Do 1 simple thing to tame your fears and turn weaknesses into strengths
What I am about to tell you may (or may not) surprise you… I hate writing. I abso-freaking-lutely hate writing.
Now, to hate something is a strong sentiment for me, but how else can I describe my intense loathing for writing? “I despise writing with extreme passion?”
My grandparents were on their way from Texas to Virginia to attend my high school graduation and I didn’t know if I was going to graduate yet. I was still waiting to see the results of my final writing assignment in English. I needed a 71% and scored a 71.5% — phew.
In retrospect, I think Ms. Bagby gave me a passing grade so I wouldn’t return.
In college, I would try to take classes that didn’t have writing assignments. Better yet, if they did, I would calculate my grades to see if I could get away with not doing them. It was then that I learned a very important formula for graduating college, C = degree.
This utter disdain for writing wouldn’t have been an issue, but for my chosen profession. In the military, I had to write and write well. I had to write intelligence reports, information papers, operations orders, and more.
So, I couldn’t approach writing with the same attitude I had in high school and college. I had to ensure that the information I was conveying was clear, concise, and correct.
I had a weakness and needed to turn it into one of my strengths.
How did I go about doing this? With one simple step. The same step I used to overcome some of my fears.
Challenge the thunderstorms in your life
In the late 80s, I remember G. Gordon Liddy talking about how he was able to get over his fears as a kid. He was afraid of pretty much everything, in particular, heights and thunderstorms.
When a storm came, instead of cowering in a corner somewhere, he decided to climb a tree as high as he could and yell at it.
He would scream at the top of his lungs, challenging the storms to hit him with all they could muster. The storms accepted the challenge and would rage against him. Still, he challenged them to give him more.
He continued to do this until he was no longer afraid of both heights or thunderstorms.
Now, his was a somewhat extreme solution, but it served to show me that I can overcome my fears. I thought, “if he could do that as a little kid, I could do it as an adult.”
I used his experience as motivation to start challenging my storms.
I set out to improve what I felt were weaknesses in my life.
I made a list of my fears, weaknesses, or vulnerabilities and set out to overcome them.
My list included:
- Public speaking — most people don’t like this, so no real surprise here
- Interacting with large groups of people (I define large groups as 2 or more people, including me)
- Fear of heights
- Procrastination — someday I will get around to working on this one
- Physical strength and conditioning
- And many more…
The list I made at the time was quite a daunting list. Now, I didn’t try to work on all things at the same time. I don’t recommend you try it either. If you do, you will become frustrated and give up.
Pick one or two things to work on and keep working on them until they are no longer an issue.
Me? I chose to work on something that terrified me the most. I wanted to become comfortable meeting and interacting with other people.
I began by summoning the courage to talk to people — people I didn’t know — complete strangers. I made it a goal to begin short conversations with three different people every day.
Later, I put myself in more uncomfortable positions where I had to interact with people. This lead to my job in the Army where I needed to communicate with people and in a foreign language.
I am still uncomfortable around people (the curse of being an introvert), but I have learned how to turn that part off when needed.
To get over (or at least control) my fear of heights, I volunteered for Airborne training in the Army. Jumping out of perfectly good airplanes over the years certainly helped with that. It helped me to see heights and how to deal with them from a different perspective.
As for writing, I took additional classes in creative writing, research writing, and technical writing. I still don’t relish the idea of writing, but it doesn’t bother me much anymore.
Now, to publish anything I write for the world to see is a different story. I don’t like the idea of opening myself up for criticism — it’s part of the whole self-confidence thing. So, what you see/read here is the first of many steps in challenging my fears (maybe).
The point here is to put yourself out there. Challenge yourself to change those areas where you would like to improve. Begin with small challenges if you’d prefer, but you have to start somewhere. Take the first step.
Now, don’t fool yourself into thinking that once you have overcome something that you are done. You will need to keep at it.
Muscles atrophy when they are not used (or challenged) on a regular basis. The same applies to those things we work to overcome.
For example, it has been about 10 years since I last jumped out of an airplane. If I were to do it today, I am sure that I would be a bit apprehensive about it. Because I have done it before, I know I would be able to do it again. Although, it may take a couple of jumps before I am back in the groove again.
What’s next for you?
You already know what you would like to work on. So, your next step is to turn and challenge that storm that is now in front of you.
Scream at the top of your lungs and challenge your storm to hit you with all it can muster. Continue to do so until the storm is no longer an issue. Then, keep challenging the storm to keep it at bay.
You got this.
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