Have ever you thought this possible? Instead of stopping us from acting could they help us get better and better? Perhaps “setting fears” might be similar to “setting goals”…
We would like to offer you one somehow unusual perspective on the topic, as well as some practical tactics on how to start applying this bad feeling for good.
Something we all do
What we mean is that we all do get scared from time to time. There is hardly anyone who has never, under any circumstances, experienced that feeling.
It could be almost anything. We might be afraid of failure, even of success, and most often of the unknown. It is especially obvious now, in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As it is stated in the quote from the American horror writer Howard Lovecraft:
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown.”
It is the one that stops us in our tracks. Whether it’s work, personal relationships, health – our first impulse is to be safe rather than to change things through action. And sure enough, this won’t result in much achievement.
Where does fear reside?
Well, where else than in our head.
That’s right, it’s our imagination running amok. And the part of the brain that kicks off this emotion is the amygdala. Recently we came across an abbreviation that spells the word fear:
F = False
E = Expectations
A = Appearing
R = Real
That is, to imagine that something bad will happen, or a dozen bad things. These could be in the hundreds. This is how anxiety builds up and we become captives of it.
It’s very much like playing a horror movie in your head. We are the scriptwriter, the director, the actor and the audience at the same time… Except that we don’t get paid for the work done.
Reasonable or not, in the modern world, these emotions, activated by the amygdala, have been protecting us throughout the evolution of our species. To recognize danger – from predators, high cliffs, and whatnot – is a primal mechanism for survival.
The challenges of today
Today we rarely need it as much – how often we have to run to escape the claws of a predator!
Instead, we have many more and very different fears. Often these are related to the things we strive for. For example, quitting a secure job to start our own business is as scary as it gets. Or to have another child even if we don’t feel we are fully prepared financially and otherwise.
Our brain doesn’t see much difference between the fear for our life and the one we experience when are reluctant to do anything toward our bigger aspirations. In both cases, it does the same.
We can run or just freeze in place. The third option is to stay our ground and fight, that is, to face the reality of the situation and try to overcome it.
We never stop asking ourselves this question and the answers keep exploring some very interesting scenarios. This excessive analysis of all possible ways things might go down will at some point just paralyze us.
But don’t get us wrong here. We are far from claiming it is a bad thing to do so. But we have to be reasonable and objective about the difficulties ahead of us. (Some of the fans of the concept of burning all the bridges would probably disagree here. They are perfectly okay to go on without a plan B which raises the stakes and thus ensures they will be doing their best to succeed).
Giving our predicament a good and sober look will help us not to rush things or overreact. Becoming a hostage to panic is the last thing we want.
But do we always find the courage to take on these challenges?
Let’s have a look at some practical ways how we can take advantage of this situation.
# 1 If you want to figure out your true dreams then just examine your insecurities
Sure, not everything that scares us would reveal a positive potential. But in any case, there will be some grain of truth to be pulled out. And if we make the effort to go deeper we could very well come to the understanding of yet another true personal value we hold without being fully aware of it.
A very good illustration is the ability to speak publicly. But what if you have a great idea that can help many? You will feel compelled to overcome the stage fright and step forward. We both have had this experience.
We dread the stumbling, sweating, or the mouth drying out and losing our thoughts… We don’t want to be just standing out there making complete fools of ourselves. But then we step forward on the stage and something completely different happens.
Fear reveals what we have to overcome and defeat to clear the path to our future.
# 2 Instead of “total blockage” think about how you can act
We liked a popular episode of the Ted Talks series by Tim Ferris, creator of the “Fear Setting” concept. That’s how we learned of this easy exercise:
Write down a dream of yours on a piece of paper and then draw three columns below.
In the first one, you list all the potential problems that not only worry you but also stop you from becoming a better person. In the second, you write for each of those how you could deal with them. And in the third, you get to figure out how to reverse any potential negative outcomes.
We can use our fears to point in the direction where we need to take action.
# 3 Break the big fear into smaller ones
In our “GoalBuddy” system, we have this grand, the so-called “impossible” dream which we work on gradually, breaking it down into 90-day goals, and those, in turn, into small weekly steps. It’s the same story with our fears. If you are afraid of the lion, face a cub instead…
Start honing your rhetorical skills talking to a few people at first and then move to larger groups. And once you’ve been on stage in front of hundreds of people addressing something like a conference room will be a piece of cake.
What do a lion and audience have in common?
Well, the answer is simple – it’s the way things work when it comes to being scared of them.
That experience, positive and not so positive, will build up and you will become more confident. And next time you can do better. Your fear might be still as potent as before, but you have become a little bit less preoccupied with it.
Your world hasn’t become a better place, but you are more positive about it and learned how to live in it with less anxiety.
# 4 Show yourself what you can do about it
The amygdala has been responsible for saving our lives by preventing us from doing some stupid things.
At the same time, many people do engage in high-risk endeavors such as bungee jumping or skydiving. And if you think about it would make perfect sense in light of what we’ve been discussing so far.
If you manage to face your fears in a controlled environment you can find out what else you can do to break free of it.
Once you have managed to do this you will remember for the rest of your life that it wasn’t the end of the world – nobody laughed at you, nobody left the room and in the end, you got applauded. That’s how you become immune to unfounded fears and insecurities.
# 5 “To become very good at it” [very personally courtesy of Niki]
In the past, he loved to dance, but on one specific condition – there should be not a living soul within 300 feet.
This “phobia” was a big deal and seriously troubled him during his high school years.
What do you think he did? Well, he almost became a professional dancer.
He started taking classes and trained hard for seven years. But in the end, he had to choose between turning pro and going on with his higher education. Eventually, the answer was in favor of the latter.
The bottom line is that whatever scares you the most might very well be the way of unlocking some new “superpower” of yours.
Don’t you worry!
Everyone could feel fear – that’s normal. But not everyone can overcome it and start doing what would eventually help them grow and prosper.
Seneca has famously said that we suffer much more in our imagination than in reality.
And why should we?
Instead, let’s see how our insecurities can give us direction, help us become braver through a gradual process of conquering our fears bit by bit.
And finally – do not be afraid to write to us! You can suggest new ideas or ask any questions. And if you feel a bit too intimidated to comment on today’s topic is too great then share this article at least once! J