Don’t Let Fear Stop You

Sometimes I worry about making important decisions where the correct choice is unclear. I’m an over-thinker. 

The same thing happens when I have a medical issue and see my doctor. Fear takes over. 

Imagine how I felt on a recent day when the pain from a toothache seemed to get worse as each hour passed. I finally called my dentist, and he got me in right away. After a quick exam, he said he wanted me to see an endodontist as he was pretty sure I needed an emergency root canal. And he meant right away.  He called and got me in right away. The drive across town was not a pleasant one. I replayed in my head the horror stories I’ve read and heard about the procedure. I was greeted by a doctor I had never met before who seemed younger than my adult children.   Following another exam, he concurred with my dentist’s opinion. He began explaining the procedure in great detail. He told me the techniques he uses are pretty advanced, and that root canals have had an undeserved reputation. He assured me that once he had everything numbed up, I wouldn’t feel much of anything. He even told me what an endodontist does (They work inside the tooth, while a dentist works on the outside). His confident manner didn’t stop me from worrying, but it was too late for me to run out of the office, screaming. 

I sat back and let it happen. About an hour and a half later, he was done. I felt zero pain other than the prick of the needle to numb the area. 

Once again, I was worried for nothing. My fears were not based on facts but on unfounded stories I had heard. 

Whether we worry about decisions about our health or our business, our anxiety prevents us from thinking clearly. 

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that anxiety disengages the part of our brain that guides us to better decisions. They published their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience, noting that the pre-frontal cortex is the area that helps take emotion out of our decision.  Anxiety prevents that from happening.

How do we reduce the anxiety that hinders our decision making?

Get the facts. If I had researched modern-day root canal procedures, I would have been less fearful.

Meditate or perform mindfulness. On a recent documentary following a neurosurgeon, we saw him closing his eyes and centering himself before beginning a procedure. 

In the workplace, give yourself a deadline. We may always feel like we need more information before we make a decision, but the truth is we can have too much information, which can also cloud our decision making. Research until the deadline arrives and then make your decision upon the best information you have. 

Sometimes we delay our decisions because we don’t want to disappoint someone. If you are a leader, you need to lead without fear of losing a popularity contest. 

Thinking, based on the best information you can gather, will serve you well. Maybe the process will help me be less fearful before I see my dentist have the crown put on my tooth. 

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