As we continue the conversation about overcoming fear and busting through it, I decided to look at the topic from a high performance, scientific standard as well as a spiritual standard. Interestingly, the two standards arrived at the same results and took similar paths to get there.
High Performers retrain their emotional response.
Brendon Burchard is an internationally renowned high performance coach, personal development trainer and best selling author. His work is science based with decades of research behind it. His book, High Performance Habits, takes a look at how extraordinary people become that way. His research has revealed that high performers demonstrate a tremendous degree of emotional intelligence and what he refers to as “willful feeling.”
Emotion versus Feeling
Let’s start by distinguishing an “emotion” from a “feeling.” As applied in his research, an “emotion” is generally instinctive: it’s a triggering event that causes an emotional response. Fear is an emotion. A “feeling” is an interpretation of the emotion: you feel frightened by the fear.
An exciting aspect of his research is you don’t have to remain in the reflexive or ingrained feeling of the emotion; you can reprogram how you feel when an emotion strikes. According to Burchard:
“The emotion of fear can come up, but you don’t have to choose to feel frightened and run away. You can experience the sudden emotion of fear, but in the very next moment, choose to feel centered.”
He further shared:
“Before entering any performance situation, high performers contemplate how they want to feel regardless of what emotions might come up, and they envision how they want to feel leaving the situation regardless of what emotions might come up. Then, they exert self-control to achieve those intentions.”
This means that the emotions that arise don’t have to be in charge – you can CHOOSE how you want to FEEL when the emotion lands on you. This takes a lot of practice, self-awareness and desire to move from the emotion of fear to a feeling of peace and centeredness in the midst of it.
Try this on for size in your practice of overcoming fear:
Think of a situation that causes you fear – examples might include giving a presentation, competing in a race, talking to a disgruntled customer, or learning a new skill.
First – As fear’s tentacles start to put the hurt on you, first recognize what’s happening. Notice your increased heart rate, your discomfort and anxiety, perhaps the room feels like it’s closing in on you, a feeling of dread washes over you, your voice goes up a few octaves – fill in the blank with your fear symptoms.
Second – Sit with this for a few moments as you take several deep, slow breaths and slow your heartbeat.
Third – Choose to feel calm and imagine what your body feels like when it’s calm – sit comfortably, soften your face, relax your posture, slightly part your lips and loosen your shoulders.
Fourth – Think positive thoughts about the people who are present in your scenario, such as their gratitude for the knowledge you will impart during the presentation; the satisfaction the customer is seeking that you can provide; the other racers who are equally excited and nervous to be in the race; the other students in the room that may also feel anxious, but excited to learn – humanize the people and exercise empathy.
Fifth – Think of the feelings that you most desire to feel in this context and practice feeling them – confident, calm, peaceful, grateful, articulate – fill in the blank with your desired feeling. The key is FEELING the desire emotion.
Repeat this cycle every time you experience an emotion and want to change the feeling associated with it, such as overcoming fear.
You can create a new response, a new habit that with time, practice and patience, will generate a new desired feeling and take you out of automatic reaction mode.
How does science line up with spirit when it comes to overcoming fear?
As I looked at the spiritual side of overcoming fear, I discovered a lot of overlap between Burchard’s research and Danielle Laporte’s book, The Desire Map, specifically related to the ability to train our body to experience an emotion (fear) and program our response (feeling) in a more productive way.
According to LaPorte: Desire mapping is about being deliberate with our feelings. It’s about taking radical responsibility for how you create your life and how you respond to the people and circumstances around you. It’s about choosing positivity when you could just as easily chose negativity (or fear). Being able to experience peace, even appreciation, when you’re in a tough situation is a result of being in touch with your deepest self. The feeling of peacefulness is the indicator of who you really are at the core.
Heady stuff, right?!
People – IT’S YOUR CHOICE.
You don’t have any excuses for how your life happens when you have the ultimate choice in how you respond to life.
Let that sink in.
You can choose peace or worry. Gratitude or anger.
Which do you choose?
I’m not telling you this is easy, but I am telling you that this is how it works. It’s your choice and you don’t have to accept your reaction to what life throws at you. You can proactively create your desired response and feelings regardless of what emotion or circumstance shows up. Choose overcoming fear and replace it with feeling peaceful and centered.
Another powerful quote from the enlightened Ms. LaPorte: Being deliberate about how you want to feel is at the root of self-reliance and it’s also a collaborative effort you make with life.
She recognizes that “Spiritual maturity includes the capacity to acknowledge our fear while maintaining our confidence and faith.” Oh if it was as easy to do as it is to read! However, with practice, practice, practice, overcoming fear can become a reflexive choice.
It’s no surprise, then, that high performing individuals and those practicing spiritual alignment generate “the feelings they want more often than the emotions that land on them.” As is apparent all around us, Burchard observes,
“It’s when we stop being conscious of our feelings that we get in trouble. Then the negativity of the world can start stirring negative emotions, which, if we don’t control the meaning of, can evoke long term negative feelings, which in turn sets the stage for a horrible life.
But if we seek to experience life and all its emotions and yet choose to feel centered, happy, strong, and loving right through the ups and downs, then we’ve accomplished something powerful. We’ve wielded the power of willful feeling, and suddenly life feels the way we want it to.”
I don’t know about you, but I can look around me and clearly tell the difference between the people who live in conscious awareness of their emotions and desired feelings versus those living on automatic pilot and allowing their emotions and negative feelings to drive their life. I’ve made a conscious choice to remove the negative nellies from my life while I embrace my tribe of conscious living co-adventurers.
After years of looking for answers on how to overcome fear, this material made sense to me. It made such a profound impact on me that I consciously chose to plan my year around how I wanted to feel (my “Core Desired Feelings”), and then generated my intentions and goals based on the desire to achieve those feelings. You can read about my planning process in my blog post Does Your Planning Support Your Best Life?
I’ll wrap up with one of my favorite religious guides: Joel O’Steen.
He kicks off my week every Sunday morning and I capture some of his bite sized lessons in my journal to guide my week with a healthy dose of positivity, optimism and a guidance system. Here’s a peak at a few of them:
We are tested the most right before we realize our dream. Dig deep and be brave. Don’t let fear of failure, judgment or what other people say or think of you stop you.
Stretch, don’t shrink.
Don’t be afraid of failure, it’s a teacher. Embrace failure, learn and grow from it.
I love this one: Some people are meant to be against you so you can rise to be your best self. They are part of your destiny (think: David and Goliath). They aren’t here to judge you – they are here to promote you.
Quit living worried – everything that is happening in your life is FOR you and your highest good. (I know this one is hard to accept, but look at all the challenges you’ve had in your life and how often you received rewards on the other side of the challenge that made it worthwhile.)
Keep doing the right thing even when the wrong thing happens.
Failure is not fatal – it’s feedback. (yea baby!)
Freedom begins when you can be intentional about your response to the emotions that land on you, get clear in how you want to feel in life and start reprogramming your emotional response to line up with your desired feeling.
For more resources and tools for dealing with fear, check out Five Practices to Tame Your 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 below in the comments or join the conversation on my Facebook page.