“We cannot escape fear. We can only transform it into a companion that accompanies us on all of our exciting adventures.” – Susan Jeffers
Fear. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives.
Whether real or imagined, fear is a potent emotion that makes us overreact or completely stops us in our tracks. It’s a physiological reaction known as the fight or flight response, which we’re wired to express in emergencies.
Like the red alert indicator on the dashboard of a vehicle, fear alerts us whenever we encounter threats that could potentially harm us or our loved ones. It prevents us from walking down dark alleys at night or crossing a road in heavy traffic or leaving our doors unlocked.
We share this instinctual predisposition with other creatures on the planet. The reptilian part of our brain is built for this specific function – to help us survive in a world that is filled with dangerous situations and people that could threaten our safety and survival.
There are times, however, when fear can make us go into overdrive. In such cases, we become anxious about innocuous situations that pose no real peril to us. We fabricate these threats with our own thoughts.
It’s those nerves that you experience before a presentation. It’s the images of gloom and doom that you foresee when asking your boss for a promotion or asking someone you fancy out on a date. It’s the fear of failing that stops you from starting that small business that you have always dreamed of.
You might have said to yourself: “What if this doesn’t work out?”, “What if I mess up and make a fool of myself?”, “What if I lose everything in the process?”, “What will people think of me if I fail?”
Just imagine the countless dreams that weren’t birthed because of the unfounded worries that plagued people’s minds. The uncertainty of success and the sacrifices needed to actualize a dream discourages us to take action.
As a species, we’re inclined to prefer circumstances and events that are simple, comfortable and predictable. If we had it our way, we’d just coast along with as little effort as possible. But any dream worth having requires work and an openness to change and the unknown.
It takes extra energy to do hard things. Like the fuel that’s needed to propel a rocket into orbit, we too need the fuel of our determination to push through any resistance to reach higher levels of success.
Anyone who’s achieved some measure of success in their respective fields will tell you that fear is a part of the process. When I started my career as a coach and workshop facilitator in my 20s, I was nervous about whether people would see me as an expert who could give credible advice.
It proved to be valid concern as I did meet encounter clients who reflected my doubts. Yet I refused to give up. I continued to focus on improving my skills and reminding myself of my bigger vision : to encourage people to live authentic lives. I was going to find a way to do it, no matter what.
I realized that a little bit of nerves is a good thing because it’s a sure indicator of growth and progress. I also understood that fear is part of the game of putting yourself out there and facing circumstances that are outside of your comfort zone.
Is there a possibility that you might hit the skids? Of course. But guess what? If you don’t attempt to make the changes needed to move forward, you fail by default. You can, however, make the process less daunting by applying some of these principles on the path towards your goals:
1. Identify the root cause of your fear and shift it: There’s always a past experience behind every negative thought pattern. It will be worth your time to reflect on which specific incidents resulted in your fear-based belief system and find ways to transform it. You can do this on your own or with the help of a qualified therapist. Be patient during this process as it does take time to shift old paradigms.
2. Don’t fight the fear: Resisting and trying to ignore the fear is only going to make it stronger. You need to look the tiger in the eye and tackle the issue head-on. You’ll notice that if you simply ‘feel the fear’ when it shows up, it quickly dissipates. You can move through fear with greater ease by triggering the body’s natural calm response. This can be achieved by closing your eyes and taking deep breaths. Focus on areas where you feel tightness and tension in your body and slowly breathe into it.
3. Make your dreams more manageable: People often get intimidated when they think of all the work that goes into manifesting a dream in the real world. The truth is that most of us can’t eat the whole elephant in one bite – we have to eat it one bit at a time. That means making things more manageable by breaking our plan into smaller and more manageable steps that can be done on a daily basis. Another important factor to keep in mind is that we should never invest more than we can afford to lose. If we’re overburdened with commitments that drain our time, money and energy, we need to tweak our plans.
4. Create a support system: Much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we will need people around us who can support us with words, advice and comfort during our journey. For this reason, it’s essential that we build a network of friends, family, advisors and mentors who can be our champions. These are the people who will cheer you on every time you succeed, and step in to give you a hand when you stumble.
5. Keep challenging your fears: If we challenge our fears by doing the things that scare us and require us to be braver, we will gradually build our courage muscles. If you have a fear of heights, try skydiving. Scared of creepy crawlies? Visit an insect zoo. Afraid of public speaking? Join Toastmasters. By consistently pushing your limits, you’ll send the message to your subconscious mind that you have what it takes to deal with any potential obstacles that you might come across when pursuing a goal.
Writer Brené Brown once said that we can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability. I believe that the path towards our dreams involves not only accepting our vulnerability but also recognizing the infinite potential that lies deep within us and expressing it in the world.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Has fear been blocking you from chasing your dreams? What are the steps that you’ll take towards overcoming fear?
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