Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Challenge your fears


I’ve heard it said that when you face your fears the death of fear is certain. Getting up close and personal with a snake while in Fiji recently has certainly gone along way to helping reduce the anxiety these reptiles produce. I think the anticipation and catastrophizing I did prior to picking it up was by far worse that the actual event itself. Which fits nicely with psychologists views on the nature of fear – fantasised experiences appearing real.

Of late I’ve been meeting alot of extremely passionate and talented people who are virtually crippled by fear –  fear of success, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of what others may think of them and many other fears.

 In our culture, we often spend more time thinking of ways we could fail rather than ways we could succeed. People also don’t back themselves enough and give themselves permission to make mistakes or to learn.

To succeed in any new endeavour you have to learn how to feel the fear and act courageously anyway. So much of what we imagine will go wrong never comes to pass, and if it does, in the end we learn important things to help us succeed in the future.

Fear isn’t always bad. Whether this is the fear of change, fear of failure or something else frightening, being afraid can often tell you what you need to do to make yourself safe or to prevent something going wrong. But left unchecked your doubts can become your traitors.

When I look back at some of the positive changes I have made in my life, almost always they have begun with much agonising. Diligent pre-planning helped me build confidence and overcome many of my fears, and then a huge leap of faith helped me commit to change. As I look back on my achievements I recognise that the thing that has made the difference is my ability to stare fear in the face, and persevere anyway.

I have discovered if I spend too much time looking at all the ways I could fail, worrying too much about what others will think of me or trying to keep everyone happy, I stay stuck. Stuck, frustrated and ultimately depressed, because deep down I know my soul is yearning for more. I have always known I could be accomplishing so much more with my life.

During the moments of fear-induced darkness I always draw strength by imagining that I am in the hands of a far greater power, and reminding myself that ultimately everything works out for my highest good. Even when life turns to custard, I believe it is all part of a greater plan for my personal growth and that happiness will prevail.
Think and Grow Positive

As I’ve said before, an acronym for fear that I find helpful is ‘fantasised experiences appearing real.’ So much of what we fear originates in our mind. The more we dwell on the possibility of a negative outcome, the more likely it is to occur. By focusing on unexamined fears you are more likely to make them come true. The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote, “Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.” If you want to achieve a positive outcome then you have to think and grow positive.

All this positive thinking doesn’t happen by itself – it’s something you have to work at constantly. The Dalai Lama sums it up well when he says, “Negative thoughts are like weeds, they grow unattended. Positive thoughts are like flowers – they have to be nurtured.”

Reality Test Your Fears

A great way to nurture your positive thoughts is to reality test your fear-based assumptions.

When I was considering making the move to self-employment my fear-induced thoughts read like this: “I’ll never make enough money.” “The only way to earn decent money is to get a proper job.” (Worry. Worry. Moan.) Not a great way to get off to a flying start, right? Friends and family added their fears to the mix and soon I was drowning in doubt.

Fear left unchecked can keep you from ever reaching your true potential. Reality test your own and/or others’ beliefs or fears. How realistic are they? Look for examples of people who are already earning an income from pursuing their passion. I recently read Richard Branson’s inspiring biography – who said you can’t make a good living having fun!

Talk to people already working in areas they are passionate about or doing the job you want to do. Who could you talk to? What ‘facts’ or assumptions do you need to check out? How could you test your fears and desires safely? Go to the media page on my website and listen to the Happy At Work interviews  – be inspired by people who have made a change toward more passionate work.

Let’s look at some common fears and some ways to challenge them:

Allow No Doubt

Attitude is everything. Be a guard for your words, thoughts and feelings. Don’t let self-doubt be the thing that pops your balloon. Be your biggest fan – back yourself 100%. We all have doubts, but it’s amazing how your doubts will disappear once you are doing the things you enjoy. Are you your biggest fan or worst enemy? How can you stay positive, confident and optimistic?

“If you let your fears keep you from flying you’ll never reach your height.” ~ India Arie, Singer


 Challenge Your Fears:

Listed below are some typical and effective ways to move from fear to faith.

1)    Remind yourself of past successes. Think of something you are fearful of, and recall a time you experienced similar concerns and worries. What did you do back then to help you feel the fear and do it anyway?

2)    Affirm for what you want. Thoughts become things so it’s important you don’t allow negative thinking to become a reality. How can you put your mind on what you do want and not what you fear?

3)    Reframe. List your worries and under each write a positive counter-statement. For example, “It’s hard to make a living as an artist” could be framed as, “Some artists make an excellent living – Mark Rothko’s painting recently sold for $78 million.

4)    Get a parachute. Make sure you are prepared for the worst-case scenario. Keep your eye on your desire for success and work proactively to minimise things that may go wrong.

5)    Analyse your fears. Are they realistic? Do the things you are worrying about really matter? Ask yourself, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen? And what else? And what else?” If all your worst-case scenarios really happened would it kill you? How could you minimise or overcome the chances of your worst fears occurring?

6)    Learn how to meditate. Control your mind and meditate your way to success. Studies consistently reveal that people who meditate worry less, and achieve more. Meditators are calmer, more optimistic and better able to bounce back from setbacks. Meditating also helps to foster creativity and strengthen intuition.

7)    Stomp out your fear and dress for success. What could you pull out of your wardrobe to help empower you? Perhaps it is a jacket that makes you feel confident when you put it on, a special piece of jewellery, a smart business shirt, a lovely smelling cologne or racy underwear? Kathryn’s handmade Western boots with pin-quill ostrich vamps and lustrous goat leather outsoles, decorative stitching and cowboy heels empowered her to feel the fear and do it anyway. “Immediately they bestowed power,” she said. “Here was the version of me who pulled herself up by her bootstraps. In the years since I brought them I’ve called on the woman with the red boots to stand up in business meetings and show up for root canals.

8)    Make a commitment. Sometimes the fear of letting others down can be a wonderful motivator. Set yourself a goal and then tell as many people as you can about your plans. Make sure they are people who believe in you!

9)    Whip procrastination and fear into shape. Whatever you dream of doing – just do it! Even baby steps are better than no steps. Take a leap! If things don’t work out just see any setbacks as teaching moments. Pat yourself on the back for having the guts to try.

10) If you suffer a setback avoid the blame game or despondency. Be self-critical in a positive way. You can do this in three steps. The first is to accept that you made a mistake. The second is to figure out why you made it. The third is to make sure you don’t repeat it. The fact that you are willing to try again already means you are one of life’s winners.

11) See problems as opportunities. Donald Trump used fear to fuel his ambition and courage. At a time when most people were losing confidence in the property market in Manhattan he took a gamble and followed his dreams anyway.

12) Look after yourself. Give yourself a good foundation for success by ensuring your mind, body and soul are in peak condition. Exercise, eat well, make room for fun in your life and only think positively about yourself.


Fear of Failure?

Many people don’t give themselves permission to make mistakes or to learn. When was the last time you gave yourself permission to fail?

If you felt the fear and failed what’s the worse that could happen? And then what? Would that be so bad?

Look for and collect examples of people who have turned ‘failure’ into success.


Fear of Success?

Some people don’t pursue their potential because they are afraid of success. Success can bring unwanted attention, criticism and the risk of failing later. Success can also be threatening to others who haven’t achieved their potential – even your best friends can become your worst critics. Are you afraid of standing out or are you prepared to be a tall poppy even though others may seek to cut you down? How could you use your own success to inspire others?

At school John used to be a champion runner. Hating being left out on his own, he deliberately started losing races so others would feel better about themselves. Now 40 years on, he realised not only was he doing the same thing in his career but that his daughter was picking up the same messages. He realised that by becoming more comfortable about soaring beyond mediocrity he could inspire his daughter to do the same.


Fear of Change?

People often put more energy into resisting change and preserving the status quo than they do in embracing change. Changing can be hard work. It means taking a risk and stepping into the unknown. Some people fear change because they believe that they might lose what they have – even though what they have may be nothing at all. For many people change means taking responsibility and ending years of blaming others, being a victim, or living in denial or in a state of apathy. How can you embrace change safely?


Fear of Disappointment?

Some people die with their music still inside, preferring to cling to the hope of their dreams rather than the reality of a possible disappointment and the risk of a shattered dream. What’s worse – the disappointment of a few setbacks or the disappointment of a life spent unfulfilled and a life of regret? All life arises out of choice – what choices are you making now?


Freeing Yourself from Fear

1)    Write down four successes that you are proud of achieving as a result of feeling the fear and doing it anyway:


2)    Remind yourself of the actions, thoughts and beliefs you held that helped you achieve those successes. Recall any fears or anxiety you may have experienced at the time:


3)    Reflect upon and list the qualities you developed as a result of your successes:


4)    What other good things came about as a result of these achievements?

5)    How could you apply what you have learned in this exercise to move toward a new goal in your life? What or who else would support you?


Quotes to inspire:

“Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning to the funeral.” ~ Kahil Gibran, Writer

 “Winners are too busy to be sad, too positive to be doubtful, too optimistic to be fearful, and too determined to be defeated.” ~ Anon

  “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie, Author

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt, Political Leader



The above was an excerpt from Happy at Work for mid-lifers +  – An inspiring and practical book guaranteed to rekindle your passion for work and life $55 NZD + pp

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