Fear is usually what gets in the way of us leading a passionate and purposeful life. Let’s tackle them, and see what we can each do to confront and understand your fears better, and start to integrate living life with less resistance to one you’re proud of.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
There is a famous book, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. It’s an early personal development book from the 80s, I read it as a teenager and instantly felt an alignment to its insights and down-to-earth way of approaching what we’re scared of. Jeffers breaks down fear into simple terms and basically states that what we feel, believe and understand as our fears, is simply an illusion we self-create. She poses the question, (with far more depth of explanation behind it in the book) ‘if you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what could you possibly fear?’ and the answer is simply, ‘nothing!’. The book offers a way of thinking and approaching what we fear, ‘all you have to do to diminish your fear is develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way.’ Sounds simple in theory but we do get in the way of ourselves then short-circuit our living my choosing the path that is most comfortable.
We can remain in our limited comfort zones living a constricted or narrow life.
However, fear also has the power to motivate you to your higher potential. By getting out of our comfort zone gives us more rewards in life. I know from personal experience, and from what I have witnessed with Clients. Having the courage to step into what you know is right for you is scary, but the benefit is worth it.
Take a client of mine who had limiting beliefs around her ability to form a relationship. Her thought patterns were framed around ‘it’s hard to put myself out there to find a partner’. However, once we broke into the layers behind this belief, she found it was the fear of having nothing worthwhile to say in conversation at the epicentre of her resistance. We were able to look at strategies on how to open conversations, allow her humour to surface, and have some back pocket questions prepared to spark a more natural conversation.
The same happens a lot around when we want to ask for a promotion or pay rise at work, we want to shift into a new career or parent differently. No matter the situation, resistance surfaces on how to navigate these situations. Having a different relationship to this resistance is achievable, and life changing for many.
How exactly do we jump from comfort to where the magic happens?
Eleanor Roosevelt first quoted the term, ‘do one thing every day that scares you.’ It’s a fantastic philosophy to embrace, take action on, or even live by. Scaring doesn’t mean jumping into a metal cage and deep sea diving with sharks, it can often be offering people a compliment (or accepting one!) Go for the small wins to build up to the larger more daunting tasks. Ask one more question in a meeting, raise your hand for a bit more responsibility at work, say ‘no’ to a family commitment you know is going to stretch the finances or your quality time with the kids. Fear doesn’t have to equal recklessness, it can be really important to differentiate the two.
These small steps get you into the practice of becoming friendly with fear. Knowing it, understanding it and when you can harness it to your advantage. One of my old bosses used the term, ‘scary good’ as a way of measuring creative ideas and strategies for our work in advertising – they needed a certain sense of nervousness to them in order to get you excited and want to make them happen. If you can harness fear to your advantage your world will start to feel limitless.
Experiment a little…
To round off this post, I would like to define what fear is and offer a new way of understanding it. The dictionary.com meaning of fear is ‘to fill, especially suddenly, with fear or terror; frighten; alarm’. Doesn’t sound like the most pleasant of experiences really now does it? I also suspect each and every one of us knows what it feels like personally, sometimes it’s thoughts in our heads and words we self-prescribe, right through to a sensory experience or feeling in our body, from redness at public speaking to vomiting in a time of crisis.
For a couple of days, sit with what ‘fear’ means to you. Can you use words to describe it, draw or visualise it, or sit with a feeling in your body somewhere?
Next, consider all the things you would ‘love’ to do but you are either slightly, or moderately, or completely afraid of? Write down a list. Then start to use the relationship you have with fear to test these items on the list, see if you can get to around 20 items minimum and start to chip away at them each week.