The business of fear

I have loved the unique game of golf for many years and think there is just no sport that comes close. It is a pure game of consequence (much like business and life).

The more I play and the more I watch the experts play, the more I appreciate the fact that it is not just about the skill of hitting a golf ball consistently, but also how much the mind comes into play, particularly at times of so-called ‘pressure’. Jack Nicklaus, regarded by many as the greatest golfer with a record to justify that, once said: ‘Pressure is what you live for. If you are going to be successful in life, you are going to have pressure’.

Pressure is what you live for. If you are going to be successful in life, you are going to have pressure. — Jack Nicklaus

Clearly, that works outside of golf also.  In your work life or personal life, there will be a multitude of ‘pressures’ that you will have to tackle and overcome, sometimes on a daily basis.  Meeting deadlines, ensuring business matters are carried out professionally, efficiently and with a return on investment. If it was easy dealing with this pressure, everyone would do it, surely.

Pressure, or fear, is a strange phenomenon though and starts in your mind that ‘something will go wrong’ (or more than likely will go the way you are thinking if you are feeling that ‘fear’).  Bizarrely, once money is involved on the outcome of a golf match, or perhaps a business deal, the pressure/fear heightens!

Now, time here for a little context; yes, you want to be successful at whatever you do, but let’s have a reality check here regarding pressure or fear.  Fear is not knowing where your next meal is coming from for your family, fear is being confronted by a potential life-changing incident, a dangerous threat to your life… it’s not about winning a game of golf or completing a deal that isn’t going to have life-threatening outcomes.

As you walk down the fairway of life, you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round. — Ben Hogan

So if that is the case, why does our brain trigger this ‘fear’ response, at the slightest hint of self-imposed pressure?  Well fear has been described as a survival response, created since man first walked the earth. The amygdala, a small, yet important part of the brain, is designed to warn us of potential harm and situations.

Now things have moved on from the possibility of being eaten by a T-Rex, yet the amygdala will liken, for example in a game of golf, several missed putts to the next opportunity, and start the process of the ‘fear factor’! (This is why momentum is so crucial to great golf).  If you have missed four 3-foot putts, how are you going to feel on the next one?  In the business world, just because you have not been as successful as you would have liked, does not mean it ALWAYS has to be that way. Change, adapt, rinse and repeat; it’s the only way we have ever made progress.

Now think about this. How many times does the ‘fear factor’ strike during your working life or personal life, especially over the past 18 months of enforced lockdowns, damage to the economy, mental well-being and other associated ‘pandemic’ situations?

Fear itself is not an issue, it is our reaction to it that matters and how we control it (or not). You will agree that when you feel fear, tension will build in your mind and body, perhaps a headache or migraine occurs, your immune system starts to falter and the mind wanders to consider a less than ideal situation.

You see, your mind will always do what it ‘thinks’ is best for you (not ALWAYS what you actually want, but what it thinks will please you)… so if you are giving it messages, either conscious or subconscious, it will start to filter those into commands and attempt to ‘please you’!  Let me explain.  Remember that time you were ‘being good’ and on a health kick or diet?  As you open the fridge door, the chocolate or wine is sitting there. You see them on the fridge shelf, effectively saying ‘Eat me’ or ‘Drink me’ but you stop yourself, you are ‘Being good’! Your mind starts giving you messages. ‘But you like chocolate, it’s tasty, it makes you feel good, it’s a treat, you deserve it’! The wine is shouting out, ‘It’s been a long week; you know you love a chilled glass of wine’.  You argue with your subconscious. ‘Well maybe just one glass won’t hurt and two squares of chocolate’? As you sit down and enjoy the tastes, have you noticed how your mind, quite smugly, says ‘See, I told you that you’d enjoy it’! Be very mindful of how you talk to yourself, internally. Perhaps change the narrative?

Gary Boyes The Mind Zone Gary is a keen amateur golfer, with a single figure handicap. Having worked in the management & sales training environment for 20 years, he noticed the direct correlation between the ‘powerful mind’ and ‘achieving success’. He is a qualified Mind Coach and having worked in the business world he is well placed to share in taking this ‘success’ to the next level.

If you go through your whole life giving your mind the wrong message, you cannot then blame it for coming back and ‘attempting’ to do what it thinks you want! Here are four areas to focus on and overcome the fear/pressure factor:

  1. Breathe! 
    Of course, it is vital to breathe to sustain life. Breathing is an under-utilised skill, in a range of situations though and perhaps I should say here, ‘Controlled Breathing’, as you can certainly be the one in control. When you are fearful or anxious about a situation, then your breathing can become more rapid, shallow, etc. NOT letting enough oxygen enter the bloodstream, which heightens the situation. 2 - 3 long, deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, will start to calm the system and help you focus.
  2. Process!
    You must create and use a successful process and stick to it.  Any potentially ‘fearful’ situation will be minimised if you adhere to your success proven process.
  3. Change the narrative!
    Ensure you are talking to yourself the RIGHT way. Tell yourself, internally, what you WANT to do and visualise how that success will look.
  4. Make GOOD mistakes!
    Yes, I mean it. Not intentionally of course, but it is the only way that we improve, develop and find the correct solution. So make GOOD mistakes. Clearly never make the same mistake twice, adapt, change and go again.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed. — Michael Jordan

Like most people, I have always been fascinated by the mind but never imagined it would feature as prominently as it has in my professional life. As a child, teenager and young adult I was called ‘lucky’ many times. However, I can’t even remember what I was meant to have been specifically ‘lucky’ about, but it was said enough times to have stuck with me.  As I began to study the workings of the mind for the past 25 years it became more and more obvious why I was labelled ‘lucky’; I was EXPECTING the outcome that I got.  How much better would your life be if you started EXPECTING good things to happen?

Now as a disclaimer here, I do not claim to have super-powers (well no more than everyone has, but many don’t use), nor am I a magician! A ‘Permanently Positive’ person, hmmm not always and yes, many things happen to me that ‘weren’t on the wish list’.  But having the RIGHT mindset is a far better alternative than having the alternative.

And finally, a quote to make you think from Michael Jordan: ‘I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed’. Remember, this life is no dress rehearsal.

Written by Mind Zone Coach, Gary Boyes

Managing your wealth

Managing your wealth

Understanding Finance

Helping clients understand what we do is key to building relationships. To explain some of the industry jargon that creeps into our world, we’ve pulled together a section of our site to help.

Also in this issue

From the moment the Brexit referendum was decided, the UK stock market has been labelled as “too difficult” by many investors.

An increasing portion of the global economy is now reliant upon digital technologies.

Many readers will have read last edition’s report about Head of Research, John Royden’s attempts to swim the length of Lake Geneva.

Autumn Issue Thirty Six