Webster’s defines fear as – Noun: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Fear manifests itself differently for each of us. When I experience fear, it usually shows up as a weird pain in my chest that feels like a cross between an anxiety attack and like I’m about to break-down into tears. Anyone who knows me knows that I despise crying – although I’m trying to learn to embrace it – so they would understand just how uncomfortable a feeling all of this is to me.
Fear, in and of itself, is a useful tool as long as it doesn’t paralyze our progress. When it comes to your business or your life, if you aren’t scared sometimes, then you aren’t thinking big enough. Fear allows us to see solutions and accomplish greatness if we use it correctly.
As I write this post, I’m having an unusually difficult time working through some fear and anxiety associated with my relatively new role as an entrepreneur and having to redefine my existence in the working world – a place I have always closely associated my core being and identity with. But my intent is not to bore you with my insecurities but to discuss some ways I work myself and my clients through fear.
By the way, men tend to be better at dealing with fear than women, usually because they are more willing to plow through it. So here are four simple steps to help you plow through your own fears.
- Feel it
Christian Mickelsen says the first step in dealing with fear is to actually feel it and accept it. Some people feel it in their heads or face, some in their stomach, and as I said earlier, I feel mine in my chest. Getting out of your thoughts and connecting through the feeling in your body localizes the fear. Place your hand on the feeling without analyzing or over thinking it and accept the fear. Being present with your fear instead of writing it off, running from it, or ignoring it will allow you to deal with it.
2. Categorize it
There are two categories of fear – real or imagined. After a fear has presented itself, ask yourself if this is a real fear or an imagined fear. If it is imagined and has no merit then it’s pretty easy to shake it off and move on. If it is a real fear, then move to the next step.
3. Dissect it
If you determine that your fear is real, then we need to dissect the fear by first identifying the outcome we want and then second, breaking it down into the steps we need to take to work through it.
I’ll use a common fear as an example – public speaking.
You know it’s a skill you need to learn but you are terrified of getting in front of a group of people and potentially bombing a presentation. Your desire is not to develop a public speaking career but to be more confident in addressing groups of people whether in meetings at work or out in the community. This is a very real fear when you categorize it but you really need to develop this skill if you want to progress in your chosen field. You sit down and begin writing out the steps you need to take to work through this fear.
Notice I didn’t say to eliminate the fear – I said to work through the fear. The most successful people in the world aren’t fearless. They just know how to push through their fears. The steps you identify will help you to push through, but not necessarily eliminate the fear.
Back to the plan…As you think about what it will take for you to begin a successfully develop good public speaking skills, you identify the following steps:
- Identify people I think are good public speakers and note why I think they are good
- Schedule time with colleagues whom I feel are good at public speaking and ask them to share their methodology and approach for putting together interesting and engaging presentations
- Join a group like Toastmasters or another group where I get opportunities to address the attendees even in an informal setting
- Volunteer to lead a departmental meeting at work
- Develop a “signature” presentation
- Pitch your “signature” presentation to local groups or organizations starting with smaller audiences and then working up to larger venues
4. Attack it
You have to keep moving to get out of a fear vortex. However, aimless movement or action for the sake of taking action is not going to be helpful. That is why the plan of action created in the previous step is so important. The world rewards those who take action so once your plan is developed, start working your plan. The successful completion of each step, regardless of the size of the step, builds confidence and momentum. And before you know it, you have pushed through whatever fear you were experiencing.
Fear stops most people in their tracks. Learning to harness fear as a tool for identifying solutions and as a litmus test for how large you are living life is an incredible skill and is what separates the magnificent from the mediocre. Let your faith be bigger than your fear and learn how to push through it to greatness.