Cutting Fear Down to Size!

What are you afraid of? More specifically – what are you afraid of doing? What fears are holding you back?

There’s no doubt that fear is a terrible sensation. Shortness of breath, sweaty palms, heart pounding – all usually accompanied by the desire to run away and hide! Some fears are justified and have obvious evolutionary and personal safety advantages. We’re right to be frightened of violence, natural disasters, dangerous animals and of course, the ultimate fear – death. But when fear paralyses or stops us from living up to our fullest potential, then that kind of fear holds us prisoner – until we decide to do something about it and break free.

So what’s your fear? Do you want to start your own business but are scared of what your family or friends will say if it fails? Do you want to travel but are afraid of flying? Are you stuck in an abusive or dysfunctional relationship but won’t leave because you are afraid of being lonely? Or do you just want to express your real feelings but are afraid of the other person’s reaction?

Fear is usually comprised of two parts. Yes, there’s the thing you are scared to do. But behind that fear is usually another fear. The fear behind the fear is the fear that’s keeping you from doing it. So, the first step towards moving through and away from your fear is to first of all write down your fear and then write down the fear that’s stopping you from doing it. For example: ‘I want to start my own business’ is the fear. Then write about why you are afraid. ‘But I’m afraid that –  if I do I will fail at it horribly, end up jobless and broke and everyone I know will either laugh at or criticise me and tell me who was I to think I could run my own business?’

The first thing to understand about a fear like this is that most of it is based around what you fear other people may think rather than what you actually think about it. If you fail you are frightened of what people are going to say about you – either to your face or behind your back. Also, you are already focused on failing! No wonder then you are frightened – you are already setting yourself up for disaster.

Instead of focusing on failure, why not focus instead on a successful outcome? In football when you are going to shoot a goal they teach you not to focus on the goalkeeper but the space around him. There is more space around him than the space he occupies within the goal. If you shoot the ball at the goalkeeper then you are going to fail to score! When you are learning to ride a horse or drive a car you are taught to look in the direction you want to go. If you focus on that the horse will automatically go in that direction. If you focus on where you want the car to go your hands will automatically turn the steering wheel in that direction. So, to overcome fear first focus on where you want to be – not where you don’t!

Now, the next stage is to break down your goal into manageable chunks. Once you’ve done that, forget about the big scary picture and just take the first step. The one that’s right in front of you. Don’t even think about all the other steps you have to take to get to your goal right now. All you only have to take that one step – ever. You want to travel but are scared to fly? What’s the first step for you? Is it researching the place you most want to visit? Is it just going to the airport and watching people check in for their flights and seeing how relaxed and excited they are and knowing you can be one of them? Is it contacting the airline to talk about your fears and what support they can offer you when you do fly? Remember – you don’t have to fly today. You don’t have to fly in fact, ever. But just for today you will take that one step.

Then – keep taking just one more step. Heroes aren’t people that are free from fear. They are just people who are so focused on their goal they feel they just can’t turn back. Heroes often have shaky legs and trembling hands. Other people are saying ‘Oh, wow!’ when they look at them little knowing their ‘hero’ is usually going ‘Oh, s***!’. The difference is – they kept going anyway.

If you’re still not convinced you can do it, the late, great Steve Jobs put it all in perspective in a speech he gave. When we are faced with death – the things we do fear are minor by comparison. And as Franklin D. Roosevelt so eloquently put it ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ When we ‘chunk’ down our fears, cutting them down to size, it turns out they’re often not such a big deal after all. So take that first step towards a richer life.

You are more powerful than you could possibly know and you can do it!