The universal truth about fear is that it affects everyone one of us. But when was the last time we stopped to really analyze our fears?
Not only to see what they are but also to see what they stop us from becoming.
How many opportunities do we miss by avoiding things we’re afraid of?
The reality is we’ll never know. There could be life-changing jobs, friendships and business connections, just waiting to be taken or formed.
And that’s the scary side effect of letting fear control our lives: we never know what we’re truly capable of achieving. We risk years of regret, what-ifs, and should-have-dones by giving fear the keys and letting it decide our ultimate destination.
Despite all its uncertainty, fear does make a few guarantees:
- Fear kills dreams.
- Fear holds us back.
- Fear distorts our world.
- And fear determines our success or failure.
It has the ability to infect our minds, sneak its way into our everyday language, and consume all of our thoughts —if we let it.
We can’t let our fears stop us like this, if we want to achieve at the highest level. In fact, top-performers learn how to act in spite of their fears. They crush fear before it has a chance to fester and destroy.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
- Michael Jordan: Arguably, the greatest basketball player of all time. Do you remember how he began his career? He didn’t even start on his college basketball team. He wasn’t just handed a plate of basketball talents and told “Enjoy!” Not at all. He worked his ass off until he reached the pinnacle of success. And he knows what it takes to overcome obstacles and barriers.
- What does he say about fear?
“Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”
- Fears are just an illusion. Something we create in our heads that stops us from achieving at the highest level. Look where this belief got him in life: Hall of Fame, Greatest Player of All-time, and still getting multimillion dollar endorsement deals years after playing in the NBA.
- Another great example: Warren Buffett, the greatest investor of our time. He’s amassed so much wealth from savvy investing that he’s literally bailed out entire countries on the brink of bankruptcy. Our government and top CEOs around the world turn to him in times of crises for investing advice.
- What is one of his basic tenets of investing?
“Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”
- Translation: His greatest investments have come from taking huge risks in the face of fear. When there’s blood on the streets and nobody can think clearly about their investments, Buffett’s out there buying stocks, hand over fists. He doesn’t let fear stop him; in fact he uses it to his advantage. And he’s one of the wealthiest people of all time.
Successful people leave clues for us. So what are top-performers, like Buffett and Jordan, showing us?
Face your fears, and you’ll get the payoffs.
Without taking risks, without facing our fears, and without pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone, we can never reach our true potential.
It’s really that simple.
SO why don’t more of us do exactly that?
Because a lot of us hear advice like this and think “Ha! Easy for you to say! You don’t have [insert disadvantage], and I don’t have [insert excuse about time or resources].”
Immediately, we react with how our situation is SO special, SO unique, and SO different from everyone else.
It’s an automatic defense mechanism that flares up.
What’s really happening here?
We’re creating a story for ourselves. We’re rationalizing our fears and inaction. Nobody wants to feel like a fool; I get that.
I used to feed myself story after story. I hated feeling bad about myself, and stories created quick fixes to feel better.
In reality, I was hiding from the truth.
So let’s be honest with each other
The truth makes us uncomfortable, especially when it exposes weaknesses inside ourselves. It makes me cringe when I think back on the laundry list of excuses I used to delay improving myself. In fact years ago, I had dozens of books on personal development, filled with tactic after tactic, scattered all throughout my room. I had no excuse not to follow through, yet I allowed fear remain in control. I’d go chasing another tactic, claiming I wasn’t ready yet; I needed to work on just one more thing. And nothing got done.
I knew it was BS then, but it was comforting to hide from fear.
I did this for years; until I realized we have the power within us to make decisions, and we empower ourselves by taking actions toward our goals, no matter how daunting they may seem today.
No matter how fearful we might be, we never improve by continuously consuming information alone. You have to go out in the world and try things.
You can have disproportionate rewards in life.
100x your next closest competitor. I’m talking about absolutely crushing your goals; Defying your wildest expectations, with regard to every area life achievements.
But to do that, you must escape the shackles of fear.
Behind every fear is the person you want to be. If you tackle your fears, you can become the person of your dreams.
Yoda said it best, “Named your fear must be, before banish it you can.”
And that’s exactly what we’re doing today: Banishing Fear. For life.
For years, decades even, you may have walked around, letting fear guide you, letting it beat you down and make you its victim.
Today, let’s turn the tide. Flip the script and make fear your slave.
Today, let’s face fear head on and empower ourselves to break free.
Your challenge for today: start crushing your fears in five simple steps
1) Specific goals: Make a list of 5 things you’ve really wanted to do but haven’t because fear has been holding you back. It can be anything, even something as simple as saying “Hi” to a colleague when you walk past them in the hall all the way to initiating a full-scale conversation with someone new. Be creative and don’t hesitate to write anything down. If you want it, list it. Even if you think it’s silly or you can’t do it just yet, don’t let that stop you for now. Just write it all down, and we’ll get to that later. Ideally, you should spend 2-3 minutes brainstorming things you want to do, but it may take you less time.
Whatever you do, just get to 5 things.
Here are a few questions you might ask yourself to uncover hidden areas where fear may be stopping you from acting:
· Have you wanted to make small talk with someone specific but keep putting it off?
· Have you wanted to speak up in a meeting, but can’t find the words to say or the confidence to deliver it?
· Have you been putting off asking that girl/guy out to lunch?
· Is there some place you’ve wanted to go, but felt it would be weird to go alone?
· Is there a group or organization you’ve wanted to join, but didn’t know who you’d be able to talk to there?
Once you have your list of 5 things, move on to the next step. But don’t skip ahead. Be thorough here. I promise if you go through the exercise correctly, you’ll reap the rewards.
2) Selection: Now that you have your list of 5 things/action items, take a second to review it. Really go back over it and make sure you don’t want to add anything else. Okay, what you’re going to do next might shock you, but I want you to select only the top two goals that you’d like to achieve. Shelve the other four things for now. You’re going to focus all of your mental energy on this one goal. This should be the utmost important to you. Something that, if you accomplished them, would make you feel incredibly excited, overjoyed even. Circle just one.
Keep moving, now, to the next step.
3) Systematize: Here’s where get very strategic in our approach. Anyone can make a list of goals and feel good for a moment. But for most people, goals go into a pile of dreams and wishes to remain unfinished. We differentiate ourselves by creating a plan to follow through. So now, let’s create a simple set of action steps to help achieve your goal. For example, if my goals was to start a conversation with one of my colleagues, I’d include the time of day I planned to talk to them; I’d make sure to plan on starting the conversation on day when I wasn’t pressed for time so I could be more present and authentic; I’d even go so far as to script out a conversation, not only with what I’d plan on saying to initiate a quick chat, but also, with what I’d say to exit the conversation, if I started to feel uncomfortable.
4) See: Create a vivid vision of yourself following through on your goal and conquering your fears. Let the positive emotions wash over you that come from taking this action. Allow yourself to enjoy this moment, and see yourself as truly being successful. Remember, our minds can’t tell a vision in our heads apart from something that actually happens to us. So you can use this to your advantage and practice in advance, without actually having to take action just yet. The more vivid and real you can make your vision, the more powerful this exercise becomes. So include, how things look, smell, and feel in your visualization.
5) Lastly, start fulfilling your dreams, today. Go out and take action toward your goal. Now that you know what you want to do, how to do it, and have seen yourself be successful, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.
Most people don’t work on their dreams or try to channel greatness. They let life happen to them and fear ruins every accomplishment.
What will you do?
Let me know what happened when you tackled your first fear in the comments section below.
Robert Allen is a business consultant, writer and college student in Nashville, Tenn. He’s an expert in social influence, sales and behavioral psychology. He’ll soon be launching a site on social skills. Be sure to connect with or follow him on LinkedIn for updates and future posts.