Overcoming Fear

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not
what ships are built for. – William Shedd

Fear has always been the great enemy of success. More people are held back by fears than by any other factor. It is an emotion that overrides our intelligence, stops us from moving towards our goals and overall worsens our quality of life. People often do not recognize the impact fear has in their lives, simply because they use different words to describe the emotion – words such as worry, nervousness, stress, shyness or anxiety. Specific fears can also be hard to discover, even though they may constrain our lives immensely – fears such as the fear of failure, rejection, making mistakes, public speaking, asking someone out on a date, expressing your opinion or asking for what you want. Our goal in this chapter is to overcome fear so that we can make our own, rational choices on how to act, instead of just reacting blindly in a fearful situation.

Fear of Failure

The major fear that stands as the greatest obstacle to success is fear of failure. The problem is not actually failure, which can make us stronger and more determined, but the fear itself that paralyzes us from action. We attach fear to things we do not need to have any intense feelings about. To things like trying something new and not having it turn out exactly the way we expect, which some people would choose to call failure.

Fear of failure is what restricts people to their comfort zone. It is what makes them avoid risks and play it safe as the years pass them by. We fear going for what we want in case we fail, but by giving in to our fears we have already failed. Ask yourself: What one thing would you attempt to do if you knew you would be successful? This will help you recognize in what areas the unconscious fears of failure are holding you back. If you ask this over and over again, your entire view of what is possible will expand dramatically. You will see clearly what you really want to be, have and do, and simultaneously realize that it is only the fear and doubt in your own abilities that are holding you back. The main reason for fear of failure is that most people do not understand the role of failure in achieving success. The correlation is simple: you cannot achieve success without failing. Failure is an essential part of becoming successful in anything. The key to solving fear of failure is to realize that there is no failure, only feedback. You always learn something and the lesson learned is always worth more than the price of getting it. See failure as temporary isolated incidents of life-instruction, and fail forward by quickly bouncing back from it with a new approach.

Overcoming Fear

We all feel fear initially, but some people learn to overcome it. Therefore, it is not fear itself that is the problem, but how we react when faced with it. For some people the fear is motivating. For others it creates a state of complete paralysis. People who overcome fear view it from a position of power, and may use words such as “excited” to describe the emotion rather than labeling it negatively.

A fascinating thing about fears is that if you face them courageously, they diminish. On the other hand, if you back away from them they grow until they have the power to hold you back from any progress. The key then to overcoming fears is to face them quickly and bravely, without giving yourself time to be afraid. When you discipline yourself to do the thing you fear, your fear of the situation gradually goes away. You just do what you fear again and again until it holds no more fear for you. You face the fear, confront the fear, and act despite the fear until you are no longer afraid.

As an example, one of the greatest fears for most people, ranked even before death, is the fear of public speaking. However, studies in this area have found something quite interesting. No matter how afraid of public speaking a person is, if that person is required to regularly stand up and speak to a group, eventually the person will lose their fear of speaking and become good at it. His confidence will gradually rise and his competence will follow until he feels no uneasiness at all. Therefore, if you want to reprogram a fear response fast, put yourself in a situation where you are faced with the fearful event again and again. This will go into your subconscious mind and quickly reprogram your fear response. Another powerful approach is to face your fears in small doses that are easy to overcome. For example, if you are afraid to talk to strangers you can start out with just becoming comfortable holding eye contact with people. You then add a greeting, then a question, and so on until you can hold a conversation with a stranger without any uneasiness at all.

The problem with overcoming fears is that no matter which approach we choose we will still experience some fear initially, which causes a crippling inertia for many people. Fortunately, there is a way to stop the fear from occurring in the first place. Since fear is a state of mind, it is only as powerful as its representation in your head. In the case of fear, it only has an impact on you if you have an expectation of a painful consequence. If you can access how fears are represented in your mind, through your internal pictures and dialog, you can change them into something that supports and motivates you. When your representations carry no imagined negative consequences they will lose their fearful impact. The way to do this is to face your fears in your imagination first, by visualizing yourself acting courageously in the fearful situation and achieving great rewards as a result of it. See yourself with a confident voice and posture skillfully confronting the fear, and at the same time change any representations that might work against you. Run through this mental movie several times to build the momentum to do it in real life.

Now that you have learned how to overcome fear, it is time to make the decision to be free of your fears and to make a habit throughout your life of facing the things you fear. If you act bravely in spite of fear, you will keep on growing. On the other hand, if you avoid the things you fear then fear will control your life. Therefore resolve right now to be free of your fears. Keep in mind that no matter how secure we may feel in our comfort zone, pushing through fear will always lead to a happier and more fulfilling life.

Self-confidence

To diminish our fears we can develop our self-confidence – our belief in ourselves and our abilities. Self-confidence is not absence of fear, but mastery of fear. It is a foundation quality of success in every walk of life and the most recognizable attribute of a happy, healthy and successful person. The more confident you are the more attractive and persuasive you will be, and the better you will perform at everything you turn your hand to. You will take more chances, be less affected by temporary setbacks and commit yourself to achieve objectives that today you can only dream about. With greater self-confidence, with an unshakable belief in yourself, nothing would be impossible for you.

The key to developing self-confidence is to recognize that it is just a state of mind that you can create anytime you want no matter what situation you are in. You can feel confident about anything, even things you have never done before, by controlling your physiology, focus and representations. In essence, by acting as if you are already confident. A feeling of confidence is nothing but a sense of certainty that you can do something, a belief that you will succeed in your undertakings and an absolute trust in yourself and your abilities. You need to install this belief, by visualizing and defining yourself as a confident person who overcomes their fears. Once you have done that, your subconscious mind will take care of the rest.

The very highest level of self-confidence that you can reach is the point where you are totally unafraid. The level when you feel so good about yourself and your abilities that you are willing to try just about anything. When you are not concerned about what other people think of you and you stand up for what you believe in and pursue your goals without hesitation. You will then have reached the point where success starts to come naturally.

Summary

  1. Fear is one of the main factors that may hold us back from pursuing our goals.
  2. View fear from a position of power and excitement instead of pain and paralysis.
  3. Make a habit of doing the things you fear so that you will overcome them.
  4. Develop an absolute belief in yourself and in your ability to overcome any obstacles.
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