Fear is, for better or worse, something I know a lot about. I live most of my life feeling really fearful of so many different things. I hope that you don’t feel as fearful as I do and not about as many things as I do. But in case, here are some thoughts.
So the kind of fear I’m talking about are in the category of what I’d call psychological fear or emotional fear. I’m not talking about physical fear, so I’m not suggesting that we should overcome our fear of bungee jumping or fear of heights. That is a separate category in my mind.
I want to focus on the psychological, emotional piece of it because that is a piece that can hold us back when it really doesn’t need to.
Often times, the things that we fear are also the things that we feel would be fantastic if we could actually do those things and that that would actually help propel us to just the place we want to go, if only we could do that and do it well.
So the kind of fears, some examples are:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success, interestingly
- Fear of the unknown – fear of the unknown is a big one for me personally, or
- Fear of intimacy or vulnerability
- Fear of rejection – that’s a big one too
- Fear of losing face, being laughed at
- All kinds of related fears
The reason that these are so negative in our lives is that even though we can’t help it when we feel fear – fear is just an emotion that shows up unannounced, unasked – we can’t help when we feel a fear but we can help what we do with it.
The problem with fear is that it tends to make us withdraw. It tends to make us shrink, feel small. It tends to make us not take that step that we know could really put us where we want to be.
And so those to me are things that leave us falling short of our own potential and that’s something that we just can’t afford. The world can’t afford to have all of us falling short of our potential because we are afraid.
Here are three things that I found really helpful to do when we are faced with fear:
- The first one is to use fear as a sign and, in that sense, I talk about this as reading your fear. So read it, as in read the sign.
- The second one is about managing your fear. Once you know what that fear is all about then how do you manage that?
- And then the third piece is about actually using that fear, harnessing that fear to do those great things that you know you’re capable of.
So let’s take each of those in turn…
Read your fear
Fear as a sign. I have started to realize that when I feel fearful of something, I need to stop and look at what that is. What’s this all about? What’s really going on with me with that fear?
You know, for example, I’m fearful of shooting this video! So you think to yourself, what is that all about? What else am I fearful of? What is the pattern of the kinds of things I’m fearful of?
So if you start to become reflective about what’s behind your fear, what types of things are you fearful of and when does that usually come up, and what happens if you were to actually go do that thing, I bet a big proportion of the time you’re going to be really glad you did those things and they’re going to turn out great.
And so it’s about then figuring out, what’s my pattern? Am I more prone to acts of omission or acts of commission and how do I want to recalibrate that?
Manage your fear
Look at fear as a sign to stop and reflect. Then, once you’ve done that, the second thing is then, let’s talk about managing your fear. Now that you see it for what it is then managing your fear, to me, is about a couple of things.
First, it’s about figuring out what’s the worst thing that can happen with that thing?
So, with the video, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Well, I can really flub it up, people can think I’m talking gobbledygook, or lots of people could have seen it and it could ruin their lives and cause worldwide conflict and war!
As you start to voice these worst case scenarios, you start to realize how silly they really do sound, most of them, or maybe I just have a more active imagination than the average person.
I found it’s really useful to do that analysis and not only to do that on your own but to do that with somebody else who you can bounce these ideas off of. I find that if you say it out loud to somebody else, you start to realize how ridiculous these worst case scenarios actually sound and how they’re not even anywhere near the radar screen of reality.
And then look at the best case, the upside case. Well, in the case of these videos, maybe it’ll help somebody. Wouldn’t it be great if this video could help even one person? What if it helped two people, or four people, or… ? That would be very cool. I would think that was very, very wonderful.
Look at that best case/worst case and do it with somebody who can help be your mirror and your partner in thinking about this.
I also find that it’s very helpful to have somebody working with you to talk you down from whatever it is that you’re so fearful of.
And, over time, what’s happened to me is I’ve actually learned to talk myself down. So I can talk to myself saying, “Do you know what? I’m fearful of doing this video but I have done similar things before. It has turned out okay and I can do this.” I say to myself, “I can do this. I can do this”. So that’s just the way I process it.
The other thing about managing your fear is, I found it really helpful to do something really physical, whether it’s just, you know, “Drop and give me 10 pushups, or press ups if you’re in the UK” or just do something to shake yourself out of that funk and that funk of fear. That is really helpful to dissipate all those negative feelings and break it up.
Use your fear
The third thing is to use the fear. This is what I love the most because it’s basically saying, “Okay, fear. I see you, I understand you, I’m managing you and I’m going to use you for good, not evil.” And so using your fear is, to me, like using them as guideposts.
For me, I am realizing that if I actually want to achieve big goals then I need to live with my fear.
In fact, I need to know and recognize that feeling of the psychological fear and really get in touch with it, know how it feels and make sure that every day I’m feeling that. Because if I’m not feeling that, that means I am not pushing myself enough, going outside my comfortable little area where I know I’m okay in the shrinking, withdrawing piece, but rather I’m pushing myself out there because, once I get out there, I know that those ideas I have that I am afraid to execute on, those things are the very things that are going to help me advance.
I’m guessing the same is likely to be true for you as well. And so it’s wonderful to use them as guideposts and say, “Okay, I’m going to be guided by my fear and if I don’t feel enough fear every day of this kind then I’m not doing the right things.”
The key is to keep acting.
The visual I have in my head about this is: I think of it like you’re a pilot and you’re landing a jumbo jet at night. And as you get closer to the airport, you see these beautiful lights that are lighting up the landing strip and I say, “Each of those points of light is something that you fear but you know you actually, if you did it, you would really benefit from it.” And so you just use those lights to guide you to your landing and embrace those points of light as, even though they’re your fears, they’re your guiding fears.
So I’ve turned my fears into a friendly, positive thing. It takes me a few steps, you know – I’ve got to mentally go through the, “Okay, read it. Okay, manage it and then, yes, now I’m going to use it” and that’s the best part.
So, what I’d like you to do is get out there, read your fear, use it as a signpost, manage your fear and then use it for your positive purposes.
I want you to get out there, embrace those fears, go beyond those fears, walk through your fear and really use it to create this powerful upward trajectory for yourself that you know you want to have.
So go out there and do it!