FEAR. Forget Everything And Run? Forever Experiencing Actual Regret? Both are true, and both fiercely suck. Fear is many things to many people, and for most, it’s a stopping point. A line in the sand. An invisible opponent that they dare not cross. For all of this, fear actually DOES have a psychological/survival purpose… we just need to know how to manage it so it doesn’t hinder us in life, because the fear monster is REAL, you guys.
Now that we have the negative heavy stuff out of the way about fear, I’ll also mention that fear can prevent us from experiencing some of the most awesome, amazing, joyous, OMGTHISREALLYHAPPENED feelings in life when we submit to it. Sometimes I’ve let it limit me and other times I said F it, threw caution to the wind, and let my sailboat head towards the horizon while loosely adjusting the sail to navigate any possible danger.
I’m a big believer that we may miss one chance, only to have another prove itself better and more valuable. I also happen to believe that it sucks when we submit to fear and limit the magic that we’re capable of, over and over again. The only thing that should be a recurring character in your story is the willingness to take chances and experience things you never thought you would. Some of the most random, unexplainable opportunities have manifested out of nowhere the past year (okay, maaaaybe not out of nowhere… I was working hard and manifesting that ish, but things just kinda aligned in a way that was unexpected) and saying yes required getting over a shit ton of fear in the process.
Fear is a topic of conversation that comes up a lot, soooo wanna talk about some ways to kick that fear?
Cool, me too.
First: Is This Something You *REALLY* Want?
We can daydream all we want, and passively visualize, but when the opportunity is in front of us, a lot of people don’t. take. it. Why is this?
Fear usually signifies something, and it can be one of the following:
- What if I’m not good enough?
- What if I don’t deserve this?
- What if I humiliate myself / fail / let someone down / everything else that fits into this mental box of madness?
- What if this opportunity doesn’t come around again?*
*This last point, is the first one I want to address here. The fear that an opportunity is to good to be true, or may never come around again, can drive us to confuse fear of *losing* the opportunity with how much we actually want it.
Really assess whether or not you WANT this opportunity. I can’t say this enough. If you do override your fear and take the opportunity, you’re going to live in fear that you’ll lose it. Is it the thrill of the opportunity itself, and possibly never having it again, that’s bringing up the feelings of fear? Or do you truly want this opportunity and you’re just getting in your own way? If you’re coming at the opportunity from a sense of fantasy, thinking it’ll be easy, know that there’s challenge in every amazing opportunity, and you have to decide if that challenge is something you really WANT, or something you’re assuming just doesn’t exist.
As far as points 1-3, it’s human nature to feel imposter syndrome, or to be afraid of making mistakes. Some of my most successful friends still feel imposter syndrome, and it kicks in for me too. Knowing that, you can’t let it stop you. If you’ve put in the work, you know as much as you possibly can about the situation, experience, or opportunity, and you can have a sense of humor or learn from any mistakes you might make (and trust me — mistakes are inevitable in life) then you’re already well ahead of most people who let fear stop them.
Failing smartly, taking mistakes in stride, and being able to grow from your good and bad experiences, are all things that can never happen if you don’t get over your fear and take the chance in the first place.
Break Out BEST and WORST Scenarios
A big cause for fear is going deep into the depths of our minds and thinking of the worst possible thing that can happen, OR, imagining the fantastical BEST thing that can happen and becoming intimidated, while simultaneously ignoring the challenges of said success.
Kinda intimidating either way, right?
Weighing out the pros and cons may seem like a boring, and certainly unsexy activity, but lemme tell you… getting clarity on a situation can put you in a better state of mind, and also dispel some of the irrational fears you may have. Here’s an exercise that you can come back to:
- Grab a piece of paper.
- On the left side, put your “BEST” side. This is where we can explore all the ridiculously awesome things that can happen, should you conquer your fear and go through with whatever it is you’re holding back from. Make sure you leave a little room underneath each thing that you write down, because we’ll be going back to this.
- On the right side, put your “WORST side. This is where we can explore those “what’s the worst that can happen” Oh… right.” scenarios.
- Underneath each thing that you wrote down on the WORST side, write an actual solution for what you would do if that happened, and on the BEST side, write some of the challenges that this omgsoamazing part might bring.
The idea of doing this exercise is to balance obsessive thoughts over the best and worst scenarios, and realize that the solution is there, the challenges will be there, and now you know what that is and how to handle it. It’s kinda like how the dark is so scary because we imagine all of these monsters around us, even though we know exactly what’s in our room, and when the light gets turned on, we feel silly for being afraid in the first place.
The Laws of Equal and Opposite (Balance)
The exercise above should help you balance out your mind a bit. Know going into any situation that you’re afraid of, that the universe works in equilibrium. For every bad, there’s a good. For every good, there’s a bad. I’ve mentioned the pendulum effect in the past, and when you go to one extreme, you’re sure to hit the other. No one wants to LIVE in this state of a pendulum swinging nightmare, and should seek balance, but know that you won’t be stuck in one extreme if things go south, and you’re also armed with solutions now.
This also helps to stabilize any fantasy feelings of the absolute best thing that can happen; when we think of the best case scenario, sometimes logic and caution get thrown completely to the wind, which leaves us a bit unprepared after the initial WOW factor wears off.
Balance is what ultimately helps level out fear, but it takes a little bit of practice to get there.
Talk to People Smarter Than Us
A lot of fear stems from not being sure of an outcome, or feeling like you don’t know how to handle some of the ways situations can get squirrely if it’s something new to you. Talking to someone smarter or more experienced than you can let you see that someone else has been through it, and can give you feedback or advice to help you make the leap.
I was deep into thinking about something last weekend, where it was clear that the answer wasn’t coming to me. I knew the answer was out there somewhere, and I knew that the perspectives in my reach were ones that I was already familiar with, which meant I was likely think it wasn’t the advice that would help me.
If you think you should always be the smartest person in your circle, or even your peripheral circle, you’re setting yourself up for deceleration and lack of growth. My closest friends are all smarter than me in various ways.
When I’m chatting with people on the PermissionLESS podcast, I love asking them about mentorship – whether or not they’ve had mentors in their lives, what those mentors contributed to their overall growth, tips for finding mentors, and so on. Even if you don’t realize it, you *probably* have a mentor somewhere in your life right now.
Some misconceptions about mentors is that they have to be some “unattainable” person that you’ve somehow been lucky enough to fall into contact with, or that there’s only one mentor who can teach you something. That’s completely false. Mentors come in ALL shapes and sizes; I have friends who I consider mentors because they’ve been where I’m going, they’ve experienced successes and failures, and they have infinite words of wisdom. I return the favor as best I can.
The idea of Personal Advisory Boards and Stiletto Networks builds upon the mentorship concept as well, thought it’s slightly different. You can read about that here, once you get through this post.
Kill the Mental Gymnastics & Anxiety
We may not think that physical activity can help with fear, especially if it’s not related to said fear, but it can! Even if you don’t realize it, fear dances with anxiety, which increases your overall tension, which increases your overall stress. To kill the mental gymnastics and anxiety, taking that out physically may help give you clarity… we’re all different, but these are things that work for me. Fear often triggers “Fight or Flight”, so by giving your body or mind something to be occupied with, it takes the edge off the “flight” side of things without giving in to the actual fear and regressing. It’s a bit of mental trickery.
Walking and Talking / Thinking
I, for one, love taking walking and talking. It gets me out of my head when I’m in a state of fear or anxiety, and allows me to either chat the situation over with someone, or run it through my head in an enhanced mental state. Walking and talking, or walking and thinking, has been a recurring theme with a lot of people I talk to, and a lot of high achievers, like Steve Jobs, would use this in their lives as well. Working out in any way, shape, or form, releases endorphins. There’s a tonnnn of benefits to it, and if you’re teetering at the point of trying to make a decision that’s being smashed by fear, working out (even a little, over a few days) can possibly help clear your head.
I mean… this is a hot point of contention amongst people, because the benefits are there but the actual act of meditating and clearing your mind of thoughts is a pretty big obstacle for people (myself included). I’m not going to take a turn here and talk about the benefits of meditation, but if you go into it YOUR WAY and work on it, it does leaps and bounds for mental gymnastics and anxiety. And if you’re like me, and tried to follow directions for meditating and got frustrated, then know this: I found success meditating my OWN way. I used apps like Headspace to start, but now I don’t use any kind of guided meditation. The act of simply holding space and meditating with silence (or, attempting to meditate) puts me in a state of awareness and out of my head after a few minutes. Give it a shot.
So… where are we left now?
Hopefully the fear monster can is tamed now… or at least submissive enough so we can level up without needing to constantly scold it out of existence.
There’s a lot of reasons for fear, both good and bad. Fear can sometimes prevent us from making a huge mistake (intuition can often come in the form of fear, but you’ll be able to tell the difference when you start really getting attuned to your inner voice) but fear can also be purely that: fear of not being good enough, failing, fear of something being too good to be true, fear of making mistakes, etc. We have to be better at deciphering these things in our minds.
We tend to have this image in our minds that the most successful people don’t have fear, and are ballsy risk takers, and while that’s true to an extent, a lot of that comes with fear management and channeling fear into something that actually moves a situation forward, rather than being a blocker. Each and every guest on the podcast has talked about fear in one way or another, and as you can see… it didn’t stop them from making incredible leaps.
So leap, you permissionless human, you. Know that fear is something you can channel and work with, and it doesn’t need to rule your life. You can coexist pretty peacefully.
Also published on Medium.