In the last article, we very briefly discussed fear, what it does and how it works. In this article, we’ll talk about why you should want to be fearless, that is without fear, the benefits of being so, and some general methods of overcoming fear.
Why should you want to overcome fear? Well, let me ask you another question, are you happy? Are you living the life you want? If your answer is anything other than “yes my life is friggen fantastic” then you have probably have some changes you’d like to make. Perhaps you’d like to go travel as we’ve been discussing, but maybe your goals are more career orientated. Would you like to open up that business you’ve been talking about? Maybe you’re looking for Mr. /Mrs. Right. Whatever your goals are, it will undoubtedly involve risk, and risk that you’re averse to taking else you would not continue reading this. The key to getting over that aversion and taking action toward those goals lies in the art of overcoming fear, of breaking those chains that hold you back.
Let us dive right in with a quote from William Shakespeare,
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”
Couldn’t have said it better Bill. The most important reason to overcome your fear is the sheer number of opportunities you’ll have once you stop shying away from them and start attempting to accomplish them.
Now, our next question must be how can we fight our fears and get moving in a positive direction in life? Well, there are a variety of methods to combat fear, and generally the more radical the more effective. But before we train in fear fighting tactics, we first must learn a fear busting strategy.
Real quick, what is the difference between a Strategy and a Tactic? It is an important question because the two are quite different. The best way I ever heard it put is, “Strategies are those things you THINK about, the things you keep in mind as you fight. Strategies are acquired by asking questions and analyzing information. Tactics are those things that you actually DO, the methods you employ in the fight. Tactics are the actions required to make a particular strategy successful and are usually naturally derived from the strategy itself. Tactics are refined and perfected over time by practice, failure, and a kind of trial by error approach.”
In other words, we’re going to learn the theory before the practice. This will bring us to-
Fear Busting Strategy #1. Know your enemy.
It is important that we study fear and how it operates before we face it in battle or we’re just asking to be caught off guard when it throws something unknown at us. In order to analyze our enemy we must first ask questions to acquire information to analyze. So the first strategy must be this: Ask general questions about Fear itself. Questions like, “Where does fear come from? What causes it and can we cut it off at the source, potentially avoiding a fight altogether?
So let’s ask those questions… Where does fear come from? Fear is born from the avoidance of pain. Now, I’d like to take the time to prove this to you logically. Pain itself is an interesting phenomenon because its sole purpose is to end itself as fast as it can and prevent itself from reoccurring in the future. It does this, by wielding Fear as a tool. Think about it. Let us take a very basic painful situation such as burning yourself on the stove. Touching the hot stove causes Pain. Pain’s purpose is to end itself. Thus when you feel Pain, you immediately remove your hand from the burner. The immediate cause of Pain ends. The burns may last, but the initial cause has been stopped. Pain would like to prevent itself from occurring in this fashion in the future, and so the Fear of hot stoves begins. Now, every time you get near a stove you are a little uneasy because you remember what happened last time. It doesn’t mean it will happen, but as soon as the possibility of remembered Pain presents itself, you will feel Fear as a protective reaction.
What can we extrapolate from this about the workings of Fear? Let’s break it down. Fear is the avoidance of Pain with regard to the possibility that a remembered Pain can happen again. Is this true? Let’s see. At home you rant and rave about how you deserve a raise and tomorrow you’re gonna march into your bosses office and demand what’s rightfully yours. Your boss denied you last time saying that the budgets had been slashed and that your department may be downsized ‘considerably’. In your living room you are strong and confident and talk a big game. You may even hold on to that strength as you swagger through the front door of your firm, but as soon as you see your boss’s door or catch sight of him in the building your guts jump up in your throat and you find yourself wondering where you can cut costs in your household budget.
What happened? Why did you not speak to your boss? You were afraid. Why? You remember what happened last time and your boss seemed to have implied that you may find yourself out of work if you press the issue. So when it came time to put up or shut up, you allowed your Fear of what negatively might happen to shut you up to avoid the Pain of maybe being out of work.
There’s a lot of Fear, Pain, and unsubstantiated views of the future in that line of logic. In this case you were afraid of what might happen. No one knew for sure what would come about by approaching your boss, but you ‘feared’ that your boss might ‘downsize your department’ (read: fire you) if you didn’t settle for what you had. So you didn’t broach the subject, you just collected your paycheck went home defeated and nursed a beer while your wife nursed your bruised ego.
But see; now we know. (And knowing is half the battle G.I. Joe.) Now we understand what happened; what keeps happening every time we try to do this. I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that a similar pattern would emerge if we looked at the woman who was too shy to talk to the cute guy (who unbeknownst to her wishes she would talk to him), or the traveler that can’t seem to put in his two weeks, or the business man who is afraid to invest in a product that he already knows is the next 800 lbs. gorilla in his market.
Once again, to paraphrase ole’ Bill Shakespeare, ‘Your doubts were traitors, and made you lose the good you might have won, by fearing to try in the first place.’
So if learning about fear is our first strategy, what should we actually DO when we discover that our fear is scaring us out of opportunity? Well, we employ-
Fear Fighting Tactic #1: Question your doubt.
When fear says, “What if something bad happens?” You must respond, “Well, what if something good happens?”
In the face of fear it is important to be militantly optimistic or else your doubts will weaken your resolve. Question your questions when they arise and follow the train of questions logically, to their natural end. “What if something bad happens?”
“What if something good happens?”
“What if you get mugged and robbed and end up homeless?”
“What if I don’t and instead I have an incredible experience and make new friends for life?”
“What if your boss fires you?”
“What if he appreciates my daring in the face of uncertainty and gives me the raise and a new position to boot because of my courage?”
“What if my wife leaves me for bringing up a sensitive subject?”
“What if she’s feeling the same way about this tension that we both know is there, and will be relieved to finally resolve the issue?”
As you question your questions with positive things that are as equally likely to happen as the negative things, your worry will begin to dissipate and you will instead start to see the possibilities hidden between the two extremes. ‘Well maybe that bad thing could happen, but this other good thing is also likely.’
So the next time you feel fear creeping up, try implementing these techniques and see if your life doesn’t get a little easier. In the next article we’ll discuss following our fears to logical extremes.
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