“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
― Richard Rohr
I cried the first day I quit my job and decided to finally run my business full-time. The fear of being viewed as a failure or not being an immediate success had stopped me for months.
I worried that after the honeymoon phase wore off, I would figure out that I actually didn’t like this business and I would be worse off than I was now.
I had to make a decision.
Would I continue to fear the unknown future at the cost of living a life wearing the mask of someone else? Or would I step off the cliff, like Indiana Jones, and hope the bridge would be there to catch me.
I stepped. The bridge appeared.
Although fear will never be absent, by trusting your soul and pursuing your purpose, you will gain the confidence to take the next step, even in the face of fear.
“However, it seems that whatever we most fear — be it love or truth or even death — we all have this choice, again and again: either to look directly at the fear or to hide from it and pretend it does not exist.” — Mark Nepo
What choice will you make?
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”
― Pema Chödrön
Fear is the ultimate handicap for the human race. It levels the playing field. We all, unless you are an alien, deal with massive fear in your life.
The problem is not that the fear exists, as fear is the reason you and I are still alive today. The problem is that more often than not fear controls your decisions.
Here are 10 ways that you can start the dance with fear and live a life of purpose.
1. Fear or Growth
James Altucher talks about how we as humans only have two decisions: (1) fear decisions or (2) growth decisions.
“It’s ok to feel fear. It’s ok to wake up at 3 in the morning and pace the room thinking you’re about to do something scary that will fail.
But don’t make decisions then. Schedule a time, let’s say 3 in the afternoon, where you will return to this decision. Say to yourself, it’s 3 in the morning, and I know I feel a lot of fear at this time, so I’m going to sleep and address this at 3 in the afternoon.
At 3 in the afternoon, you are much more likely to make a growth decision.”
I used to be crippled by fear. I was scared of flying, driving, and even walking to class during my intense battle with anxiety. It seemed like every decision I made was to hide from fear and avoid panic-inducing situations.
However, as time went on and I began working on my mental resilience and living a more healthy lifestyle, the catalyst for my decisions became more about facing fears than avoiding them.
To be clear, I felt the same fear I always had, but instead of hiding from it, I started, ever so slightly, to look fear directly in the face, feel it and continue.
I still struggle with fear on a daily basis, but I have developed some tools that help me work more mindfully with this ancient human emotion, which has led to increased peace and far less anxiety.
2. Stop trying to “crush fear” and accept it
There is a growing notion in the self-help world that fear is something that you can crush or live without if you just hustle hard enough. That strategy may work for some, but not for me.
When I tried to white-knuckle my way out of fear, I failed miserably. Not only did I fail, but I made it worse.
However, as soon as I began to feel my fear completely and accept it for what it was, an illusion, it immediately began to dissolve.
Being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and sensations and choosing to observe them, instead of assigning meaning to them is the basis of mindfulness. It can help you restructure negative thoughts and emotions in a light that is much more beneficial.
3. Lean into fear
Fear, like all emotions and thoughts, will eventually fade away if you are willing to sit with it and not give it energy.
For me, I have started to notice that whenever I’m afraid of something it usually is my body/mind telling me,
“Hey, that thing you fear the most. Yeah, that thing. That is where the magic happens. Lean into it.”
We tend to fear the very things in life that we need to do to become the person we were meant to be.
Next time fear comes up, feel it, and then ever so slightly begin to lean into it. If you are like me, you will often find that the thing you feared the most was nothing more than an excuse keeping you from doing the hard thing.
4. Fool Yourself
“The first principle is to not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Richard Feynman
A great mind hack that I learned from Tony Robbins is the art of tricking your mind into believing that fear is excitement.
Whenever I have fear of flying or speaking or writing a new piece, I simply say to myself, “you are excited” and get back to what I was doing. It took a little while for the practice to make a difference, but each time I mindfully attach a positive emotion to the physical feeling of fear, my brain is rewired to automatically think that.
Fear is a powerful emotion, so instead of running from it, channel it by assigning it a positive meaning to reap the benefits.
5. 40% More
“Seal always told me, right when you think you can’t do anything more, you can do 40% more.” — Jessse Itzler
Jesse Itzler, in his book Living with a Seal, tells a story about the first day he was being trained by his own personal Navy Seal. Just when he was about to pass out from exhaustion, his trainer (a Navy Seal), urged him that he had only used 60% of what he was capable of doing.
In life, we stop to short. We think we have given it our all, but in fact we have on barely gone half-way. Have faith that you have more strength than you think and keeping pushing.
6. Negative Visualization
Negative visualization, a practice I learned from Tim Ferriss, is a great tool to help make big decisions that seem overwhelming.
A practice developed by the Stoics, it requires you to visualize the worst case scenario of a single decision. Then you brainstorm ways that you could mitigate your worst case scenario from coming true. Finally, you try to visualize your worst case scenario coming true and then think of ways that you could get back to the place you are now.
This practice helps me see that the worst case scenario is often not as bad as it seems. The exercise can help you clearly see that most of the things you fear are not that debilitating, and if they were to come true, you could figure out a way to get back to where you are today.
The practice is to draw three columns on a piece of paper. In the first, you put all of the possible worst case outcomes you can think of. If you fear it, write it down. In the second column, you write all of the ways that you can prevent the worst case from happening. Then, in the third column, you assume that the worst case has occurred and you write down all of the ways in which you could get back to the place you are at today.
7. Do one thing a day that scares you
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
― Pema Chödrön
Although this may seem a bit cliche, it is a daily practice that has tremendously helped me work more efficiently with my fear.
I am not saying that you should tackle one huge fear each day, but instead, you should pick something super small that gives you the slightest bit of anxiety and fear that you can easily complete.
My daily practices have included sending an email to someone I respect, asking for free hummus at Sweet Green, and hosting an Instagram live video.
They need not be life-altering actions, but the mere act of doing something small that you fear every day strengthens your mind. Think of each of these activities as daily workouts for your brain.
Pick one thing that brings you a little stress or fear and commits to doing it today.
8. Believe in yourself
Even as I write this, it seems dumb, but for me, belief has been a lever that has catapulted me into a life that I love.
When you have a steadfast belief in your ability and confidence that you will be able to handle any situation, your fear will melt away. I am not saying that you will become Superman, able to fight any battle. But I do believe that you are far more capable than you think.
I have personally experienced massive growth through belief.
A belief that fear is a signpost pointing me in the direction I am supposed to take.
A belief that everything great is on the other side of fear.
A belief that nothing in life worth doing comes without fear.
A belief that I have far more ability to get through whatever comes my way than I give myself credit for.
Start believing in yourself and stop waiting for some manifestation of bravery, it won’t come. Bravery is forged in the doing of what scares you the most.
9. Discerning Wisdom
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
Most of the outcomes we fear in life, be it death, illness, etc, we cannot control.
However, what you can control is yourself and your actions. That is where you should put all of your thoughts and energy. Not in the future that we have no ability to control, but rather on the things that we do every day.
Have the wisdom to know what you can control and what you cannot. Choose to focus on the former, because it is the only thing that will prepare you for when the latter comes.
10. Be a Buffalo
A buffalo is an excellent metaphor for learning how to live with fear.
When a storm is approaching the herd, instead of running away from the storm, buffaloes run straight into the heart of it to get through it as quickly as possible.
Fear, like all emotions, will always be part of the human condition, but you do not have to give it the authority to control your life. It does not have the power to control your decisions unless you give it that power.
I love how Elizabeth Gilbert frames fear in her new book Big Magic,
“You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice. But you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps or suggest detours. You’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, you are forbidden to drive.”
Be willing to accept that fear will always be along for the driver, but have the wisdom not to let it control your decision, and channel it for your growth.
Are you ready to wake up, get more focused, and find more happiness in your life?
If so, sign up for my free 21 Day Mindfulness Email Course. I’ll be sending you an email every day that will help you reduce stress, increase focus, and find more happiness!
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Originally published at www.fullyrichlife.com on April 17, 2017.