While often considered our greatest nemesis that prevents us from achieving more, what if fear became your greatest teacher that could make you unstoppable? Here’s a nine-step process to use every day in order to eradicate the old programming you have around fear and transform it from being your adversary to your most powerful ally.
Ironically, most of our fears are not based on logic or reality. They are not real. Granted, the feeling of fear is very real and I’m certainly not disputing that. Fear is just another feeling, like happy, angry, frustrated, excited, or sad. These feelings often trigger a physiological reaction. Like these other feelings, our body’s reaction to the feeling of fear manifests in a variety of ways; an elevated pulse or heartbeat, temporary paralysis, a knot in our stomach, neck, or back, even perspiration.
There are actually two parts that make up the experience of fear. However, we often collapse these two parts together. If one component of fear is the feeling of fear, the other part of fear is that which we actually fear or the trigger that sends us into fear.
Because most of us collapse what we fear and the feeling of fear together without distinguishing between these two parts, we have a tendency to resist fear and make it our adversary rather than embracing fear as an ally.
We’re all familiar with the three points in time: the past, the present, and the future. That which we fear is only the negative expectation or assumption of what may happen in the future (what we don’t want to happen) and what is never happening in the present.
If we are pushed to avoid consequences or what we don’t want to happen, conversely we are pulled towards what we do want; pleasure. Since fear is the negative assumption of the outcome, try shifting your focus to the positive outcome or what you do want to manifest, instead of what you are looking to avoid.
The key point here is this, our fears are just as “real” as our dreams! But as long as we give more power to our fears rather than our dreams, our fears will always seem as if they are more of a reality and in turn, will get the better of us. If you stop and think about it for a moment, they are both visions and pictures of a future that we have constructed or visualized in our mind’s eye. Both our fears and dreams are created using the same tool; our imagination!
The quandary is that most of us spend more time focusing on that which we fear rather than the goals or dreams we want to create. Lets face it; we’re all pretty good at articulating what we don’t want to happen in our lives yet fall short when trying to come up with a vivid picture of what we do want or our goals and dreams.
If you know what you don’t want and don’t know what you do want, then where do you think you are going to continually wind up directing your thoughts and energy? Your goals and dreams don’t even stand a chance! Instead, empower your dreams and goals rather than your fears to be the driving force that moves you forward. Once you do so, you will then be able to achieve what you want most.
Imagine what would be possible if you embraced fear and considered it to be one of your greatest teachers? If you resist fear or react when you feel fear, then you can’t learn from it or even recognize any lessons that would contribute to your continued personal evolution. And if you aren’t learning from it, then you can’t look at the fear as something that can be re-framed into a positive opportunity to grow and change.
Take the time to think about how much of your life and your decisions are governed by fear. To start determining if the fear is actually a realistic threat or just your active imagination, the next time you feel yourself reacting to fear or feel the tight grip that fear can have on you, take the following nine steps to manage the fear in your life and make it your ally. This way, you can upgrade your relationship with fear and learn to respond to it in a healthier way rather than continually reacting and surrendering all of your personal power to fear.
1. Give Yourself Permission to Feel the Fear
When you feel the sensation of fear overwhelming you, allow yourself to experience the feeling of fear, rather than freezing or avoiding the experience of fear. Instead of looking at fear as a “stop sign,” give yourself permission to acknowledge the fear as a source of valuable information by saying to yourself, “Okay, I am afraid.” You’ll notice that fear is simply a feeling and will begin to dissipate once you declare and experience it fully. This way, you can get complete with it rather than having it linger eternally.
When we feel fear, stress, worry, angst, or excitement, it affects our breathing pattern. We begin to breathe irregularly. To avoid this, take a few deep, slow breaths. In through your nose, and out through your mouth. This exercise alone will calm you down, diminish the fear, stop your hands from shaking, slow down your heart rate, and quickly bring you back to the present situation.
Recognize this as an opportunity to grow and learn. (“Okay, the fear is showing up to teach me something so let me explore this further. Is the fear telling me that there may be additional information, tools, resources, and training I need? Is there a limiting belief I’m holding on to? Is there a future outcome I want to avoid? Am I trying to play it safe?”)
4. Label It
Give the fear a name by labeling it. Ask yourself, “What exactly is it that I am afraid of right now?” Example: “Will I get the appointment?” “Am I going to be able to hit my quota?” “Is my boss going to like the work I’m doing?” “Will this relationship fail because this person doesn’t really want to work with me?” “Do I believe that there’s no way I’m going to be able to achieve this or do this well?” “What if I don’t get the result I need?” “What if I ask and don’t get what I want?” “Will I look stupid?” “Am I going to be able to help this person?” “Do I possess the confidence and ability to achieve this?” “Will they like me?” “Am I going to get fired? “What if I fail?” “What if the same thing I didn’t want to happen last time I tried this happens again?”
5. It’s Not Real
Embrace this feeling by saying, “Here’s me feeling a fear that isn’t happening in the moment. While the feeling of fear is real and I’m experiencing that feeling now, what I am actually fearing isn’t real because it’s based on a possible negative future outcome that hasn’t even happened yet!” Or, “Here’s me feeling the fear around something that has happened in the past that I didn’t want to happen and I’m afraid it is going to happen again so I’m taking a past experience and projecting it into the future as the negative expectation of what I don’t want to happen.”
6. Take Control
Shift your focus to the outcome that you do want to create or manifest instead of what you don’t want or what you want to avoid. Create that vivid picture in your mind. Envision and direct your thoughts towards the positive future outcome you want to achieve. Ask yourself, “Now that I know what I don’t want or what I’m trying to avoid, what do I want to create for myself in this situation?” (For example: happy clients, an increase in my income, more opportunities to help others, a stronger skillet, better relationships, greater confidence, more consistency, an advancement in my career, being a positive person, achieving my goal, and so on.)
7. Take Action
Now that you have identified the outcome you to want to create, what steps can you take to achieve this outcome? If you are staring at a pile of paper, a call list, a report or a project you need to finish that is causing your paralysis, try this. Take out a piece of paper (or on your computer) and just start listing the steps, one by one, of what you feel needs to be done to complete each task or to accomplish/overcome what it is you are afraid of in your pile of “to do’s.” Don’t worry about whether or not your steps are “perfect.” Just doing this will enable you to start taking action which will remove the overwhelm and make the task more manageable. If you are still stuck, then ask for help in developing your action steps. Chances are, you are focusing more on getting to the end result rather than on the steps you need to take to achieve the end result. Focus on the process instead. I guarantee that after every single step you take, not only will you get closer to your goal but you will notice the fear subsiding as you take every little step. Before you know it, your task or goal will be completed! Now you have a system to handle this fear the next time it occurs.
8. Be Present
Redirect your thoughts and energy back to the present moment in time and what is actually happening in the now as opposed to a future anticipation or a past experience. The negative outcome or that which you fear is what is happening next. It is not what is happening now. You can’t be present if your experiencing fear and you can’t experience fear if you’re in the present moment!
What you fear will happen is always happening in the future and is never occurring in the present moment. The real benefit here is this. If you can stay in the present moment as opposed to worrying about the negative assumptions of the future, fear will not be able to get to you.
9. Time for an Upgrade
Finally, how can you upgrade your belief that surrounds this fear? If this fear surfaces again, how can you change your thinking so that it enhances and teaches you something in order to move forward and forge ahead rather than allowing fear to paralyze and consume you?
Make fear your ally. Embrace the belief that if and when you experience fear it is trying to teach you something. Allow yourself to experience the feeling of fear so that you can grow past it. Responding to fear in a healthier way will provide you with an opportunity to grow and learn, which leads to greater wisdom and unprecedented results. Not only that, but you will become more powerful, more confident, and more focused on achieving your goals.
Consider fear to be your emotional feedback loop or internal barometer for learning. In other words, when we are in physical pain, our bodies react and let us know. It’s a sign of danger or that we may be sick or injured. That’s our body’s physical feedback loop. Quite often if we ignore the pain, it gets even worse. Instead, by acknowledging the pain we can choose to do something about it.
Focus More on What’s Now Rather Than What’s Next
I would suggest keeping this nine-step process in front of you throughout your day, as it will take time to assimilate this process into your life and eradicate the old programming and default file that you’ve been using.
The real power is in the present moment instead of allowing everything to pull us towards the future, such as our goals or sales targets. Be mindful of living in the present instead of living in the future by focusing more on what’s now rather than what’s next. When you focus on the present and on your desired outcomes, values and personal vision, you will notice that your fears will lose their powerful edge.
Be mindful of these two conflicting truths. Be mindful of your goals, while being engaged in the moment.
Photo Credit: Keith Nerdin