Fear is something we all wrestle with. None of us feels no fear at all (at least not us mortals!). Why is it though that some people seem able to act in spite of fear and accomplish what they want, while others seem paralysed by fear and never accomplish anything?
I can only speak from my own experience and the experiences of the people I’ve worked with, but I believe that the key is to act in spite of fear – not to think that you can remove the fear completely.
I used to think that feeling scared was abnormal. I used to think that feeling fear meant I somehow had to work on my inner game to remove those fears. What I have learned though is that we are programmed to feel fear. It’s normal. I’ve also learned that lying to ourselves and pretending that we don’t feel fear actually makes it worse.
It gets worse because now you are scared and lying to yourself. This makes you doubly scared because you have to keep up the charade of not being afraid. Even worse, you have to pretend you feel no fear not just to those outside of you, but to yourself as well. Suddenly we are hiding from everyone and hiding from taking the actions that will lead to our growth and, ultimately, our success.
Taking action is the only answer
David J Schwartz in his book The Magic of Thinking Big says that the only way to overcome and master fear is to isolate that fear and then take action on exactly what is scaring you.
He uses the example of the Navy recruits who were learning to swim. They were afraid of jumping into the water. The only way to help them overcome this fear: ‘accidentally’ push them in (if they wouldn’t do it themselves).
I love this as a metaphor for overcoming fear in any area of life. All it takes is understanding and appreciating exactly what you are scared of. Embrace it even. Be honest with yourself. Does leaving your job scare the shit out of you? Good – it’s supposed to! Doing something new or unusual is SUPPOSED to be shit scary. Embrace it. Say “I am scared shitless here”.
Once you do that, you are free. Accepting the truth always sets you free. You are free to act in spite of the fear.
I used to pretend I wasn’t scared of anything. This actually just got me in more shit because suddenly you are telling lies; to yourself and to others. Being brave is very different. Being courageous is very different. Being brave or courageous means you accept the truth of your circumstances and feelings – then act in spite of those feelings to get to a better tomorrow.
Acting and not acting are both habits
So, the only way to overcome and conquer fear is through action. And it’s a habit. A learnable, trainable, actionable habit. A mental muscle that you must exercise.
Like anything habitual, the more we take action in spite of fear, the easier it becomes. Over time we become used to taking action. The fear gets less because we start to realise that things very rarely turn out as badly as our imagination would have us believe they will.
I remember when I launched my first blog a couple of years ago, I was so scared that someone might actually read it. Especially someone I knew! “God” I thought…”they might actually see what I’m up to in my spare time. They might see that I’m trying to build a business.”
Reality: nobody was bothered. If anything they were supportive and impressed that I got up off my metaphorical ass and created something in my spare time instead of watching TV.
Now I’ve gotten used to doing stuff even if I’m scared. Not just business stuff either: there is a whole world of things we don’t do because we are afraid of some imagined outcome which may never become reality.
Don’t hold yourself back
Acting in spite of our fears is a beautiful thing. It means we have taken one more step along the road on the journey of personal growth. For me, this is one of the things that makes life interesting.
Constantly working out what is scaring you means you are always becoming more aware of what is holding you back. Once you identify these fears, you can focus on summoning the strength and courage to take action anyway. Usually it’s the exact action you need to take to move to the next ‘level’ in your life.
If we allow ourselves to be stopped by our fears, we are consciously stunting our own growth. We are saying – often – that we are not 100% happy with our life at the moment but we’re too cowardly to do anything about it. We are not brave enough to move past what holds us back, and experience life on a new level.
Don’t let that be you, and I’ll try to make sure it’s not me either.
Feel the fear…and do it anyway
There is an excellent book about how to act in spite of fear. If you want to delve deeper into overcoming your own fears, read the book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. It’s a great book which has helped huge numbers of people to overcome their fears and move forward in life.
Remember our fears take many forms. For some it is public speaking. For others it is sales. For some it is ending a relationship, or changing the nature of a relationship. For some it is about being brave enough to start a fitness regime.
Whatever your personal fears are which hold you back, spend some time identifying them. What are they? Why do they exist? What is the worst that can happen if you take action in spite of those fears?
Usually the answer to that last question is not nearly as bad as the outcome if you continue to do nothing forever!