Becoming fearless is probably possible. The bad news is that it is as attainable as becoming enlightened. So that's a slim chance. A much more realistic ambition is becoming conscious of your fears, so that they can't take the lead of your life. Facing my biggest fears was key to finding my personal happiness and living a life that I love. Scared to face your fears? All the more reason to do it!
Fear is deeply rooted in any animal’s brain, including humans. In the wild, fear is one of the most useful instincts for survival, so it gets a strong voice in our decision making.
For many people, like myself a few years ago, it’s the loudest voice. For them, fear controls the decisions they make. And a life led by fear is one of holding back from living.
- The fear of rejection holds you back from applying for that dream job.
- The fear of failure stops you from trying what you really love doing.
- The fear of the unknown decides not that the safest choice is not making any changes.
Everyone has their own kinds of fears. And they’re not quiet. The voice of fear is always trying to influence your mind. Our fears whisper, nag or scream at us what the worst case scenario looks like. It gives you all the reasons why doing something unpredictable is not a good idea.
But you have a choice. You can take back the power to make your own decisions, informed by fear but not dominated by it. The way author Elizabeth Gilbert tells her fear off, is a perfect example: “You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote.”
When you look your fears in the eye, you'll see that some of them are simply nonsense. Other fears may be more real, but they dramatically exaggerate their likelihood of happening in the story they tell. In both cases, your fears need a fact check.
Honest introspection is the way to truly overcome your fears. If you just try to ignore your fears, they will come back to haunt you. Imagine this: You are afraid to ask someone out. If you just pretend to be confident, while the fear is whispering in your head, it will result in a confirmation of your fear. You’ll be rejected. Once you’ve realized rejection is not a big deal, then you’ll actually have more chances of coming across authentic, likable and confident.
Try the Fear Setting process explained by Tim Ferriss in this TED talk. His perspective on fear has completely shifted the way I deal with the things that scare me.
My own big unrealistic fear was becoming homeless. It made me very focused on my financial safety, which created an ocean of stress and a stingy attitude. When I finally dedicated an introspection day to investigating the fear, I realised that for my fear of living on the streets to become true, I would have to lose all my money, family and friends. At the exact same time.
It was very unlikely that this would happen. Before examining this fear, homelessess felt like a real possibility. And it was stopping me from making choices that I knew would make me happier, like starting my own business. When I finally did dare to face my fears, they melted away and opened up a lot more mental space for opportunities and following my heart.
I don’t think there’s a chance that I will become homeless. Even if it would happen, I know that I could handle it. This clarity gives me the piece of mind to build my own business, and give myself time to grow and learn.
As an entrepreneur, I do have a real risk of losing money. That’s just how it works. And it scares me. But I’ve examined that fear too, and I am willing to take the risk. While you identify your fears, make sure you understand clearly which risks you are willing to take. Or in other words, which opportunities are worth it?
Because not taking risks is the biggest risk of all.
Fear will always play a role in the lives of people like me, who have a natural tendency to be fearful or anxious. That's just how we are wired. But we do have a choice. You can consciously prevent fear from taking the lead in your life.
That role should be reserved for you.