A big part of feeling the fear and doing it anyway is realizing that there is not going to come a time in the short or long-term future where fear will go away. A big part of our success in life is learning to live with these fears but be able to blast through them.
For myself, one of the things I “fear” is approaching people at industry conferences and making new acquaintances. While I am able to speak in front of hundreds and in some cases thousands of people without even flinching or feeling any fear whatsoever, I still don’t like walking up and starting conversations with strangers. I figured that eventually the fear would just go away – maybe after I got enough industry experience, or had acquired a certain level of credibility. But here’s the rub – the fear still hasn’t gone away.
The first truth about fear is that fear will never go away as long as we are continuing to grow (Jeffers 14).
This is in fact liberating: you can now stop worrying about and working towards and getting rid of the fear because it’s not going to go away.(Jeffers 15). But do not worry because as you continue to build your confidence your relationship with fear begins to change (Jeffers 15).
The second truth about fear is the only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to do it (Jeffers 15).
While this might seem contradictory to the first truth it isn’t. The fear of a particular situation can dissolve when you start confronting that situation. I have learned that when you do a particular situation over and over the fear of it subsides. But I have also learned that this can be a perishable skill. Heck, I used to not want to try to pick up girls when I was in college because of the fear of rejection. However, after doing it enough times the fear went away (and I got more phone numbers). It was also easier to deal with rejection if I got shot down (“crashed and burned huh Mav?”). In fact, I learned to deal with that rejection with humor and sometimes even got a second chance because of the way I handled it. Maybe there are lessons to be learned here.
Lets go back to my industry conference fear. Most of this is just a fear of rejection, or worse fear of that incredibly awkward pause where everybody stares at each other wondering what the hell to say next. When I am really in the swing of my conference season and I find myself repeatedly engaging in groups it gets easier. But if I have not done it in a while then those old fears start come back. Confronting fears is a perishable skill set – its like a muscle, you have to use it (i.e. confront your fears frequently) or else the muscle becomes atrophied.
The third truth about fear is the only way to feel better about ourselves is to go out and do that which we fear (Jeffers 17).
Ever had a big project that you kept putting off? The more you put it off the larger it looms in your mind, right?. But once you do it it, is like a floodgate has been opened for your soul to explode freely into the universe. It makes the rest of the to-do list seem easy and even other projects or things you have to do, suddenly become easier to achieve.
A fourth truth about fear, and this one makes us all feel good, is that not only will we experience fear when we are in unfamiliar territory but everyone else is experiencing the same fear (Jeffers 17).
One of the ways I get over my “conference fear,” is to realize that everybody else in the room is experiencing the same feelings I am experiencing, some of them are just better at covering it. Or, I can also realize that some people may not actually share my fear but there are other things that they fear that are related, such as the fear of rejection or the fear of looking galactically stupid in front of a group of your industry peers.
The fifth truth about fear is that pushing through fear is actually less frightening than the fear that comes from feeling hopeless and feeling like your fear is in control of your life (Jeffers 19).
The only known cure for fear is to adopt the psychology that no matter what happens you will be able to handle it (Jeffers 21). Each and every day you should evaluate how well you were doing on your “fear scale” (Jeffers 28–29). Let’s go back to my conference scenario. I can rank myself on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 feeling like I broke through all fears and 1 feeling like I was a scared rat in the corner, when I return from a seminar reception. If I feel like really broken through a lot of fears, I feel very good physically and emotionally – I feel like Leonardo DeCaprio standing on the bow of the Titanic screaming, “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD!”
If however, I felt like I was retreating or did not engage when I had the opportunity, I feel like I’ve missed out, and I will feel bad physically, emotionally, mentally and sometimes even spiritually, because I know God did not put me here to be a creature that fears life and thus fails to experience life.
Take any situation that you are normally fearful in. The next time you have to face it, set a goal of how well you want to feel, maybe on a scale of 1 to 10 at the end of the day about confronting that fear. By setting our intentions and giving ourselves a goal we are telling our reticular activating system, that part of our brain that tells us what to focus on, the outcome we desire to achieve at which point our brain will start working on achieving that goal.
Then be sure to start changing your language. Let “problems” become “opportunities”. Change “I hope I will get a job,” to “I know I will get a job.” (Jeffers 32-33). Incidentally, what I really enjoy about these language patterns is that you are not BS’ing yourself by saying “I have a job” when you really don’t.”, or saying “I have riches beyond all imagination with the money just falling out of my pockets,” when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. I disagree with that method of goal-setting because our brain pretty much will believe our own BS and pretty soon we start living, and spending, like we have money which we do not yet have.
Another way to chart your progress in breaking through fears is to make a game of it. Start by creating a comfort zone circle. Simply draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. Make it about the size of a quarter. Each time you break through a fear, it does not have to be a new fear it can be the same fear that you’re broken through repeatedly, put a small dot, just outside of that circle, and use that dot as a reference point to draw a larger circle. Your goal is to keep breaking through fears and adding dots until the circle grows to reach the edge of the page. When you get to the end of the page, reward yourself.
This is how you can begin to change how you view of fear. Since it is not going away you might as well either make friends with it or make it a challenge to be conquered.
Jeffers, Susan. Feel the Fear — and Do It Anyway Dynamic Techniques for Turning Fear, Indecision, and Anger into Power, Action, and Love. New York, NY: Ballantine, 2007. Print.by