A reasonable amount of fear can be helpful in business and in life. Fear protects you from making big mistakes. It allows you to move forward with caution and protect yourself from dangerous activity. But too much fear can paralyze. Irrational fear can keep you from achieving success. While no one should remove fear completely from their life, learning how to overcome some fear on a daily basis will help you accomplish bigger and better things. Here is my approach to managing fear, and more insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Live through the fear.

Much of fear comes from dealing with the unknown. When I find that my fear is getting in the way of my productivity I put aside some quiet time and think through the worst-case scenario. I visualize the horrible things that might happen so that I can think through how I might solve whatever mishaps might come my way. Much of the time I find that my brain over exaggerates the emotion. And once I have lived though the nightmare scenario in my head, I feel much more prepared to face the potential repercussions head on.

2. Think before reacting.

The first time I wrecked a motorcycle (yes, there have been multiple times) I hit some gravel, started to slide, and froze because I didn't know what to do. We freeze because we haven't done the work to change, "Oh my gosh this can NOT be happening to me right now..." into, "OK. No problem. I know what to do." But since you can't actually experience every scary possibility, think through as many "What if?" professional scenarios as you can and stick the answer on your mental shelf. The more answers you prepare and shelve, the more you can rehearse and visualize. And then instead of having to think on your feet you'll be in stimulus-response mode. Stimulus-response isn't scary at all. --Owner's Manual

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3. Take Control.

I had known it was coming for weeks--we all knew it was coming. Our business had to cut costs, so 15 managers were to laid off--including me. While I don't know what happened to my colleagues, I do know what happened to me. I decided to grow my own writing business--immediately--putting into it my entire heart and soul and every last bit of energy I could muster. And grow it did. And when, a week later, this business called to tell me that they had found six month's more money, and to come back, I knew what my answer would be: Nevermore. --The Management Guy

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4. Manage your demons.

On the way to meet my very first client I was haunted by every imaginable demon, attacking myself with senseless questions like, "Who am I to help this person?" and "What if he asks for his money back?" If I didn't find a way to calm down, the demons would win; so I stopped for a walk in the woods.

Deep in the forest I heard the eerie sound of branches snapping: no one in sight. Then silence--but not for long. Snap, snap, moving faster and faster, closer and closer. A mangy coyote emerged, standing within three feet of my pounding heart. My anxiety rose to panic, followed by a single thought: "This is real danger, helping someone improve their life is nothing to be afraid of." Apparently, the coyote wasn't hungry and allowed me to walk away with a renewed sense of confidence. The meeting? I rocked it! --The Successful Soloist

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5. Study and learn.

The year was 2008. A dark cloud was forming over my career and my company. Much like the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, I worked in the shadows, lurking behind the scenes to make my company hum. In order to grow, I realized that I must step out of the darkness and tell my company's story from the stage. That no one else could fulfill that role as well as I could. I overcame my fear of the spotlight by joining a local Toastmaster's Club. I watched and evaluated the techniques of TED talks, and I searched out every opportunity that I could to speak in front of an audience. This choice was a turning point in my company's growth and for me professionally. --Lean Forward

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Published on: Oct 30, 2014
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The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.