The Renaissance scholar Michel de Montaigne once wisely shared how “there is no passion so contagious as that of fear.”
Oh how right he was. Fear lurks in the background of many of our lives. Think about all of our potential fears:
Fear of the unknown
Fear of criticism
Fear of not being popular
Fear of backlash
Fear of being let go
Fear of being forgotten
Although the majority of us strive to better our lives and accelerate our productivity, many of our daily decisions are governed by fear. We want to do more, but risk less; we want things to change, but don’t want to take the first step in a new direction; we want to fight for what matters most to us but don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable.
Let’s face it; fear keeps us living small. Fear places us in a box of our own making. It lulls us into spending so much time and energy focusing on what we don’t want to happen that we forget pushing outside our comfort zones is the only way we can ever hope to grow into our potential.
The remedy, you ask? Make a commitment to rethink the role fear can play in your life. Instead of fear being a foe that holds you back from moving into unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory, begin to see at as a potential friend that can open the door to a whole new world of possibilities. Here are four tips on how to get started:
Own your fears: It’s easy to ignore, deny or dismiss our fears. In a society that stresses the importance of appearing strong, confident and courageous, showing fear can be perceived as weakness. But when we flip this flawed thinking on its head and choose to face our fears head on, we are taking the first and most important step to seize control of the situation. As former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” To which I would simply add, and choose to press forward anyway.
Channel your fear: Once you own your fears you can think about what exactly you want to change and then establish a path to get you there. Oftentimes we’re afraid of something because we haven’t been exposed to it very much. “Fear of the unknown” is a commonly used phrase to describe the automatic aversion people feel to something that’s different. If you’re afraid of something because it’s a mystery, try channeling your fear in a productive direction by exposing yourself to it in small doses until you gain a better understanding and pay attention to how your fear will begin to dissipate.
Don’t confuse fear with fate: If you’re afraid of failure, you might decide that it is not in the cards for you to start the business you’ve always wanted or risk facing your fear of social interaction. The truth is, you have tremendous control over your future. You have the power to determine the path you will take. Resist the temptation to hope things turn out for the best and leave it up to fate. Do your homework but don’t become paralyzed by preparation. Never forget the most important step you will take is the first one that gets you moving in the direction of your dreams.
Celebrate your victories: It takes a certain amount of momentum to deal with fear. Don’t wait until your fear has been completely overcome to give yourself a pat on the back for your effort. Make it a point to celebrate each milestone, no matter how small. When you experience how good it feels to gain an edge on your fear, it will be easier to face the next opportunity head-on.
When we begin to reframe fear as an opportunity to set us on a path to achieve our potential, fear becomes less an inconvenient hindrance and more a powerful tool to help us identify problems and solve them effectively. It becomes a guidepost, a signal that reminds us how leaning into our fears is a necessary step in becoming the best version of ourselves.
Why not get started today?