How to Deal with Fear – use it or let it use you
Fear has a lot to answer for. If it wasn’t for our pre-programmed disposition to be fearful, human beings would have been wiped out millions of years ago. But, we still walk with fear today. Fear prevents us engaging in behaviors outside the parameters of normal – like starting a business, or living your next adventure.
But, while we know that, we might not appreciate how fear manifests in our lives. It’s never the big scarey demon that we can obviously slay. Fear manifests as comfortable rationalizations that hold us back. Once we recognize and reject these rationalizations (and the people that reinforce them), we can take small steps forward to achieve our dreams.
Dealing with Fear: Crossing the chasm
So, what’s stopping you?
It’s not a lack of any resources. You don’t need more knowledge, money or time. You don’t need to wait for perfect.
What’s stopping you is fear.
- Fear of what others think
- Fear of failure
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of looking stupid
- Fear of missing out
- Fear of rejection
Outside the Cubicle is an unknown gaping void that, in your darkest imagination, will swallow you up whole.
Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.
Beware the rationalization of your dreams
It’s important to understand *how* fear kills you dreams. Not by frightening you into submission. No, that would be far too obvious. If fear was so blatant, we’d tackle it head on.
Rather, fear manifests as a more benign voice on our shoulder – rationalization.
We build a world around comfortable rationalizations that reconfirm in our head why we avoid adventure.
Adventure: go see the world
Rationalization: travel the world while you’re young
Message: it’s okay when you’re young and without commitment, but not now
Adventure: start a business
Rationalization: you need money to start a business
Message: you’ll never have enough money to start a business, so you have a get-out clause
Adventure: start a business
Rationalization: it’s better to “get all your ducks in a row” before you start
Message: wait for a perfect time i.e. keep putting it off because there will always be a reason why you can’t start today
So, understanding how to deal with fear starts with understanding how fear manifests in our lives. Looking for the signs…
How to deal with fear: rather than fight fear, get comfortable with it
Don’t live without fear, but get comfortable with it.
First understand that there will always be fear. Even the greatest public speakers get butterflies before they step onto stage. They may look cool and collected, but they are also nervous inside.
The reason is that fear is a core part of our being. Without fear we would all have been wiped out years ago by sabre-toothed tigers and nasty things living in the forest. As a species, our goal is to survive, not to be happy. Fear, therefore, is our prime motivator.
Fear can be a great motivator if you use it properly.
Try this experiment.
Imagine being on your deathbed and thinking back through your life.
What will you have wished to do more of?
Not time in the office, right? Or even working harder?
I bet, like most of us, you’ll say spending time with your loved ones, doing stuff that makes a difference. Now, what will it feel like if you couldn’t do those things? If you allowed your life to be dominated by work rather than lifestyle? How will that feel knowing you wasted your one time here on this planet?
If at that point in your life, miraculously you were granted another year to live, I bet you’d go and do something special with that time rather than spend it grinding away at the office. That fear is the reason why you see some cancer survivors empowered by energy levels most of us can only dream about. That’s what drove Lance Armstrong to greatness before it went pear-shaped. Everyone knows his story, but there are countless others just like it where people given a second chance are driven by fear to do amazing things.
The Power of Rejection Therapy
It’s not about getting over fear but riding it.
Hard work and motivation aren’t the keys to unlocking the door to your next great adventure. It’s courage. All of your dreams can come true if you have the courage to embrace fear.
You can start today with a simple nudge.
Remember that saying, “the frog who lives in the well doesn’t know the ocean”
Well, it’s time to look outside the well, and allow fear into your life.
In his book, “Rejection Proof”, Jia Jiang explains how facing similar fears in his life, he left his own “well” and embarked on an adventure which he called, “100 Days of Rejection”.
Every day he exposed himself to situations where he could get rejected, whether that was a cheeky ask in a restaurant or a more blatant request for money or a favor. He found by deliberately putting himself in these uncomfortable situations he learned that fear isn’t fatal. It’s a preconditioned response from millions of years of evolution. Rather than allow that response to trigger a “flight” reaction, he learned to stand his ground and roll with it. Instead of beating a retreat with every “no” he learned to smile or ask “why?” In many cases, it wasn’t he who was being rejected but that request, right here, right now.
I’ve practised rejection therapy too with results. It can be small stuff like smiling at every stranger you see in public (that’s not normal in many cultures like Japan). Sometimes I’ll ask for something extra in a restaurant which is beyond what the waiting staff expect. It’s not the big gestures, but the small everyday stuff that slowly but surely anneals you to rejection. You condition your mind to accept rejection and fear as an everyday occurrence.
Big leaps of faith are the challenges that make us grow. They are also big, meaning we don’t take them lightly.
You dream of the next big adventure and fear holds you back. Fear has the edge because the difference between where you are now and where you want to be is so large, you don’t know where to start.
But, small steps lead to big outcomes.
Start by recognizing what is holding you back. Identify the rationalizations that you are telling yourself to stop you from getting there.
Become comfortable with fear. Take small steps in the right direction and you will get there.
If other people are the ones telling you these rationalizations, then you have to take a tough call on eliminating those people with your life. What’s more important in your life – a friendship that holds you back or achieving your dreams?[c2a]