Overcoming Fear

Take Control of Your Life Today

A lot of people tell me that they are just too afraid to something they have always wanted. People are fearful of the idea of going up to a man or a woman that they find to be really attractive to them. Another group of people say that they are unsatisfied with their pay at work, but they don't want to lose their job so they are reluctant to ask for a raise. Even more people tell me about a minor act of social injustice, and rather than trying to improve the situation, they just allowed the other person to "do their own thing."

The last example was when a friend came home from the library. She was really frustrated because the guy next to her was listening to music and the sound was so loud she could hear it clearly even though he was wearing headphones. Instead of asking the man to turn down the music, she tried to work on her paper while being distracted. After a full hour of trying to get focused, she gave up and just met me at a coffee shop.

"A whole hour!?" I asked with a bit of exaggeration.

"Yeah. I kept looking over at him like I was disgusted, but most of the time he didn't even notice. He was playing some computer game or something," she responded with frustration.

Okay, just to be clear, I get it. I completely understand why people do this. Even though the situation called for her to simply ask the man to turn down the music, most people find that they simply don't. The culture of the United States, especially in the midwest, is predicated on individual liberty. One of the consequences I have seen growing up here is that people are hesitant to want to infringe on other people's free will. However, those same people neglect their own freedom. For example, it is her right, especially in a library, to study in peace and quiet.

Just as much as it is your right to ask for a pay raise from a boss. Just because the company is downsizing doesn't mean that you don't deserve a raise.

Furthermore, it is your right to approach someone on the street, in a store, or at the coffee shop that you think is attractive.

The number one reason why most people do not perform an action is because of fear! Fear is a compelling emotion that will stop even the most confident among us. Fear is a survival mechanism passed on from generation to generation. The problem is that the fear mechanism is outdated; it has over-exceeded it's boundaries, and it limits you from achieving your goals. Let's talk about how you can "Feel the Fear...and Do It Anyway!"

Before I provide the guideline, I want to express a very clear rule. As long as you are improving or progressing in life, you will always experience fear. In Susan Jeffers book "Feel the Fear...And Do It Anyway", she mentions that the common expectation is that with experience comes lack of fear. That is not quite how it works.

All of us, from the novice to the expert, will experience the neurophysiological response of fear; it is engrained in our DNA, and there is no way to simply turn it off.

Luckily for us, we have the capacity to perceive fear differently, and over time we will easily overcome it, rather than miss out on another golden opportunity. Here's what you do:

1 - First, you must accept that you are going to feel fear, but you are going to do it anyway. You are going to do whatever action that is (talk to that cute girl in HR, ask for that raise) because you will never be able to overcome it if you don't push yourself past your comfort zone.

2 - Stand up, or sit up straight. Did you know that more than 80% of communication is through body language? Yep, that's right! If you can practice having a great, confident posture then you are more likely to get what you want, and deserve! Furthermore, did you know that just three minutes of practicing standing up straight changes the chemicals in your brain? How awesome is that! Neuroscientists have known for better than a decade that the events that happen in our lives alter our body language (and our brain chemistry), but it was only recently that neurobiologists discovered that our body language can also change what happens to us (as well as our brain physiology). That is some powerful information right there! Get your body language right, and you are likely to get what you deserve!

3 - Develop a plan. Now that you have accepted that you are going to feel this fear, it is time to act accordingly. How do you do that? You admit it to the person you are talking to! Let's say it is a girl at starbucks that you just have to meet. You walk up to her a say, "Hi, I just wanted to say that I usually don't do this because I am not always so bold, but you looked stunning and I just had to say hello. My name is [insert name]." Basically, you need to develop a strategy so you brain isn't going into the situation without some plan. Everything is much easier when you have a plan.

4 - Imagine what the (positive) outcome will be. If we practice in our mind then we are likely to see better results. In a study, there were two groups. One group of basketball players was told to just go practice shooting free throws. They were not given any instructions other than to practice. The other group did not shoot any free throws at all; instead, they were instructed to envision their free throw shots and they were to imagine making every single one of them. Their pretest and postest were compared. The group that just envisioned shooting the free throws improved their free throw percentage far more than the group that actually practiced shooting! I recommend practicing the scenario in your head for 10 minutes a night for three nights. Then get into your boss's office and talk about how valuable you are to the team!

5 - Don't have ANY expectations! Just because you are asking for a raise, doesn't mean you are going to get it. In this example, your goal is to overcome your fear. If you go into his/her office and ask for a raise, even if you don't get it, celebrate! You conquered one of your fears! Thus, your goals shouldn't be the outcome of the event, it should simply be that you did it. If you approached a girl and are going on a date, that is fantastic! If you approached her and she said she has a boyfriend, oh well! You freaking did it! Celebrate even the minor successes in life. You will be a happier person if you do! Not only that, be you will relish in the opportunity to overcome your next fear!