How To Cultivate The Habit of Fear

Fear is at the root of every personal development and peak performance methodology. It is the most primal of emotions and the wall that stands in the way of taking action.

So why would anyone want to make fear a habit?

Because fear is misunderstood. It is not your enemy. Fear is in fact your best friend on your journey to success. Every time you take that step outside your comfort zone, rest assured, fear, your faithful companion, will be by your side. Fear is nothing more than excitement with a touch of caution.

As long as you choose to keep growing in life, it will require some degree of risk. Growth cannot occur without change or risk. And with risk comes fear. It is only natural to experience fear when you do something new. It lives within us because it serves a purpose. Not only does it keep us alive, but almost always, it also makes us come alive.

More than likely, you don’t feel fear before sitting down to watch a movie, but signing up for your first marathon, on the other hand, that may just cause your heart to skip a few beats.

Fear lets you know when you are about to do something grand.

The problem is that from a young age we are told that fear is for the weak. We are told to prevent it from ever entering our hearts and minds. But the more we resist it, the more it will persist. By trying to control it, we give it power over us, and that is when we find ourselves paralyzed by it.

Should we simply be with it and embrace it, it will help guide us as we navigate our way into the unforgiving unknown.

Cave diving is often considered the most dangerous sports in the world. There is no room for error. If something goes wrong, you can’t just swim to the surface. Underwater caves have been transformed into a tomb for many excellent divers.

Jill Heinerth is a master at the art and has dived more caves than any woman in history. She is also the first person to dive into an iceberg cave in Antarctica. Considering her level of experience, she still feels fear on every one of her dives. Fear keeps her alive by breeding a healthy respect for the hostile environment she regularly explores.

Making fear a habit

NASA conducted a study where a group of astronauts wore convex goggles that made everything look upside down. They were required to wear these goggles for every minute of the day for a period of 30 days. The purpose of the study was to determine how these astronauts would cope with life in an anti-gravity environment. What they did not expect to find was that after 25 to 30 days, even with the convex goggles on, every astronaut started to see the world the right way up again. Their brains created new neural pathways that flipped the image coming into the eye to help them function with optimal efficiency.

In a second study, NASA had half the astronauts in the group take the goggles off for one full day after 15 days of wearing them. They found that it then took another 25-30 days for their brains to flip the image.

To condition a new habit to the point where your brain has created a new neural pathway for that habit takes an uninterrupted period of 30 days.

How to shift your relationship with fear

Every single day for the next 30 days, do something that scares you. No matter how small or large. That may sound challenging, especially if you have a comfort zone that extends far beyond the average persons, but even with a certain degree of comfort for the unknown, it isn’t too difficult to find something that makes the butterflies in your stomach go wild.

In my 28 years, I have been skydiving, cave diving, ice diving, I have spent 7 months in a war zone with the US Marines, climbed mountains all over the world, climbed vertical cliffs without the safety of a rope, started two businesses and spoken on a stage at a fortune 100 company.

On more than one occasion, someone has asked me how I developed a no fear attitude. I always tell them that I was and continue to be afraid every single time I try something new, and even when I am doing something that initially scared me more than once.

While driving to the drop zone for my seventh skydive, I was terrified. During the hour and a half drive, I spent most of the time almost hoping it would rain so I would not have to jump. Fortunately, it did not rain and I made the jump.

Without giving it a second thought I walked back to the drop zone, grabbed a new parachute and got back on the plane for my eighth dive.

Each step into fear builds confidence to tackle new challenges and set higher goals. Fear has always been the precursor to possibility.

But even with an expanded comfort zone, I continue to find activities that scare me.

I still get nervous even when speaking in front of a small group at a toastmasters meeting or when I am about to start an insane workout that will leave me drenched in sweat.

Planning out your 30 day journey into fear

No matter how much life you have experienced, plan out 30 activities that make you a little nervous and spend the next 30 days engaging in one of them every day.

These could be speaking in front of a group, trying something new that you may not be good at, taking dance classes, working out, eating something that you ordinarily would not, the list is endless.

Or you can even devote an entire month to one single terrifying expedition. I did this in May of last year when I spent 28 days skiing across the second largest icecap in the world in Greenland. In temperatures as low as -40 degrees, I dragged a 190-pound sled for 350 miles. I had to get very comfortable with fear during that month.

You can also spend 30 days traveling to new countries that push you outside your comfort zone. Or you can do what one of my friends did. She turned her training regimen into a fun game by pretending to swim across the English Channel. Every day, she devoted hours to swimming a certain number of miles and symbolically complete this expedition in less than a month.

Use your imagination to create ways to interact with fear that are in line with your life goals and passions. Whatever method you choose, the point of this exercise is to commit to engaging with fear for one whole month.

At the end of the month, you will have grown in leaps and bounds emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. 

By conditioning the fires of the human spirit that lives within you, it will become undeniably clear that the human potential is truly infinite.

The only thing standing in the way of you creating the life of your dreams is not fear, it is your relationship to fear. Create a new relationship by making fear a constant companion on your journey and you will find within you the courage to embark upon any voyage into the unknown, no matter how stormy the seas or dark the skies.

For as Meg Cabot said, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”

Cultivating the habit of fear is in fact cultivating the habit of courage and strengthening the muscle to move forward despite it.

What will you do for the next 30 days of your life?