Messages about overcoming fear in order to be successful are built with good intentions, but they may be making fear your enemy instead of your friend. By playing a few mind games, you can transform fear from a force that holds you back into a force that pushes you forward.
There is one important caveat. Fear is a powerful motivator to lift you out of a rut and set you in motion, but living in a constant state of fear is damaging. Think of fear like the booster rockets on a space shuttle that help it pull free from gravitational forces, only to be discarded when no longer needed.
Fear can be temporarily useful. But there has to be something you’re moving toward because of love to sustain motivation.
Here are 4 ways you can use fear as fuel:
1. Make Your Comfort Zone Really Uncomfortable
One of the simplest ways to get out of your comfort zone is to make your comfort zone really uncomfortable. Let’s say Sarah loves to binge-watch Netflix each night instead of working on her blog. While she could force herself to work, it will never be as comfortable as watching movies.
What if Sarah set a deadline to finish a blog article every week, told five friends, and offered to pay them each $100 if she didn’t get it done? Now the idea of watching Netflix and not writing the article is more uncomfortable than writing the article.
She fears losing money, breaking her word, and looking like a failure to others. Accountability is one way to make your current comfort zone uncomfortable, but there are other approaches. Ask yourself, “How can I make my comfort zone more uncomfortable than doing what I know will move me forward?”
“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” – Japanese Proverb
2. Care More About Your Supporters Than Your Haters
One common fear among high achievers is, “What if people criticize me?” They may even feel bad about it and conclude, “I know I shouldn’t care what people think, but I can’t help it.” Consider this: To literally “not care what people think” is impossible for someone with normal human psychology. We’re hardwired with a desire to fit in and be accepted.
It’s normal to fear criticism. Instead of fighting it. The secret is to simply care more about those who benefit than about potential haters. The fear of letting them down can be a powerful motivator.
Tim Ferriss puts this in perspective when he discusses focusing on the 1,000 fans who get what you’re doing rather than the 10,000 who don’t. Ask yourself, “Who will suffer—even if I don’t know them yet—if I don’t achieve even greater success and share my work?”
3. Fulfill Your Future Self’s Desires
Playing small comes from avoiding the disappointment one may feel if they don’t reach an ambitious goal. Instead of trying to avoid disappointment, what if you used the fear of disappointment in your favor?
Imagine yourself 10 years in the future having not pursued your dreams. You review the previous 10 years and think about how you shrank away from opportunities and settled for mediocrity. How does it feel?
Now imagine yourself on your deathbed, looking back on your life. Your gravestone will read, “Here lies so and so. He was an ordinary person who inspired no one. He’ll quickly be forgotten.” How does it feel that you decided to play it safe all your life?
You may find your life was less about what you did or didn’t accomplish, and more about how you showed up to take a swing. A little disappointment now can sting, but major disappointment felt years down the road—realizing the actuality of your wasted life—can be soul crushing.
Ask yourself, “Would I rather experience the temporary discomfort of a particular ambition not achieved or the crushing disappointment of failing to show up as my greatest self?”
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.”
4. Use Fear As A Teacher
“I can’t do it!” On the surface, this sounds like a limiting belief that invokes paralyzing fear. If you don’t believe you can achieve a goal, what are the odds you’ll go after it wholeheartedly?
What if that fear is actually trying to help you learn something? There are many things you truly can’t accomplish, and that’s okay. All you may need to do in these situations is recognize a simple fact. “I can’t do it on my own, but we can do it together.” Now you’re liberated from believing you need to do something alone and can free yourself to receive help from others.
Fear isn’t necessarily false evidence appearing real. While some fears are illogical and can be addressed using various forms of therapy, other fears are legitimate concerns that your subconscious brings to the surface to help you develop a strategy to avoid failure.
Fearing you can’t do something can be motivation to find mentors, build a team, and develop necessary skills. Rather than relying on positive affirmations to override all fears, you may find it more beneficial to acknowledge the fears and expose the underlying lessons the fears are attempting to share with you.
When you grasp the lesson that fear is trying to teach, the fear often disappears on its own. Ask yourself, “What is this fear trying to teach me?”
Which of these four things are you going to use today to turn fear into your friend? Leave your thoughts below!
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