Fear is a good thing. It keeps us from doing something stupid, like falling off a cliff, being eaten or being kicked out of the tribe – certain death if you are living tribally. But, these days with handrails, zoos and our choice of tribes, these things are not a threat to life and limb. We live in one of the safest times ever! We have to manufacture threats in order to get that adrenaline shot.
So let’s not let that get in the way of doing the things we want to do.
Acknowledge your fear, let it pass through you and around you and carry on. I love this from Frank Herbert’s Dune:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
I used to think I was pretty fearless. I did lots of things other people wouldn’t. I traveled alone, stood up for ideals, trod alternative paths through life and took leadership positions. You know, all those things other people who fear don’t do.
But I got stuck and a good friend sat me down and told me I was stuck because I was afraid. Of course I denied it. But she looked me in the eye until I flinched. Yes, I was afraid. I knew what to do, I just wasn’t doing it. I had all kinds of excuses, some of them pretty good, but it all came down to the fact that I wasn’t prepared to do what was necessary because I was afraid. So I did the only thing, I walked away. The last 4 years have been a journey into fear. No, not Cape Fear or Supernatural fear, but facing the things that make me afraid kind of fear. Things like confrontation, like understanding why and like feeling that I’m not good enough.
I am still afraid. I still back down sometimes rather than face the fear. But I am getting better and every time I do, I go farther, accomplish more and get stronger. Here’s my simple 3 step process to extinguish fear:
Acknowledge your fear
Do it anyway
That’s it. Simple, right? Yes it is simple, but it’s not easy. Let’s dive a little deeper.
Acknowledge your fear.
You have to recognize it to acknowledge it. Fear is insidious, it hides in many guises. It shows up as fight, flight or freeze. It’s a manufactured emergency that sucks your energy and attention away. It’s a too busy schedule. It’s lethargy, mania, forgetfulness, carelessness, excess attention to details, need to start new projects or finish old ones. Holy, moley that just sounds like life doesn’t it?
We are living in a time of manufactured fear. These fears show up on a regular basis and may not be about a fear you need to face. It may be a fear you need to release. Things like terrorist attacks (in Canada you are more likely to be killed by a moose than a terrorist), shark attacks (more likely to be killed by a dog than a shark) or SARS. (more likely to die of flu than SARS even at its height of fame). Spend some time with real statistics. We really are living in a safe time.
I used to be afraid of being late. Manufactured fear. I started to give myself enough time or cut myself some slack by making a pact with my closest associates. I realized that a heart pumping drive or fast walk wouldn’t make a whit of difference except to release harmful hormones and give me something else to worry about.
Am I afraid of being judged? Yes! But here’s something I’ve noticed: those most afraid of being judged are the most judgemental. I work on not being judgemental. I monitor my thoughts on this constantly. I realized this when I saw that whatever people said about other people was really a reflection about themselves. Interesting huh?
Look at what are you complaining about. For me, at one time, it was that I felt my staff weren’t giving me what I wanted. As I complained to my mastermind group about it, they told me firmly that it’s a training issue, not the staff. Oh. Turns out that while I love training clients, I have a block about training staff (and my kids for some reason). Probably around me not liking to be trained. I like to learn by doing. I’m still not sure what the underlying fear is here, and I’ll have to figure it out before I get staff again .
What’s bugging you? Look there for fear.
When I find myself cleaning toilets, or checking email one more time, I know I’m spending my time not doing something. I can spend days and weeks, not doing things I need to do. Always, at the root, is fear. Procrastination is a symptom. A symptom of fear. I know that when I am procrastinating I am afraid to do what I need to do. So I dig in to find out what I’m not doing and take a deep breath and look at it.
Do it anyway
Then I do it anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? Death? Jail? Stoning? Starvation? Nope.
Being laughed at? Most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to bother laughing at me.
Hearing the answer No? Maybe. That’s not the end of the world. That’s just a cue to try another question, or the same question again, or ask another person.
So I do it and the more I do it, the easier it gets.
I know that if I want to make all the things I want to make happen, I can’t let fear hold me back. Fear is the only thing – the ONLY thing holding me back from achieving all I can. And so it is for you. I feel the fear and do it anyway.
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