3 Strategies to Overcome Fear

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Niyi Sobo is a former NFL player and a performance coach for athletes. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to a podcast interview of Niyi by Mitch Matthews. I loved the strategies he uses with his clients to break through fear and wanted to share a few of them with you.

The perspective that Niyi has regarding fear is not one that I’ve really thought of before but agree with wholeheartedly. Fear is very much an ego-centered emotion. Not in every case, but in the majority of cases, fear is about us.

·       I’m afraid to put myself out there, what will people think?

·       I’m afraid to make this presentation, what if people don’t think I have anything valuable to say?

·       I’m afraid to try out for the team, what if I don’t make it?

Each of these examples is ego-focused. They are all about us and how we will feel or how we think others will feel about us. When you accept that fear is ego-centric and somewhat selfish, then it makes it very easy to understand how the three strategies that Niyi uses with his clients helps them to break through their fear.

1.       Set Your Personal Standards and Shift Your Focus

If you set personal standards around the different aspects of your life and their associated goals, then it makes it possible to shift your focus from the ego. Let’s use public speaking as an example. That’s an easy one because public speaking is second only to death as the thing that people fear the most.

Most people are afraid of public speaking because they are concerned about what people will think of them. Maybe people will think you are stupid or don’t have anything valuable to say. Maybe people will laugh at your presentation style or you will trip and fall or do something embarrassing. All of these things are possible but not really in your control.

So, instead of focusing on what people will think of you, what if you shifted your focus to think about them and what they get out of the experience? Here’s where setting personal standards come into play.

My personal standards for presentations are to be well prepared/practiced, to ensure the audience receives valuable content based on statistics and stories, and deliver it in an approachable way using humor and big physical gestures. While I can’t control what people think of me personally, I can control my personal standards. By shifting my focus from ego-centric concerns to my personal standards, I can go into a presentation with confidence knowing that I am prepared, the content is valuable, and the audience will receive the information in a fun way.

Even if I end up doing something embarrassing, like trip on my way up to the stage, I can stop worrying about what others think. Because meeting my personal standards is the only thing that matters.

2.       Control the Meaning

This is, simply, understanding what you are afraid of and why. After understanding what and why, do a reality check to see if they are correlated.

Going back to the public speaking fear. You may be afraid of public speaking because you don’t want to do anything to embarrass yourself. When you dig deeper to understand why, you uncover you are worried that people won’t think you are knowledgeable on a subject. Let’s say you do trip on your way up to the stage. Tripping is embarrassing, true. But does tripping make you not knowledgeable on a subject? No. Tripping means you are clumsy, not stupid.

Once you can disassociate the what from the why, then it makes it easier to move on to the third strategy, create a training routine.

3.       Create a Training Routine

The only way to break through a fear is to do the very thing we are scared of. Once you learn to control the meaning, it will be easier to convince yourself to try what you fear. But you don’t have to immediately jump into the deep end. If you fear public speaking, you don’t have to address a room of 5,000 for your first presentation. Start small with something like speaking up at a team meeting or offering to present at a team meeting. Then you can move on to larger groups over time. Determine a goal for how many times you want to present per year or month to encourage you to work on this skill consistently and continuously. And before you know it, you will have broken through this fear.

The great thing about Niyi’s suggestions is that they can apply to anything that you fear, not just something obvious like public speaking. It can apply to everything from the fear of trying something new to the fear of showing emotions. Setting personal standards so that you can shift your focus, controlling the meaning of your fear, and creating a training routine will lift you out of the ego-centered spiral of fear so that you can experience the freeing and empowering feeling of breaking through.

Let me know if you have found these suggestions helpful and if you have other suggestions for breaking through fear. I will encourage you to leave your comments below.

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