12/20/2011 08:40 am ET Updated Feb 19, 2012

Fear: The Other 99 Percent

There is a single force that occupies Wall Street, Main Street and corporate suites across America. This force has a stranglehold on the psyche, stripping people of their power and killing their desire for success. That force is Fear, and it is choking dreams and keeping 99 percent of people from unleashing their genius.

That's not to say that the fear is unwarranted. There is high unemployment, global unrest and international money woes. With so much anxiety going on around us, it's no surprise that we fear losing our jobs, taking a risk, and pursuing a dream. In this period of economic uncertainty, one of our biggest fears is of not being able to financially support our families.
When I considered leaving Hewlett-Packard to start my own executive coaching firm, my husband and I had just bought a new house and our son was attending private school. Fear showed me all the reasons I shouldn't make the move. It could take years to build a client base. We might run out of money and be unable to pay the mortgage or my son's tuition. I could fail. I was giving up a good job with a steady paycheck. Every time one fear faded, another one quickly replaced it.

Fear is with you when you fall asleep in the evening. And it's there staring you in the face when you wake up the next morning.

But the truth is, fear won't bring you job security or help you thrive in today's tough economy. In fact, fear only accomplishes one thing. It keeps you from believing that you have the power within to change your life and chart your own destiny.

Unfortunately, only a tiny 1 percent of people have taken this life-changing lesson to heart. Ninety nine percent of people are driven by fear and only 1 percent are determined to live free. One percent of people are free from fear -- not because they're lucky or economically advantaged or because they've been given more opportunities. They are free because they've chosen to be. They've decided to reject their fears and limiting beliefs, and they see problems only as possibilities.

The first way to break free from fear is by accepting reality. Accept that there are no guarantees. There is no stability. The world is in constant free fall. Life is unpredictable. If you're still hoping and wishing that things will return to normal, wake up, because this is the "new" normal. You'll never be in control so you might as well get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The next way to fight fear is to "Face Everything And Respond." When you're ready to make a change, look your fears directly in the face. Don't run and hide. Instead, acknowledge your discomfort and be willing to listen to the message behind it. Then address those concerns immediately. That's what I did when it was time for me to leave HP. My biggest fear was not being able to survive during my business's start-up phase. The message behind my fear was that I needed to provide a safety net for my family. So I decided to sell all of my HP stock to make ends meet. It was a tough choice to make but after doing it, fear didn't have so tight of a grip. Five years later my coaching business is thriving but I still have new fears to face. Fear will never go away. You've got to be prepared to tackle fear every day.

Once you break free from your fears, you'll finally be able to follow your dreams. My former client, Dawn, did just that. In 2008, at the height of the recession, she gave up a secure job at a stable company to pursue her dream of starting a real estate business. Dawn left with a seven-month severance check, her 401k assets, and her desire and determination to make her business work. Many days she was afraid. After all, she was the primary breadwinner in her family, and she knew she was taking a huge risk to pursue her calling. But a year after walking away from her job, Dawn bought her first apartment complex and now she's well on her way to fulfilling her destiny. For once in her life, she's truly happy and at peace. That's something you'll never feel as long as fear is in the driver's seat.

So now is the time for you to decide which mindset you will occupy in 2012. Do you want to be among the 1 percent who aren't afraid to let their genius take flight? Or will you be in the 99 percent -- living in fear for the rest of your life?