love to hear how 🙂

  • Similar story to my own, when I realised years ago I was standing in my own way – like a brick wall. Thankfully things have improved immensely but I can still associate with the old feelings creeping back almost by default.
    It’s a constant work in progress, improving our personal development at a later age in life, however, many business owners don’t realise that it spills into their business world also, and prevents them from driving ahead, taking risks, or heading into unknown territory.
    We seem to think sometimes that life is a rehearsal, and we all know that is so not true.
    Get out there, feel the discomfort, and ask yourself what is the cost of not doing the thing that we are supposedly afraid of.
    It will eat away so best to work on ridding the fear (False Emotions Appearing Real)

  • I think this also explains why people say, ‘Ah sure, there’s no point in doing that.’ Dig below that remark and you find a hornet’s nest of fear in relation to work. Fear of failure, fear of reject, even fear of success.

  • Julianne – love to know more about Fear of Flying programme…I need to conquer the fear (roll the sleeves up!

  • Hi,

    This is a fab blog that I would say everyone can gain from.
    I hold my hand up to being hindered by fears and have slowly over the years developed ways of ‘getting through’. Other fears are difficult to break, and yes they do hold you back.

    Are we fearful of fear itself? Most definitely. My Dad always told me nothing in the world is worth worrying about because it doesn’t fix the problem. So true….

  • Niall I can help you with that if you’d like.

  • Brilliant post Julieanne!! As an NLP Coach, the one thing I’ve found for myself and my clients is that when a fear is faced it is usually such a let down to what had originally been anticipated, even for phobias. When we learn and actually absorb that, we realise we can do anything we set our mind to.

  • Anonymous

    Great post Julieanne. I must admit that quite often I let fear get the better of me, and it’s a constant battle not to let it win. My biggest fear I would say is the fear of not being able to provide for my family. Over the last few months I’ve started dealing with this fear by working on my personal brand, and raising my profile, so that I hold my destiny in my own hands. I also found it useful to have a frank discussion with my wife about different scenarios that may come to be if my current working situation was ever to change.A phrase comes to mind when I read this post are the words of former US President Franklin D Roosevelt in his first speech as President, at the time of the Great Depression – “…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”.

  • Fear of success can also be very real.

  • great article

  • Julieanne Lawler

    Hi Christina,

    As Mairead has said to Niall there – a good coach will be able to help you overcome this fear – Michael uses a lot of NLP – there is a slight difference with him in that he is a qualified pilot and there is a simulation and a live flight on the course as far as I know!

    If you click on his name in the article you should be able to get to his website – alternatively google “Fly fearless”

    Hope this helps!!!


  • Julieanne Lawler

    Dear all,

    I would just like to thank you for taking the time to read and comment on the article – it is a result of me pushing through my biggest fear – putting myself out there for – it petrifies me. The chatter that goes on in mind is so destructive that if I let it take hold I would never write anything let alone publish it in the public domain. Like so many others it is the fear of failure that causes this chatter – what if people dont like it … etc etc.

    But of course you cannot write about such things as fear and overcoming it and not lead by example – so I pushed through, now I cant wait to get started on the next one!!!

    Take care

  • Thanks Julieanne….if you ever fancy putting together a weekend on fear and anxiety let me know!

  • Juleser

    Hmmmmm, so my fear of birds is irrational? I think not!!
    You know those things can peck your eyes out & killl you, right?
    Escpeially those damn pigeons……they’re MOST evil.

    Another great post chica. Keep up the blogging. x

  • I agree you on the pigeons things…they’re the spawn of Satan lol!

  • Julieanne Lawler


    Don’t be encouraging Juleser – you should see her in action around said pigeons – amusing and petrifying all at the same time!!


  • Shell

    Enjoying the blogs JA… keep them coming!

  • Julieannemcgeown

    Hey Julieanne
    An excellent read. I suppose my biggest fear is failure or something happening to one of my kids. . I think it’s been inbred by my family. I find talking about it and getting it out in the open helps. I prefer to come up with a solution than ponder on the worry or fear itself.
    Keep the blogs coming Julieanne, it’s always great to hear some intellegent and useful information.

  • Welcome to Bloggertone Paula – great first post. I am always fascinated by branding, and how we portray ourselves out there in the land of the internet, as well as off line. I especially enjoyed point 2, lie Niall below. It makes sense that brands should have personalities :)nnLooking forward to part II already 🙂

  • Roisin Bell

    This is the first piece I’ve read for a long time that breaks down the basics of a brand. Very many companies I deal with are tired of hearing about the word ‘brand’ – they have a grasp of what it means and how important it is to their business, but they have no idea about how to begin to define it and build it. This is a really useful ‘back to brand basics’ that allows the reader to think about their brand and develop it piece by piece so I’ll be referring clients to it in the future!

  • I too love the idea of treating the brand as if it were a person. This makes it easier to define and deliver consistency in all brand messages. Some companies lack consistency and confuse customers, even in little things like using several different font styles – sometimes even within the same business card. So, defining the brand as a personality will help to build consistency, ‘cos one wouldn’t wear brogues with a cocktail dress, (hopefully).nGreat first post Paula, I look forward to the rest of the series!

  • Margaret

    Great post Paula, well said !

  • Betty Kehoe

    Excellent food for thought Paula. Thanks.

  • paularonan

    I appreciate that, Roisin – I too have found that in many organisations, there is an apprehension about brand-centred marketing, as brand is not perceived as an asset which will deliver a return. A lot of opportunities being missed out there!

  • paularonan

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Helen! Had to laugh though because I’m pretty sure I’ve worn doc martins with a cocktail dress back in the day and I wouldn’t rule it out again 🙂 You’re spot on about the importance of being consistent, ta!

  • paularonan

    cheers Margaret!

  • paularonan

    Hi Christina – there’s a whole other blog post in there on rebranding! nnRebranding is always a big risk because you are letting go of an asset that you’ve built up over time. However, if it needs to be done, it’s best done sooner rather than later. The important part is the transition process – getting current customers used to the idea of the new brand and letting them know WHY it’s happening. This communication of the WHY is almost always omitted from the rebranding process – resulting in a disengaged audience who feel almost insulted or betrayed! nnI’m probably showing my age now, but I will always call Jif Jif, never Cif – I mean, what’s that all about? Ditto with Oil of Ulay. That’s what my mother used – she would never have used that Oil of Olay muck!nnPhew! Thanks for your comments and for provoking the brain this fine morning!

  • paularonan

    Thanks Bettty!

  • paularonan

    You’re right there – that’s probably a good reason to get input from outside the organisation on a regular basis, to get a handle on the customer’s perspective and tailor your communications to that – thanks for the comment, farmshed 🙂

  • paularonan

    Thanks for the comment :)n

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