Fear. It is one of the biggest challenges we face in life and can stop any of us from achieving the things we want. Fear can stop you taking on that wild mountain bike trail that you know you would love to complete, it can stop you seeking promotion, it can make you take the easy route in life when the harder one may have been so much more rewarding. It can even get in the way of a relationship too, but to overcome fear we have to understand it.
If we look at some of those examples, what is the fear really about? In our mountain biking example, is the fear about getting hurt, or is it the fear of failing in front of friends? Is the fear of asking for a promotion or raise about being rejected? It’s a dilemma we spend far too much time on in life, but I was once told a little trick that not only helps but shows what most fear is related to. Its probably not what you think.
To overcome fear of something that is coming, whether it’s an appraisal at work, an awkward conversation, taking a flight when you are a nervous flyer, anything, you should open up a notebook, and draw a monster on the page. Make it as scary as possible, the worst thing you can imagine. Once complete, turn the page. Your monster is now gone, but when you turn back, it won’t look as scary anymore. Why? Because you know its there, its not new, and this is at the heart of that crippling fear that can stop you doing the things that can enrich your life. The scariest thing of them all, the unknown.
At the heart of most fear is that you don’t know what will happen. You don’t know if you can ride that mountain bike trail, get that promotion, pass the appraisal or whatever is holding you back, but the thing is, that is all completely natural. Fear of the unknown is part of the survival instinct, something we all have within us. The challenge then, is overcoming that fear of the unknown, rather than let fear set the limits of what you can achieve in life.
Knowing that it is something that is part of us all, and not some failing or weakness, is part of that process, so let us say it one more time. Fear is a natural thing, and you can overcome it. Our exercise with the monster over the page shows how it works, once you know what is there, even if it’s a monster, it doesn’t seem so bad. So, next time you are finding yourself fearful of a new situation, think about why it is making you feel that way. What is the worst that could happen? You fall off your bike, you don’t get the promotion this time, then what? You get up, dust yourself down and go again. You ask why you are not suited for the promotion this time, and you work on them so when the next opportunity comes, you will be ready. Knowing that in reality, even a negative outcome of anything can be a positive learning experience and another step on your way to success can help alleviate that fear. After all, if you already accept that if things don’t go how you hoped, you will still have something positive to take from the experience, what is there to be fearful of at all? You can turn fear into motivation, help push you forwards instead of holding you back, once you know what monster is lurking, it is never so scary again.