There are hundreds of quotes about it. Books about it. Talks about it. So why does it still exist? How have we not come up with a way to eradicate fear? Why does it still cripple so many people and stop us succeeding in business, in relationships and in everyday life? Fear is a thief that robs us of future joy, success and fulfilment and it needs to be stopped.
Fear is an indicator of danger to come.
People may claim to be afraid of hundreds of things but really all fears fall into six main categories. We are afraid of:
Great, so there’s only six things I should fear! But, I’m going to give you some tips on how to reduce fear, meaning you can focus on accomplishing your goals.
Fear can actually be a good thing. It’s a primal instinct which warns us that what we are doing may be dangerous - an evolutionary tactic which ensures the survival of the human race. All well and good, but then why are we fearful when we are about to give a speech in front of 100 people in a non life-threatening situation?
"Excuses are born out of fear. Eliminate your fear and there will be no excuses.”
Visualise success five years in the future.
Visualising success is so important not only in helping you to achieve success but also in helping to eradicate fear.
Ask yourself what your life will be like if you succeed.
Where will you be in 5 years time?
Don’t just think about it for a second. Really imagine it. What is it like? How do you feel? Where are you? What are you doing? How did you get there?
When I am afraid to do something, I always ask myself:
“Would I do this if I was 100% sure that I could not fail?” The answer is always yes.
When you have this self-confidence and belief, facing your fears is a whole lot easier.
We suffer more in our imagination than in reality.
Have you ever played a situation over and over in your head, imagining the worst possible scenario, only to find that when you went through with the scary thing, that it wasn’t that bad?
We spend a lot of time in our head, imaging the worst-case or “doomsday” scenarios.
"I could stutter in my speech or forget my words, embarrassing myself in front of my colleagues and my boss, then I would lose my job and would never find another job in my industry because I would be a laughing-stock.”
Stop creating doomsday scenarios. This can be done by defining your fears realistically...
Define your fears instead of your goals.
Everybody has heard of goal-setting, but what about fear-setting?
Instead of creating doomsday scenarios in your head, ask yourself “If I fail, how will I recover?”
Set out a table with three columns detailing the following:
The worst possible things that can happen
How you can prevent these things from happening
How you will recover if these things happen
When I am considering point number three, I always think; “Has there been someone else in the history of the world who has overcome this problem?” If they did it, then I can too!
The next step in fear setting is noting the benefits of attempting what is scaring you. Write down all the good things that could happen as a consequence of your action.
And finally… write down the cost of inaction.
What will your life look like in 6 months, 1 year or 3 years if you don’t overcome this fear and take action?
"What if I do nothing?”
Fear of regret can be an excellent motivator for people.
Just because you're comfortable with where you are right now, there's no guarantee you'll feel the same in two years. You need to keep making bold decisions, trying new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
If you’re not constantly learning, developing or growing, you will feel unfulfilled.
Fear is just a feeling.
What if you treated fear as a feeling? Fear doesn’t exist. It’s not real.
Fear is a feeling. It is inspired by a fearful thought about something that might happen in the future. Just like traditional feelings such as sadness, happiness and anger, you can change your outlook, which will change your feelings, which in turn will change your behaviour and your life.
You have the power to change the way your mind thinks about fear.
Some things may be outside of your control. Separate what you can control from what you can’t. We may not be able to control some things, but we have control over how we approach them.
The following are some methods I use to change the way I perceive fear...
Tips for short-term fear eradication:
Live in the moment.
Use fear to inform decisions but not to dominate decisions. Fear can be a good indicator of danger. A way to recognise fear is to have a conscious mind. Be present. Be here now. Name your fear and then reject it.
A good way to live in the moment is to practice meditation and mindfulness on a daily basis.
Pretend you’re someone else.
This one sounds silly but it’s good.
Imagine your best friend was facing what you are facing. What would you tell him/her to do? We always manage to give better advice when we remove ourselves from the situation.
If I’m too afraid to go up and introduce myself to someone, I pretend that I am not me. I am my more confident best friend. I have no control over the situation. It has to be done. After all it is not me deciding.
Fight the fear
Literally. I like to personify fear, giving it awful human qualities. Mean, spiteful, selfish...a bully. Then I imagine physically fighting this fear-human and defeating it.
Have an “I am excited” mentality.
People often tell nervous or anxious people to calm down, which I think is one of the worst things you can do. It’s easier to go from being nervous to excited, than from being nervous to calm.
The characteristics of nervousness and excitement are very similar. Elevated heart rate. Sweaty palms. Tenseness. An expectation of what is to come.
Often when athletes are asked if they’re nervous before a race, they will reply “No, I am excited.” Despite having the same symptoms, they have learned to identify this feeling as excitement rather than fear. You can do the same.
Say out loud.. “I am excited” to re-program your fear.
"Repetition breathes belief.”
Repeat all of these tricks over and over until you believe that you are not afraid. It’s funny how easily the brain can be tricked.
Repeat out loud regularly, “I am not afraid, I am excited.”
Leave written messages around your house confirming that taking action will be beneficial (or that inaction will be costly). You can read these every day in the days leading up to a particularly scary decision or event.
Constantly tell yourself that fear is not real, it’s just a feeling.
Visualise success and do fear-setting as often as needed. You could aim to do fear-setting once a week.
Define your fears on a regular basis and then reject them by determining how you will recover if the worst possible thing happens. Reprogram your fear.
7 day scare challenge
Set yourself a 7 day scare-yourself challenge.
Do something every day that scares you.
It could be approaching a stranger and asking them out, picking up the phone and calling a potential business partner, holding a tarantula, skydiving, singing karaoke or… public speaking.
The more you face your fears, the more familiar the feeling becomes and the easier it is to squash. You can think of this challenge as an opportunity to face your fears and then inspire someone else to do the same.
If you do decide to do a 7 day scare challenge let me know in the comments how you get on with it!
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