In 2016, Chapman University, a private, non-profit university located in Orange, California, produced its third annual survey of American Fears. The survey asked respondents about 65 fears across a broad range of categories including fears about the government, crime, the environment, the future, technology, health, natural disasters, as well as fears of public speaking, spiders, heights, ghosts and many other personal anxieties.
The greatest number of respondents, 61%, report a fear of corruption of government officials. The rest of the top ten are represented between 35% and 41% of respondents. These include becoming victims of a terrorist attack, loss or illness of a loved one, economic/financial collapse and even fear of the Affordable Health Care Act, itself an effort to alleviate the fear of having no health insurance. That’s a lot of fear.
The composition of the list also presents another perspective. Just how many of these fears can be addressed; can we do anything about them to mitigate our anxiety? For example, what can we do about corruption of government officials? Arguably, such untrustworthy officials can and should be dealt with at the voting booth. Joseph de Maistre, a French lawyer, diplomat, writer and philosopher who died in 1821 is credited with the quote, “In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.”
How about the fear of becoming a victim of terrorism? We could stay home all day in order to reduce our exposure to the unfathomably small probabilities, but that is hardly practical to help us navigate life successfully. What about the possibility of identity theft? We can become more diligent about reviewing our various financial accounts on a regular basis, or putting a freeze on our credit bureau reports.
Curiously, 9 out of these top 10 fears are those events or things that could possibly happen TO us. The exception is the fear of having too little money saved up for the future. This particular worry offers the greatest opportunity to take control and have an impact over alleviating that fear. Spend less and save more is cliché but it captures the mandate. Think about how much money you might want or need and set some short-term and long-term goals and write them down. Think about how your current spending could be adjusted to help meet those goals and take action. Think about ways you can increase your income in ways that fit your life and career objectives, and do them. If you haven’t established a plan, do so and seek counsel where needed.
Take control of your future and strike this fear from your list. Then you can take care of those spiders in the garage.