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7 Techniques to Turn Your Fears Into Learning Opportunities

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Experiencing fear is good. It shows that you’re human and that your natural survival instincts are working just fine. Imagine a fearless person about to swim across a river full of crocodiles and you’ll know what I mean. Perhaps more than any other emotion, fear enabled humans to remain a thriving species for hundreds of thousands of years. If not for fear, we would all have been dinner, roadkill, or worse. In short, we’d all be extinct had fear not been hardwired into our DNA.

But yielding to fear without any good reason is just being a scaredy cat. And allowing irrational fear to paralyze us into inaction easily turns us into a miserable pansy. After all, encountering a clan of ravenous hyenas is far different from meeting your hot crush who had you slinking into the nearest corner, speechless and short of breath for weeks on end. And yes, taking the first step to build a business is not as life-threatening as walking at the edge of a steep, thousand-foot cliff.       

In the digital age, nearly all fear is irrational, a construct of our wild imagination and the negative stuff we tend to focus on. You fear approaching the manager to ask for a raise. You’re afraid that following your passion will leave you without the security of a 9-to-5 job. You like to learn some techy stuff but you feel you just don’t have it in you to write computer codes. You’re aching to build your own blog but you dread the workload. In the end, a lot of us just stay put without even trying.  

Overcoming fear is both a lesson from history and a unanimous verdict of people who have learned to manage their own crippling fears. Following a traumatic watery experience, Tim Ferriss came to dread swimming so much that he never learned to swim until he was in his 30s.

Despite excelling in mixed martial arts, bouldering, wrestling, motorcycle racing, competition tango and other sports, Ferriss would have sunk like a stone had you casually pushed him into a pool. But once he questioned and conquered his fear, he learned how to swim faster than you can say dolphin! In fact, he was able to swim a one-kilometer stretch out on the open sea after just a few weeks of training.  

Here are 7 techniques you can adopt to conquer your fear:

  1. Understand the factors that trigger your fear – Is your fear reasonable or irrational? Reasonable fear is, well — reasonable. Take appropriate action if that’s the case. On the other hand, obliterate any fear that is irrational. Irrational fears are unnecessary weight dragging you down.
  2. Unless the situation is life-threatening, let the bout of fear play out – You’ll eventually realize that your emotions stressed you out more intensely than the object of your fear itself.
  3. Take control of something when fear takes hold – Without the semblance of control, fear escalates into panic. Start with your breathing. Fight the urge to hyperventilate. Consciously inhale and exhale slowly and realize that you can control aspects of yourself even amidst fear. Conquer more territory by controlling other aspects of your body.
  4. Use physiology to fight fearAdopt a confident posture and body language. Don’t slouch and look crestfallen. Physically appear in control even when you have yet to gain it.
  5. Follow up with psychology – Focus on positive thoughts. Focus on good intentions, excellent achievements, noble goals. Visualize beautiful things. Fight the evil of irrational fear with good.
  6. Speak confidently and positively – When mentally talking to yourself, elevate the conversation. Do the same when actually speaking to people.
  7. Turn fear-busting into a well-ingrained habit until it becomes instinctive – Bust fear the moment you feel it! It might take you time, but keep practicing over and over time you’ll develop a new positive habit.

It’s amazing how something so imaginary can trigger real impact in people’s lives. Irrational fear holds back millions of people from growth and achieving success. To win, face fear and use it to become a better person. As Tim Ferriss said, “fear is your friend.” And as he has done over and over, you can learn anything — from the complex nuances of a foreign language to the exquisite choreography of tango — simply by mastering your fear.

Markado Escano is one of the most highly sought-after creative directors for the top millennial influencers, entrepreneurs, and leaders. He’s the co-founder & director of EscanoBrothers.com, a boutique creative media agency specializing in the entrepreneurship and entertainment industries with work across the globe in the US, Australia, Dubai and Philippines. Work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and various other international publications impacting millions worldwide. Markado is also the Co-Host for YEL2.0, one of the top millennial podcasts with Peter Voogd, the leading authority on Gen Y leadership.

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The 3 Types of Confidence You Need to Know and Understand

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We’ve all heard it before, confidence is everything. Those that seem to have it, have it all. They, themselves, are not necessarily perfect human beings, but they seemingly have the charisma to attract whatever they want in life. (more…)

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3 Simple Tips to Strengthen Your Emotional Intelligence for Better Relationships

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Relationships are challenging. They make you examine yourself from all angles, and that can be triggering. For example, have you ever had a friend or significant other say something that sparked an argument instantly—only to find out you misheard what they said in the first place? (more…)

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If You Want to Avoid Failure Once and for All, Ask Yourself These 4 Questions

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You just invested in yourself and in your business. You are taking massive action but the results are just not clicking yet. While everyone is making 10X, 20X, and even 100X ROI on their initial investment, you have made $0 return. Failure is starting to overcast your bright shining positive attitude and you are feeling the pain and shame of it. (more…)

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3 Simple Hacks That Can Recharge Your Willpower and Help You Perform Better at Work

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How many times did you wake up feeling like you could conquer the world? You set ambitious goals for the day, you put on your best attire and walked out the door with a big smile on your face but eventually, life took over. Traffic, emails, work, family, and everything else you have around slowly but steadily started to drain your energy and made you feel exhausted.

You run out of battery, and the only solution that seemed viable was to rely on more caffeine. When that stopped working, all the temptations around you started to look much more appealing, and that sense of drive and commitment you had before slowly faded away. This is you running out of willpower.

Willpower: what is it? Why is it limited?

The American Psychology Association describes willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” In the book “The Willpower Instinct”, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, explains how every person’s willpower is limited, and slowly depletes throughout the day. The more “willpower challenges” you face, the quicker your reserve drains. Dr. McGonigal divided the different types of willpower challenges you might encounter in three categories:

  • I will: We face this type of challenge whenever we should do something, but we simply don’t feel like getting it done right now.
  • I won’t: We face this challenge when we try to resist temptation, or we try to keep cool in stressful situations.
  • I want: This is a particular type of challenge where we keep track of our long term goals, dreams, and desires. In this instance, we feel like we should take action right now to come one step closer to the goal. 

It’s easy to recognize it when you face a willpower challenge because you literally “feel it in your body.” Imagine being really hungry and walking in front of a bakery. The sight and the smell of pastries quickly triggers an “I won’t” type of challenge, and it takes a severe amount of effort and energy to walk away.

Every time you manage to win one of those challenges, a little bit of your willpower reserve gets used. The more challenges you face daily, the harder it will be to stay true to your goals.

Can you train or recharge your willpower?

A growing body of research suggests that willpower should be considered a muscle. To strengthen it, you should exercise it regularly, but you should not overwork it. Therefore, we shouldn’t try to “be good” at all times. Instead, we should learn how to relax and recharge our willpower.

The general advice on how to improve willpower involves sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. This broad and general recommendation is often not downright applicable by most, because it consists of changing various daily habits. Luckily, three very effective hacks have been discovered, that have an immediate effect on our willpower and take just a few minutes to apply.

Here are the 3 ways to refill your willpower reserves:

1. Focused breathing

Breathing, when done correctly, can stimulate the release of calming hormones while reducing the release of stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines. To make this effective, you should deeply and slowly inhale through the nose for at least five seconds. Fill your belly with air first, then your chest, and when there’s no more space for air, still try to do tiny inhalations through the nose.

You should feel a pulling sensation around your neck and trapezius muscles. Once your lungs are full, try to hold the breath for five seconds, then slowly exhale through the mouth for at least five seconds. If you repeat this process ten to twenty times, you should feel dramatically more relaxed. Use this method several times a day, especially when you’re experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety.

2. Reward yourself when you accomplish a micro goal

According to a recent study, frequent instant rewards can boost motivation, and therefore, willpower. Creating your own reward system can help you to accomplish your to-do list, and also resist temptations. Since every individual has different tastes, you should come up with creative ideas about the small and frequent rewards you will give yourself upon winning any willpower challenge.

You can see this hack in practice in Apps like the popular Duolinguo, where after completing each lesson you get presented with a chance to open a treasure chest. This rewarding system seems to keep the users much more likely to keep learning new lessons.

3. Taking cold showers

Your body has an autonomic response to cold water. Getting into a cold shower is a difficult (but minor) willpower challenge on its own. As I previously mentioned, winning a willpower challenge strengthens your willpower muscle. Having a morning cold shower, on top of having multiple health benefits, will set you up for a positive winning streak of further challenges.

High performance is the sum of many small habits. Successful people don’t have an unlimited reserve of willpower, but they do have a set of daily rituals that made them succeed. These three hacks are some of the most effective techniques to develop willpower, but some of them may not fit every individual. You should try to find the perfect mix of daily practices that best fits your lifestyle and likes, so that you can strengthen your willpower muscle and perform better at work.

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