Fear. It's the number one barrier to living confidently.
You experience it everyday in small and large doses. You don't do something you want to do because you are afraid. You do something you don't want to do because you are afraid. Fear is the little demon that sits on our shoulders, holding us back from growth, success, fulfillment and happiness.
In our modern world, most fear is unfounded. Sure, it's normal to be afraid if you are being mugged or in some other situation that causes real or potential physical or psychological harm. But we are generally safe from that kind of danger.
Our most common fears come from amorphous things.
They arise from events or situations that haven't happened or may never happen. They arise from thinking patterns we've created and become adjusted to. They derive from false beliefs and reinforced mediocrity. And they live inside of our ego — the part of us that is the frightened, demanding child who only wants safety and comfort.
Sometimes our fear is about overcoming fear. We don't want to succeed because it requires so much, and, of course, we might fail. The poet Frederick Seidel says it all with these lines:
“Don't cure me. Sickness is my me.
My terror was you'd set me free.”
We are like prisoners who have been jailed for years. When we are finally released, the new world around us is too overwhelming, too intimidating. We want the comfort and safety of our metal cot and confined spaces.
If you are fearful in small or big ways, think about this idea: embrace fear, because fear is a necessary component of huge growth and positive change.
Fear is a goldmine for growth.
If you are fearful of something — starting a new job, learning something, public speaking, having an uncomfortable conversation — then you know you have found a goldmine! Yes, this is the place to start digging for the gemstones that will buy your freedom from fear, and send you soaring to the next level.
In his book, Shift Your Mind: Shift the World, my friend and fellow coach Steve Chandler writes about a newspaper ad that one of his friends showed him. It's an ad for Harley Davidson, and the headline reads: “WE DON'T DO FEAR”.
The ad also says this . . .
“Over the last 105 years in the saddle, we've seen wars, conflicts, depression, recession, resistance, and revolutions. We've watched a thousand hand-wringing pundits disappear in our rear view mirror. But every time this country has come out stronger than before….If 105 years have proved one thing, it's that fear sucks and it doesn't last long.”
Lower on the page, next to the Harley Davidson logo, it says:
“So screw it. Let's ride.”
Let's ride indeed! Don't you want to hop on that fast moving, engine roaring cycle, and let the wind whip your hair and face? Don't you want to experience the pure bliss and joy of life, and knock that demon fear off your shoulder for good?
As I've gotten older, I know one thing for sure. I have this one life right now, and it will come to an end on some real day in the future. What's the point of living it in fear? There are things to do. There are great things to do! So I intend to do them. Fear be damned.
If you want to live fearlessly, you absolutely must let go of some beliefs and actions. Here are some of them:
- What other people think of you. You will never please everyone, and it is rarely worth sacrificing yourself to accommodate some other person's beliefs about who you should be or what you should do.
- Fear of failing. You will fail. Again and again and again. Failure is the pathway to success. It is an inevitable part of success. Accept that, and failure won't be so intimidating.
- Your status. This is pure ego and part of what other people think of you. Your status isn't based on anything real. Just perception. Is it worth giving up real happiness for status?
- The discomfort of fear. Fear is uncomfortable. No one likes to be sitting in fear. We'll do just about anything to avoid it. But you must know from experience, it is temporary. And it doesn't kill you.
- Embarrassment. Sometimes we may look stupid, silly, out-of-touch, inexperienced, fumbling, weak, or vulnerable. It will happen, but you must not let it hold you back. People forget your foolishness long before you do. They are far more interested in themselves!
If you can let go of these manacles of fear, then you are well on your way to living a fearless life. But just letting go is only part of the process. You must take action.
Here are some very specific actions to show you how to be fearless.
1. Stay open to all possibilities. Let go of outcomes. You may think you want to go right, but life takes you left. So go with what life presents. Left might be more fun anyway.
2. Embrace change. Even change that appears negative. Change is constant and is part of the evolution of life and the human experience. Don't fight it. It will happen anyway, so follow it where it leads you.
3. Make plans, but make them loosely. Set goals for yourself and work toward them. But remember, you are staying open to possibilities and embracing change. Work toward your goal, but watch for signs to recalibrate.
4. Write a mission statement. When you apply your values and vision to every decision of your life, you have a road map that keeps you from veering off in directions that don't support who you really are or want to be. Here's an article on writing a mission statement.
5. Find mentors. Look for people whose lives or work you want to emulate. Watch what they do and how they do it. Ask for their help and guidance. Recently, a mentor for me in creating my blog and writing is Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen and Write to Done. She started a blog just a couple of years ago and has now built an amazing business — with integrity.
6. Challenge yourself. Find those areas in your life where you feel fear. For me, it's public speaking. I still haven't done anything about it, but I know it will greatly enhance my life once I face that little demon. What is it for you? Look those fears in the eye, and accept a little discomfort so you can reap the great rewards of stepping out of your comfort zone.
7. Think big. Why not? Why not make the biggest plans, the boldest actions, the most challenging decisions? You don't know unless you try. You can stay small and safe. Blah, blah, blah. Or you can live an extraordinary life. Read about Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity. This guy has done more in his thirty years than most people have done in a lifetime.
8. Create partnerships. My friend Laura talks about people in her “cluster” — people who share a similar vision and world view. Find people in your cluster and make great partnerships. Find someone you trust to work with you on your bold adventures. Broaden your circle of partners so you have a tribe of people working together for mutual benefit. This is broader than networking. It's working together to create a net of influence, inspiration and action.
9. Seek support. If there is something you really want, but fear is holding you back, don't go it alone. There are some fears that need deeper unraveling. I can't imagine not being to fly in an airplane or socialize with people, but these are very real fears for some people. Whatever it is, don't give up. Find a counselor or coach to help you. You are in control, not your fears.
10. Action, action, action. That is the greatest cure for fear. Decide what you want to achieve, then start doing the work. Focus on the task at hand. Then the next task, then the next. Action is more powerful than great books, great blogs, great motivational speakers, or great plans. Even when you are in a slump or feel afraid, just do something.