Fear is an emotion that prevents many people from achieving their dreams. In this second article in our series about living without fear, we look at specific techniques for dealing with some common fears.
With reflection, it is possible to identify the beliefs that underpin our fears – the ‘fear behind the fear’ if you like – and then deal with it.
Once you find a self-limiting belief, you can start feeding your mind with new information that builds a fresh perspective and you can validate and strengthen new beliefs by choosing to focus on things, each day, that support your new outlook.
Try this exercise:
- Get out a sheet of paper and something to write with.
- Write down an obvious fear that limits you (we’ll use a lack of confidence as an example).
- List examples of when your lack of confidence inhibited you in some way.
- Write down the positive outcome that might have occurred.
- What was your self-talk like in your least confident moments?
- What kind of things were going through your mind?
- What experiences, observations, or beliefs could have made you feel this way? Write them down. Go back in your memory as far as you can.
To find the ‘fear behind the fear’ ask yourself the ‘why’ question?
- Are you afraid people will think badly of you? Why?
- Do you fear failure so much that it takes away your confidence? Why?
You are looking for the evidence for the beliefs you currently hold because it could be that you have been misinterpreting that evidence?
Now it’s time for a reality check. Once you have your ‘evidence’ down on paper, you can begin to develop the case for why it is actually false. By the way, you might be interested to learn that Zig Ziglar once suggested that the word ‘FEAR’ is an acronym that explodes to False Evidence Appearing Real.
What we now need to do is write down the evidence for a new belief based on truth, not fear. For example, to combat your fear of failure, you could write down all the times you’ve succeeded at anything – big or small. I would then suggest that you form an affirmation (such as ‘I am confident’) and use it everyday to validate your newly forming belief. Each and every day, notice and congratulate yourself for every success; every time you exude confidence. You’ll be building a new pathway in your mind for your success channel. Soon the pathway for the fear of failure will fall into disarray as the one for success becomes strengthened.
Many times you may feel stressed or afraid without really knowing the cause. This strategy will help you find your fears, acknowledge them, then break through your limiting beliefs. It will force you to develop a new, positive mindset that you can strengthen with each passing day. Eventually, your subconscious will accept the new belief as the truth.
With this method, you’re truly facing your fears without trying to ignore or bury them. Once you’ve determined what your fears are and you’ve started to change your beliefs, there are still more actions you can take to jump-start your new life without fear!
Overcoming Fear of the Unknown
Fear of the unknown is one of our greatest fears. When we don’t know what’s ahead, we often let our wandering mind take over. Our imagination goes wild with one scary “What if” after another.
- What if he doesn’t like me?
- What if I don’t make this sale?
- What if I get laid off?
On the other hand:
- What if he does like you?
- What if you do make the sale?
- What if you do keep your job?
Which scenarios do you tend to focus on? If it’s the first three, then your fears are in control. Follow these tips to lessen your fear of the unknown:
Planning ahead helps to reduce your fear of the unknown.
Go ahead and allow yourself some “What ifs” and make contingency plans for probable obstacles. The difference here is that you’re preparing solutions in advance, not simply worrying about everything bad that can happen. You’re making it easier on yourself.
- Example #1: Keep an emergency kit in the trunk of your car with a flashlight, flares, tools for minor repairs, and a first aid kit. Do regular maintenance to keep the car running smoothly.
- Example #2: Add funds to a savings account regularly so that you have the money to cover emergencies. A good goal to start with is to accumulate an amount equal to 3 months of your household income
Keep your plans flexible so you can adapt them if need be.
- When challenges arise, devote your time and energy to finding workable solutions, rather than fretting and worrying. Worrying won’t get you anywhere.
- Life is an adventure! Become curious about what adventures lay ahead for you and you’ll look forward to whatever may come, rather than dread the worst case possibilities.
- Live in the moment. Yesterday is already done and tomorrow may never come. All you have is the present. Every moment is precious, so make every moment count! When you immerse yourself in the present moment, you don’t even think about – or fear – what may be around the corner. Not only can living in the moment eliminate your fears for the future, but it can also propel you toward a life of happiness!
Overcoming Fear of Failure
Are you preventing yourself from pursuing your dreams because you’re afraid you might fail? One of the best ways to lessen this fear is to know with certainty that you’re going to succeed! And the best way to have this confidence is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
What are S.M.A.R.T. goals?
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the ultimate goal setting technique.
Here are the 5 steps for setting S.M.A.R.T. goals:
- Specific. Avoid generalities. Rather than saying you want to run faster, you can say that you want to be able to run a mile in four minutes flat.
- Measurable. You should be able to measure your goal so that you know when you’ve reached it. If you want to save money, then put a dollar figure on it. If you want to lose weight, then state how many pounds you want to lose by a specific date.
- Attainable. Regardless of how big your goal is, divide it into attainable micro-goals. If you want to lose 20 pounds, then make a monthly goal of losing 5 pounds each month for 4 months. As you reach each smaller goal, you’ll be motivated to keep working toward the bigger one.
- Realistic. Do some self-reflection. Are your micro-goals realistic for you? Be honest for the best success.
- Timely. Set a timeline for your goal. In doing so, it will keep you focused on achieving each micro-goal, while helping you brush away distractions.
If you need to, adapt your plan – there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s better to make a new plan that will work for you than to worry about failing in your original plan. Your success will reduce your fears and spur you on to completion.
Realize, also, that everyone has some sort of failure in order to really succeed. In reality, the mistake you fear might be the one thing that brings about your success. Overcoming challenges often gives you the ideas you need to succeed.
For example, Thomas Edison tried hundreds of times to invent a commercially viable incandescent light bulb. Each failure taught him something that brought him closer to success. How do we remember him? Do we think of his failures on his journey to success, or do we think of his success – the light bulb?
Changing the way you think about failure can help transform your fears into success!
Overcoming Fear of Change
Another biggie that affects many of us is the fear of change. Does change make you feel uncomfortable, even if it’s a change for the better? One of the best ways to get more comfortable with change is to initiate a few changes yourself. Start with small changes in your daily routine.
- Take a different route to work.
- Try a new food. You might like it and find a new favorite.
- Read a book or play a game instead of watching TV.
Think of these small changes as adventures. Little by little, you’ll get used to making changes on a regular basis and discover many pleasurable alternatives as a result. The idea is to build your tolerance for change. Soon enough, you’ll find that you’re looking forward to more and varied experiences, and even the big changes will be easier for you to handle without fear.
Fear of Lack of Support
Sometimes you may fear that no one will support you in pursuit of your goals. This fear may be unfounded or it may have some vestige of truth behind it.
Here are some tips to help you get to the bottom of this fear and take action to stop it:
- Discuss you feelings with loved ones. The trick here is to first determine why you feel the way you do.
- Talk to the people that you’d like to support you. Let them know what you desire in terms of support.
- Find out the truth – will they support you or not?
- If you get positive feedback, set share your plans with the other person. By involving your close family and friends in your planning, you’ll be far more likely to gain the support you desire.
- If you get negative feedback, ask them why they feel that way and work out a plan that eliminates any obstacles.
When you put everything out in the open like this, your fears will lessen because you gather have the information you need to deal with any lack of support, if it exists.
Fear of the Worst Case Scenario
One of the greatest fears that can paralyze any of us is the biggest “What if” of all: the worst case scenario. However, just as with the fear of the unknown, remember that most of these fears never come to pass. So stack the odds in your favor. Give your project more of a chance to succeed than to fail.
- Do your research on the best ways to succeed with the project or venture.
- Further your skills or knowledge before starting the project.
- Get your support network in place.
- Set your S.M.A.R.T. goals.
- Take action on small, achievable tasks to jump-start your plan.
Figure out your recovery (contingency) plans just in case the worst case scenario does occur. If you fail in a business venture, how long will it take you to regroup and move forward? If you don’t get the job, what are you going to do next? Weigh the risk against the reward. Is your reward of a more fulfilling life worth the risk of a few months of hardship if things don’t work out? In many cases, you’ll discover that the risk is worth the reward.
Once you’ve stacked the odds in your favor and you’ve prepared for a quick recovery, you’ll feel much more secure and you’ll be ready to move forward with confidence.