Once you have identified your vision and set the goals, it is time to act. Implementing what I had planned used to be a challenge for me – I feared stepping out into the unknown. If fear ever restricts you from going after your goals – this article is for you.
Fear is something most people struggle with. It is a complicated emotion that can feel very alien and strange; it often disempowers and paralyses us. Fear is, however, one of the basic emotions we humans experience and exists for a reason. Fear is a natural response to any situation in which your body senses that something is out of the ordinary. It has accompanied us on our evolutional journey helping us survive. Like any other emotion, it is natural and can become our friend instead of foe. Here is how.
The first step to understanding your fear is to become aware of it.
I find it helpful to take a few deep breaths to calm my emotions and mind. I then ask myself, “What am I feeling right now?” In the beginning, with little practice in naming my feelings, the answer often would be “I am stressed”. I would continue questioning until I got to the core. It takes time and courage to dig up the honest answer since being scared is often frowned upon as a weakness.
Being honest helps me identify emotions like fear, and I can move to the second step – acknowledgement.
Acknowledge that you are afraid
Once you name it, you acknowledge fear’s existence; you allow yourself to feel it. It is essential to refrain from any urge to judge the situation, to label yourself as a loser or coward or else. In the acknowledgement phase, you admit that you experience the emotion you have become aware of and nothing else.
This phase is short and still, I believe, one of the most important phases in understanding fear. It relates to any other emotions you experience as well. When we refuse to acknowledge something we feel, we deny our feelings. However, the emotion does not disappear because we deny it – it stays. It influences our actions and mental and even physical condition; it grows with time, robs us of the energy and creates a conflict in ourselves. I believe that every emotion is there for a reason, and it is wiser to learn to integrate them into our lives than to deny and resist – in the long term, of course.
Understand the nature of fear
Fear is a complicated emotion that can feel very alien and strange. You see, fear is a normal, even healthy, emotion. It’s just one of the many ways we protect ourselves from danger and keep ourselves from harm. But fear can be scary, even paralysing, when you’re not used to it. That’s why it’s essential to understand what it is and how it feels.
Fear is a natural emotion that is triggered when we sense danger. Fear can be specific to a particular situation, such as being afraid of heights or lizards. Or it can be general and generalised, which is what we usually think of when we hear the word.
Notwithstanding these many different types of fear, fear is just an emotion we experience due to a universal reaction that triggers the body’s flight-or-fight response. When you are afraid, you are not yet hurt, not yet in danger. It is a warning sign. But tell me, do you stop driving, get out of the car and run away each time you see a “Danger ahead” road sign?
Identify your fear
What do you do when you see the “Danger ahead” road sign? You slow down and look at the explanatory sign accompanying it to see what hazard is in front of you.
Now when you have calmed down and understood that what you are feeling is healthy and valuable, it is time to identify the trigger. Why does this new challenge scare you? Is it because you don’t have enough practical skills to accomplish it? What are the skills you need? Can you outsource them? Can you learn them?
Identifying your fear is a handy tool to use when you are afraid. It takes your mind off the perceived immediate danger. Your pulse calms down, you are getting more curious than scared, and you switch into solution-finding mode.
Choose response and not reaction
The difference between response and reaction is a conscious choice. You see, reactions are born in our unconscious mind, like instincts. When you react, your subconscious is auto-piloting you.
It might not be the worst thing in the world; however, our subconsciousness is a limited collection of reactions. Its only purpose is to ensure we survive. It does not differentiate between the fear of being eaten by a T-Rex and the fear of taking on a more senior role. It just reacts – either with flight or with a fight.
A response is a thoughtful reply that aligns with your goals and considers all possible outcomes. Each time you choose to respond, you take over the control of your life.
In time, you will have your own collections of fears you have overcome. Looking at my collection, I recognise fear for what it has mostly been for me – a sign that something is about to change. And I welcome it because for me feeling it means that I am about to face another growth opportunity.
I was (and still am) afraid of public speaking. The combined load of expectations, attention, challenge and discomfort if I make a fool of myself by making a mistake pressure me. I lose my confidence, sweat, worry, and fear that someone could ask me a question I cannot answer.
Do I scold myself for experiencing this fear? Do I try to prohibit myself from feeling this way? Do I regret feeling fear afterwards? Not at all. I understand my anxiety because I know where it is coming from, and I allow myself to experience it.
There is no use in restricting the emotions – it will only make you more anxious. Instead, you can use the tools you have to ensure the feelings do not influence your performance negatively.
Allow yourself to be you, feel what your body and mind are willing to experience, and be kind towards yourself. Kindness creates kindness. Each time I’ve spoken in front of the public, I leave the stage feeling grateful to myself. And if I have made some mistakes, I add them to my Growth Compass – a list I keep with all the things I want to know about, study and master in the future.
This article was originally posted on my webpage and this is a re-worked version of it.