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Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there. – Chuck Palahniuk
What are you most afraid of?
And what do you do when you’re scared to death?
You may have heard about the dangers of fear. About how it holds you back from getting what you want and experiencing a life of happiness and well-being.
With all this fear bashing, mostly deserved, you may not have heard of some more constructive uses of fear to get what you want. Yep, that’s right. You see, fear was created for one reason and one reason only…to protect us.
Freedom from feeling scared to death is not a matter of possibility but a matter of understanding.
The first step, paradoxically to banishing fear is to acknowledge and honor the truth about fear.
Tony Robbins once said “Your brain is two-million years old and it wasn’t designed to make you happy. Your brain was designed to make you survive.”
The only problem of course is that it’s pretty good at protecting us from physical dangers of old but not so good at helping us navigate the emotional dangers which come from our own thoughts and feelings.
In other words, the brain can protect itself from outside dangers but it’s virtually powerless when it comes to protecting itself from…well…itself.
Fear is such a powerful force that no amount of name calling or bashing will banish it from your life. If you do, it will just grow stronger. The most effective way to deal with fear is to confront it directly, but not in an adversarial way.
Here are three unexpected ways you can use today to begin facing your fears:
1. When you’re feeling scared to death – honor your feelings
Sounds crazy, right? Not if you remember that your fear is not in your life to harm you, but protect you, albeit in a way that keeps you stuck and unproductive.
Instead of cursing it and continuing to feel scared to death, try honoring it. Here’s a possible approach:
I know you’re here to protect me. I know you don’t mean me any harm. I thank you for your loving concern for me and my well-being.
However, I must let you know that in this situation, I will be ok. I know doing this thing will be hard, I know even that there may be risks and setbacks. I also know that this experience will be good for me and will help me grow as a person.
So instead of trying to get me to stop, I ask for your support. I ask you to do what you do best. Help me to proceed with eyes wide open, attentive to potential pitfalls so I can avoid them.
Help me to listen to good counsel and avoid bad advice. Help me to know when to say yes and when to say no.
Thank you for honoring me and for being open to what I need from you in this moment.”
You can use the above template and tweak it to match your particular circumstance. You’ll find that you can dramatically improve your relationship with fear. This will allow you to try new things despite its presence.
2. Use fear-setting
This is based on a strategy developed by Tim Ferriss. He says it’s “the most valuable exercise I do every month.”
The basic premise is that instead of defining your goals, you define your fears. Flesh out the worst-case scenarios associated with any decision you’re trying to make. Then the next two steps include figuring out how to either prevent or repair things if the worst happens.
I like this method because most of us have a hard time figuring out want but we have little trouble identifying what we don’t want by defining our fears. The first step alone will put you on the path to diffusing fearful thoughts that were once fully controlling your life. By putting them down on paper, you’ll begin to see that they are not as powerful as you thought they were.
Probably are biggest fears are centered around failure and the potential humiliation that comes with it.
What’s the best way to overcome your fear of failure? Fail.
I know this may be the most challenging step but it’s crucial for helping you overcome your fears. Stop overthinking and ruminating. Do the things you’ve always wanted to do and be open to experiencing the rejection you’ve always feared—repeatedly.
Jia Jiang was so afraid of rejection and failure that he struggled to fulfil his lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur. So he embarked on a journey that changed his life. For 100 days, he went out in public and filmed himself making requests of people that would likely get a “no.” One of my personal favorites is asking for a burger refill.
Jia is now a successful entrepreneur who helps people overcome their own fears of rejection.
Afraid of having your book manuscript rejected? Send it out to ten publishers so you can experience what it feels like to get rejection letters.
Frame those babies as they come in and view them as symbols of having taken action instead of symbols of failure. Then send it to ten more publishers. Repeat this process as many times as you wish.
Of course, there’s no guarantee of a happy ending, but you’re much more likely to be published the more you’re willing to endure failure and rejection. And overcoming the fear is a huge reward itself. You can apply this example to just about anything you’re afraid of.
Face your fears and free yourself
Don’t pretend you don’t have fears.
Don’t curse them.
Don’t stuff them in the closet.
Just face them. With kindness and compassion toward yourself, allow yourself to explore and experience the things you fear most. You will surprise yourself and banish those fears faster than you ever imagined.