The American Heritage dictionary defines fear as a "feeling of
agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of
danger." Fear puts the body in "fight or flight" state, ready to
respond to a physical threat to our survival.
Most of our fears, however, are not based on physical threats. They're based on perceived threats, or more accurately, about some future event that usually has a low probability of happening. A Course in Miracles tells us, “Only your mind can produce fear.”
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can stop us from reaching our potential and it can hold us back from living life to its fullest. Fear robs us of our creativity and it diminishes our personal power. "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." (Yoda, Star Wars)
Overcoming fear is critical to accomplishing the things we want in life. And it's a necessary ingredient for improving our life situations. Here are six steps to help overcome fear.
Step One - Become Aware
Sometimes our fears have been with us so long that we don't even realize they're there. They've become a habit. Many were ingrained in us by our parents to help keep us safe. "Look both ways before crossing the street" or "Don't talk to strangers" is good advice to keep children safe. But do both statements, directed to us in fear, still serve us now as adults?
What are you afraid of? Start noticing. Keep a log throughout the day, writing down fears or anxieties that come up. Before you can change anything, you must be aware of it.
Step Two - Look Underneath
Most of our fears rest on shaky foundations just waiting to be crumbled. They're based on irrational beliefs; negative self-scripts handed down from others or that we’ve given ourselves; a weak self-image or self-concept that inhibits us from asserting ourselves; or excuses we hide behind to avoid change or growth.
Getting to the root cause of our fears means looking underneath the fear and examining our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
Choose one fear on your list and complete this sentence:
I am afraid of _________ because _______. (write down the first thing that comes to mind)
Keep writing this statement, filling in the blanks with the first thing that comes to your mind, 20-30 times. Don't judge. Just write quickly, letting it flow out.
When you’re finished, go back and read what you've written. Look for repeats. Note any aha's or surprises. Did any categories or types of fears emerge? Write a short summary of your findings. Do this for each fear on your list.
Step Three - Stop Sinking, Change Your Thinking
The continuous mind chatter that swirls in our head is often our worst enemy. This inner critic keeps the fear alive by telling us all the reasons why we "can't" do or be something. It focuses our minds on impossibilities and imminent failure, programming our subconscious mind to bring us even more "reasons" why we can't.
However, if we change our focus and start saying "I CAN," then the subconscious mind goes out looking for ways that we CAN instead of finding evidence to support the fear (I can't).
Throughout the day, keep track of the times you say or think "I can't." Invite a friend or co-worker to “catch you” in conversations when "I can't" slips out. When you do say or think "I can't," immediately change that statement to "I can."
"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right "- Henry Ford
Step Four - Visualize Fearlessness
To be a success, we have to first "see" ourselves being successful. It's like "practicing" in your mind. Athletes do it all the time. They see themselves crossing the finish line, making the touchdown, or hitting that home run. They have confidence and "know" they can succeed. You can too.
Take time to visualize yourself and your life when you are no
longer trapped by this fear. What will be different? How will
you feel? What possibilities might lie ahead when you are fearless?
Write this down in detail and take time every day to meditate on being fearless. Really get into the feeling of it, living it in your mind.
Step Five - Create a Plan
We're aware of the fear, we've changed our "can't's" to "cans," we see ourselves living fearlessly and "doing" the thing that we fear.... Now it's time to get out there and "do it" for real!
Chances are though; the fear may have multiple layers and will need several baby steps before conquering it completely. For instance, if you have a fear of public speaking, volunteering to give an hour long presentation at your next meeting would probably not be a good first step. Joining a Toastmasters group where you can "practice" speaking in front of people who are also working on the same fear, would be a better plan.
Look at your fear. How can you break it down into smaller do-able steps? Create a plan and schedule it on your to-do list.
Step Six - DO It!
Gather your courage and faith in yourself and take action. Give
yourself a push and just DO it! The more experience you have
doing it, the more the fear will subside.
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."- Dale Carnegie
Reaching our potential and living life to its fullest is all about having control over our life. Without this control, we’re at the mercy of our environment. Overcoming our fears puts us in the driver’s seat of our own lives so that we CAN live our best life and be our best self.
"It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live." -Marcus Aurelius
Copyright © 2008 Becky Waters
Becky Waters is a Spiritual Life Coach whose passion is to help her clients move past their fears, discover their true selves, and get on with the passionate pursuit of their dreams. She is co-author of the book, "Success and Happiness: Leading experts reveal their secrets," editor/author of the "TIPs for the Journey" monthly ezine, and composer/creator of numerous guided meditations. Get her free report, "3 Steps to a Better Life Write Now" at www.YourSoulJourneyCoaching.com