“What if I fail?”, “Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson
Are you ready to stop letting fear paralyze you and to instead fly?
Last week we discussed how to stop allowing fear to control you – and to take control instead. And today I want to introduce to you a process to help you do that.
Because fear paralyzes us into submission. And who wants that?
Table of Contents
How Fear Controls
About a year ago I talked with a potential client who said she was ready for change. She described feeling trapped in a world that had been defined by the priorities and expectations of everyone except her – and she was miserable as a result (to the point of being in tears almost every day while driving home from work).
She told me that she’d do anything to make a change for the better. But she was afraid. She feared: (1) what others would think should she choose to step away from her current high-powered career and do something different, (2) how these changes would affect her day-to-day life and relationships with those she loved, and (3) that making a change might not solve all her problems. And she let her fears get in her way.
Fear happens to be one of the biggest reasons people end up not making any changes – even when they desperately want to.
The fact is, fear lies. It convinces you that doing nothing is better than making a change. Think about that for a moment. Is it really better to stay “comfortable” in your misery than to do something (anything) to make a change for the better?
That’s not rational, is it?
But that’s what fear does. It fogs the mind and makes it difficult to think rationally.
Many Fears Boil Down to: Fear of the Unknown
There are so many fears that get in our way of change. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of change itself (because any changes necessarily have a ripple effect and we can’t control how everyone else reacts to us making changes to our lives).
Each of the above-referenced fears boil down into one: fear of the unknown.
But here’s the thing: the unknown is a constant (regardless of whether we make a change). We can’t control what happens to and around us. And we have no idea what’s ahead (regardless of how well we plan).
Moreover (and this is important), we have no idea how going on as-is will affect our future either.
What gets lost in our fear is the fact that doing nothing is going to have an effect – on who we are, how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, our relationships, and so on. And when we refuse to change something that we know deep within needs changing, the effect of not making a change can be much deadlier than the change that scares us.
5 Step Formula to Overcoming Your Fears
So, now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that it’s time to stop allowing fear to paralyze you into doing nothing, what’s next? What if you have a fear that you rationally know you want to move beyond, but you’re having a difficult time taking the next step?
Use this simple 5-step Fear Busting Formula to help you get the upper hand on your fear and take that first step. Because overcoming your fears isn’t about making your fears go away. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other – repeatedly (and baby steps count too).
Step #1: Acknowledge your fear.
Define it with specificity and get clear on everything you’re afraid of. This will help keep you way from pretending you don’t have a fear or from discounting your fear.
Step #2: Feel into your fear.
Part of what keeps you so paralyzed and unable to move forward is the refusal to feel the emotions surrounding your fears. It has power over you when you do this (and often, by hiding from your emotions, you’re creating an even bigger monster).
Unless and until you feel into your fear and allow yourself to go “there” (e.g., be vulnerable and real about what you feel and what you’re so scared of), the fear will lurk within the crevasses of your brain and refuse to leave. But going through steps #1 and #2 will help dissipate some of this fear more naturally and allow you to start to move beyond it.
Step #3: Unpack your story behind the fear.
What’s the story and/or belief behind this fear? Look especially to beliefs about: (1) who you (and those around you) are, and (2) what you (and others) are (or aren’t) capable of. With a critical eye, spot the opinions from the facts. And especially look for the broad generalizations. Statements like:
- I’ll never be successful at…
- Nothing can change in this area of my life because…
- I’m not capable of …
These beliefs are limiting you – and aren’t true. Find them and start to question them. Because they’re a big reason why this fear exists in the first place. Warning: Step #3 can take some time (so be patient and kind to yourself).
Step #4: Choose your new story going forward.
This is where you make a choice to start moving beyond your current story and create a new one. And make no mistake: this is a choice you get to make.
While doing this, remember that:
- fear is ever-present, especially when growing and learning new things (and so it’s okay to feel it),
- failure isn’t the opposite of success (true failure occurs when you give up completely and refuse to continue on),
- you have control over what decisions you make next (and therefore, if something doesn’t work out as planned, you will learn from it and pivot), and
- life is one big journey – so don’t take any one event too seriously.
Note: this step isn’t something you do once and no longer think about. It’s continuous and a way of life (but it’s your new story, so it should be).
Step #5: Make a plan.
So, you’ve identified what you’re afraid of. Plan for the worst. Visualize what will happen if you go forward and your fears do come true. Then what? How do you want to plan for this?
Also, ask yourself how you can prevent it from happening (and plan for that too). This step may sound scary, but what often happens is: (1) a realization that your fear isn’t as bad as you originally made it out to be (and that you can plan around it), and (2) the fear diminishes as you plan for it (making it easier to move beyond it).
Something happens when you get into action. Things just don’t seem all that difficult or scary anymore.
Fear lives inside of you. Now, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel real (or scary). And it doesn’t mean that you should ignore it (it’s quite the opposite). But it does mean that it’s up to you to deal with your fears.
The question is, are you going to let it continue to limit you or will you let go and allow yourself to fly? The choice is yours.
I hope to see you flying soon!
Until next time…
P.S. Cultivate a calm, confident, and resilient mind with this free resource of 8 effective (and proven) strategies: