We went to the Bahamas a couple of weeks ago to the famed Atlantis Water Park. As soon as we arrived at this amazing place, we were met with fantasy pools, astounding aquariums, water rides and thrills of every kind, wonderful beaches – just a Disneyland of Water Worlds. And everyone there (it seemed) was on this high of pleasure and vacationing Nirvana…except my four-year old daughter.
As we arrived late the first day there, we were scurrying to at least get one ride in before the park closed for the day. So we headed to The Rapid River. My daughter was very keen to get in the blowup raft, but as soon as she was in the seat, she froze and started screaming that she was scared and to get her off NOW.
I was trying to figure out how to get in the raft myself and trying to listen to the attendant who was instructing me on all the ins and outs amidst the screeching. In the meantime, her older sister had already taken off so I was concerned about us being separated.
So, I tried to reason with her. Nothing. More screaming of how scared she was.
More reasoning, coaxing, explaining how I was holding her the whole time, that it was safe, and how fun it was going to be. More screaming.
Finally, I realized that we were not going to be able to do anything on this vacation at all if I did not help her face her fears (and that my other daughter would be lost somewhere). So, I calmly said that we were going on the ride, hugged her tight, and said that she would see how fun it is. She was still screaming but after about 10 seconds, she stopped, her face lit up and she was squealing with delight. Phew.
After that, she couldn’t stop taking about how fun the ride was. So, we overcame that fear and she clamored to go on that ride over and over during our stay.
The next day, we were on some very tame kiddie slides and the same thing happened. She froze up and started screaming that she wanted out. I again explained that it was alright etc. Well, Mama did get some water up her nose in the landing and she was crying, so I picked her up and took her on the same slide again, this time making sure that no water got up her nose.
So, she got back in the saddle before she had time to dwell too much, and the slide was no longer a fearful thing either. And she had a ball and wanted to keep going on it.
I’m telling both of these stories because these are relevant to the two ways we ALL let fear sabotage us and keep us achieving what we want and having the success we are capable of.
- In the first case, my daughter overcame her fear and the experience was good, so she was over it well and truly and could enjoy that ride and a lot of other rides.
- In the second case, she overcame her fear, had a bad experience with water getting up her nose, but got back in the saddle and then had a good experience, even though taking that action didn’t work out in the first instance.
And we all do one or both of these things:
- We either are too fearful to get past our fears enough to ever take action.
- Or when we do, it’s sometimes not a great experience and we say to ourselves, “See, I knew I shouldn’t have done that” and we retreat even farther into our fear and our righteousness of being fearful instead of getting the water up our noses, and getting back in the saddle anyway.
And I must say that I was inspired by my daughter and consciously went on all the scariest rides possible after that – practically sheer drops into the water I would normally shy away from. I used this occasion to overcome any fear I had of heights or other fears I was unaware of. Needless to say, it was empowering and I had a lot of fun!
Fear is the number one obstacle that most people face in their lives. Very few people are courageous enough to admit they are full of fear, but I can tell you it’s the biggest thing I face in my life and heart. There have been times when I have lain awake at night wondering, “What’s going to happen to me and my family?, “How am I going to do all that I need to do?”
Fear can be very debilitating and I remember a time in my life where I was paralyzed by fear.
In my coaching profession, I deal with fear on a daily basis not only within myself but with my clients. I would say that coaches in general have to cope with fear as much as dentists!
The sad part is that we have no idea of exactly how much we are depriving ourselves of by being ruled by our fears. Because we have no crystal ball that can show us what would have happened if we had faced our fears and done what we were too afraid to do.
But even though fear is what often keeps us from doing what we need to do, we need fear. It keeps us cautious and aware. Being completely fearless would make people reckless. Fear serves us to make us respect the inherent dangers we must overcome. There is actually no fearless person on this earth. They would probably get hit by a car very soon as they would not be afraid enough to look both ways. It isn’t possible to completely overcome all fears or we wouldn’t be human.
Even though fear can be negative, great leaders learn to master their fear and use it to their advantage. For me, fear can be a motivator. While getting excited about new opportunities and challenges, fear motivates me to be diligent.
The trick is to gain more courage and “befriend our fears” enough to not let them run our lives or paralyze us from taking proper action. And to make it a practice to overcome our fears on a regular basis.
And here are some ways to do that.
5 Ways to Befriend Your Fears
1. Identify your Fears
Before we can befriend anything, we need to be clear on what our fears are. Without too much analysis, ask yourself what your underlying fears are. Here are some common and universal ones. Look through the following list and note down the ones that resonate for you. Once you have some clarity around your fears, they will be easier to deal with. But be careful not to beat yourself up over the ones you identify.
Fear of success
Fear of failure
Fear of being seen
Fear of loss (money, objects, time)
Fear of the being too old
Fear of not knowing enough
Fear of not being good enough
Fear of not knowing something
Fear of not deserving what you want
Fear of having money or not having money
Fear of getting hurt
Fear of not being liked
2. Practice Walking into Your Fears
When I’m afraid, I consciously practice walking right into my fears rather than away from them. When we retreat from fear or try to hide, it’s like sweeping the dust under the rug. Most of the power of fear is in your mind; it doesn’t really exist. As Zig Ziglar would say, FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s just this idea that looms because we are unwilling to face it. But the way to diffuse it is to step right into it and do the thing the very thing that you are afraid to do.
And I also practice pushing the envelope by thinking of something that really scares me and doing it. I call this taking “Extraordinary Action”. The action that is like jumping off a ledge and realizing you can fly! The more you do this, the more you develop a muscle for taking risks. And your tolerance level is raised. If you can get used to that, your fears will dissipate or at least be on speaking terms with you so you can deal with them and move through them.
You need to make a practice of “feeling the fear and do it anyway”.
3. Find Something You’re More Scared of
Think of something that scares you more than the original fear. So, if you are afraid of public speaking, you might think that it is even more scary to disappoint your children, or missing out on living the life you want, or as I call it, “Your Precious Life”. Or missing out on opportunities that the public speaking would gain for you, for example.
Putting it all into perspective helps you to view the fear in a more realistic way. Things could be much worse. It’s all relative.
And further, to push past fear, find out what it’s going to cost you. You need to find your why: Why is pushing past your fear a MUST not just a SHOULD? You can find your deepest fear, and think, “If I don’t face this fear, what’s it going to cost me?” You can ask yourself, “What’s the thing I’m even more afraid of than the action?” What is at stake if you remain stuck in your fear?
4. Change Your State
This one is from Tony Robbins, who says, “Fear is physical.” If you can change your state of mind, then the fear will disappear. You need to change from a state of fear or uncertainty, to a state of certainty, determination, or aggressiveness. Tony says the fastest way to do this is to make a radical change in your body. So, the way he would do this is he would lift weights or he would go on a run, while listening to powerful music, anything that would radically change his state.
And, you can change your state of mind by radically changing your body. Get moving and use motion to change your emotions.
5. Visualize the outcome that you want if you were to face the fear
Creative Visualization is something very powerful that many successful athletes and business people have used for a long time. Apparently, Wolfgang von Goethe even used it.
And it is very effective in overcoming fear. Just sit and close your eyes and imagine the outcome you would like if you were to befriend your particular fears surrounding a situation. Play out in your mind exactly what you would like to happen. Take your time and go into the details. This will program your mind to accept the favorable outcome and pave the way for taking action.
So to recap, fear is normal but if we are paralyzed or ruled by it, we are missing out on the life we want to lead and the success we could be having. It’s important to befriend your fears by all or some of these methods: identifying them, by consciously walking towards your fears, relativizing them by finding fears that are worse, finding why you MUST push past your fear, changing your state and visualizing positive outcome.
When you find yourself operating from fear, or that maybe fear is holding you back, use some or all of these skills to loosen the stranglehold they have over your success and set you free.
If you have a great story of triumphing over fear, or have enjoyed this article, please comment below and inspire us all!