Are you ready to bust through your fears? If you’ve been letting your fears take charge of your life, it’s time to reverse the tables and show your fear who is the real boss. The below lesson, Fear Busters, is reproduced from my Create Your Inspired Life workbook. It’s one of the twenty-one lessons included in the workbook to help you create and step into your self-expressed, authentic life on purpose. Since everyone faces fear in his or her lifetime, we can all benefit from learning how to bust through our fear to design a life that wow’s us.
Good Fear vs Bad Fear
As you step into your life and take on new challenges, it is inevitable that fear is going to show up and try to join you at the table. Now, fear is not all bad. There is a “good” fear. The good fear lets you know you are alive. Your senses tingle with excitement and warn you when you are pushing up against a boundary as you learn something new. It’s an invitation. Good fear keeps you on your toes and can drive you to be the best version of yourself as you plan, prepare and take action through the unknown.
On the other hand, “bad” fear tries to take you out of the game. It tells you all the reasons you are crazy to be following your dreams, how you may fail, you’ll look foolish, you can’t do it – you know the voice. Bad fear may paralyze you and leave you unable to take action. Its job is to tempt you to stop stepping into your life and convince you to settle for status quo, a safe life of mediocrity. This fear is the one that requires our attention.
“Don’t be afraid of new ideas. Be afraid of old ideas. They keep you where you are and stop you from growing and moving forward. Concentrate on where you want to go not on what you fear.”~Anthony Robbins
Get to the True Source of the Fear
When fear raises its ugly tentacles and tries to suck the life out of you, the first order of business is to be brave and determine the true nature of your fear. It often arrives in a disguise and you think it is one thing, when actually it’s something totally different. For instance, you tell yourself you are afraid to take a class to learn a new skill. However, when you drill down into the real reason for the fear, you discover you actually have a fear of failure, fear of looking stupid and a desire for self-preservation. Once you discover the real source of fear, you can address it.
“Be bold in what you stand for.” Ruth Boorstin
Stop Making Fear Your Enemy
If you are having a challenging time getting to the root of the fear, try making friends with the fear and ask it what it has to teach you. Most of the time, we’ve built the fear into a monster that is not based in any reality. Give this a try:
Create a safe, comfortable space and relax into it. Shut your eyes and take a few deep breaths and slowly exhale. Soften your face. Relax your body. Feel calmness wash over you. When you find yourself in a relaxed state, ask your fear why it is there and what it wants to teach you. Stay with it and have a conversation, just as you would with a friend. When we relax into our fears and take an honest look at them, we take away their power. When we pay attention and ask the right questions, we’ll receive the true answers. When we have the real answers, we can take appropriate action.
Reframe Your Fear
What thoughts are running through your mind? Are your thoughts supporting you or defeating you? When we are afraid, we generally feed that fear with disempowering thoughts and expectations of the worst case scenario. These thoughts, left unchecked, often run on automatic pilot. Since you discovered the true source of the fear in the last step, now it is time to slow down and take a look at what you are telling yourself about this fear.
When you notice you are feeding the fear beast, you have the power to make adjustments to the conversation playing in your mind. One of my favorite mantras is to “Expect the Best.” Most of the time when we are afraid, we engage in negative imagination of expecting something bad to happen, which rarely happens as badly as we imagine. This is your opportunity to change the negative to the positive and imagine the best outcome. Remember, what we focus on expands so why not choose to focus on the best possible outcome and invite it in to your life?
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that, you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open where you didn’t know
they were going to be.
~ Joseph Campbell
Visualize Your Desired Outcome
Another remedy to address fear is to visualize your desired outcome. Let’s take my example of the fear of taking a new art class. You may be afraid of looking stupid, not knowing what to do and being judged by the other students or the teacher. That’s definitely not an inviting space to learn a desired new skill. So let’s try a visualization exercise to engage the power of your subconscious mind:
Join me and start by creating a safe, comfortable space and relax into it. Shut your eyes and take a few deep breaths and slowly exhale. Soften your face. Relax your body. Feel calmness wash over you. When you find yourself in a relaxed state, imagine showing up to class and confidently and comfortably walking into the classroom. You look around and see smiling, friendly faces on the other students in the class. Your teacher warmly welcomes everyone to the class and addresses any concerns you have, which instantly puts you at ease. With your inner eyes, you see yourself doing the assignments with joy, ease and confidence. The other students compliment your work as your relax into the inviting and supportive environment. As you look around, the students and teacher are warmly engaged in conversation and you hear laughter coming from the smiling faces. The environment welcomes learning and provides a safe place to spread your wings to take on something new.
I shared the above new class example from personal experience. When I took my first art class in 2011, I was very nervous and anxious. However, what I discovered is I totally wasted my time and energy, not to mention harm my body with unnecessary stress, as I worried about the class. When I showed up to the class, I experienced the scenario I described above in the visualization. The morale of the story – we waste a lot of time and energy by worrying about something that never happens. Stop the fear monster in its tracks and replace the worry with expecting the best and then visual your desired outcome.
Look your Fear in the Eye
Another fear remedy is to face it head on. Simply do the thing which you think you cannot. It requires courage, tenacity, belief in self and a will to succeed. When we do that thing that scares us, we grow tremendously as human beings. We have more courage to take on the next big goal with confidence. As you continually break through your fears, you will find there is less and less you fear and not much that can hold you back from living a truly purposeful, authentic life – your best destiny.
“From a certain point onward, there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.” ~ Frank Kafka
A Final Word on the Topic
Sneaky fear often shows up in the form of encouraging you to wait for the “perfect” time to start something. This may be tempting as you can be convinced of the logic of it. There are a lot of people who play it safe as they wait for the ideal conditions before they will take action. However, life rarely gives you “ideal conditions.” The waiting game is a form of fear and resistance that keeps you from engaging in your life. If you play it safe, you will never accomplish your big goals and you will simply be a bystander as you watch your life pass you by.
Big, hairy audacious goals are risky – you have to have skin the in game for these goals. You have to create your own conditions, forge your own path and do it your way, not by someone else’s standards. If your dreams are important enough to you, take the risk to go after them. Or, you can play it safe, never take the chance and watch your dreams and goals die into oblivion.
Please don’t wake up with regrets. Join the ranks of the daring, who live life to the fullest with no regrets; those who expect to make mistakes and learn from them as they take their lives to the next level. The world is waiting for you. And you have a tribe to support you.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”~ Joseph Campbell
I want to end with my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quote and I really want you to take her sage advice to heart:
“The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live through that you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.
You are able to say to yourself, `I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’
The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
For more resources and tools for dealing with fear, check out Overcoming Fear – Science and Spirituality Finally Agree! where we’ll explore exercises used by high performers and spiritual junkies to tame their fears.
Do you have a favorite fear-busting technique? Have you expanded your courage and stepped more fully into your life? Share your tools and outcomes in a comment below or join the conversation on my Facebook page.