What comes to mind when you hear the word FEAR? Personally, I am a horrible swimmer so the thought of diving into the deep end frightens me more than one could imagine (hence the picture on the left)!
Today’s message is focused on how we can harness & use to our advantage, a feeling that consistently makes a majority of us feel excruciatingly uncomfortable: FEAR.
We ALL experience fear at one time or another. Whether it is because you have loads of work still left to do on an engagement with a reporting deadline of yesterday (Failure); you are going on a date with somebody whom you have never even met before (The Unknown); you are in charge of leading a presentation in front of your colleagues and you are straight up petrified over the sheer thought of public speaking (Ridicule); or you really want to get back into shape, but you are hesitant because you have failed in the past, and would rather not experience that feeling again (Disappointment), we have ALL felt FEAR at one time or another!
Lucky for us, there are scientifically proven techniques that can help us turn these fears into strengths! Below are 4 examples in which we can harness the power of our fears and use them to our advantage:
- Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable: I once read somewhere that discomfort is a side effect of growth. Let that sink in for a second… Nothing worth having comes easy and as such, we are bound to feel fearful or uncomfortable when attempting a task that we really want to accomplish (i.e. getting into shape, exercising, eating right, going for that promotion, etc.)! Fear is a natural part of life and is often ignited over a fear to fail. That being said, it is a well-known fact that we must fail (multiple times) in order to grow and progress in life. Become at peace with this fact and understand that every failure gets us one step closer to success! So don’t be afraid to fail. Take leaps of faith. Embrace the fear. Get uncomfortable!
- Shift Your Focus: I want to share an excerpt directly out of a book I just read (The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor): “We spend a majority of our working lives trying to avoid fear, and as a result, we end up steering right into it. The more we focus on the outcomes we fear, the more our brains dwell on and process this information, and we end up on a trajectory aimed straight for that pessimistic assumption!” In other words, if you want to overcome fear, you must focus on the outcomes you WANT to happen, rather than focusing on the alternative. Focusing on what might happen if we don’t succeed does nothing but increase stress levels, raise our blood pressure, slow our metabolism, and make us feel like crap, REALLY! If we can learn to consciously shift our focus to what WILL happen WHEN we DO succeed, rather than what MIGHT happen if we DON’T succeed, we can overcome any fear or mind devises!
- Go With Your Gut: I preach to many of my (personal training) clients that when they feel fear, to sit with it for a bit and examine it, don’t suppress it. Fear can actually help us determine exactly what it is we DON’T want. I am a firm believer that the energy we feel after a certain interaction or event is omnitpotently powerful. Maybe the energy we picked up from interviewing a recruit didn’t go so well or the date we just went on went horrible & this leads to us becoming fearful about how to get out of the next one. Instead of letting this fear stress us out, we can use it to our advantage by sitting with it, observing & analyzing it, and responding to it, accordingly. Maybe the recruit being interviewed wasn’t the best fit for the Company, or the individual you went on a date with wasn’t the best fit for you. Go with your gut! Aim to consider these experiences as lessons and utilize these lessons to achieve positive outcomes in your life, and the lives of others.
- Use Fear To Your Advantage: Studying and sitting for the CPA was mentally and physically, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Fear of failing that exam kept me focused and determined to pass it. When I played HS and College football, fear of losing the game or getting yelled at by my coach for missing an assignment lit a fire under my ass (that fight or flight response kicked in before every single game) and allowed me to perform at my absolute best. We must learn how to use fear to our advantage without letting it paralyze us & consume us, entirely. And trust me, there is a fine line between the two. We can learn to utilize this fear by practicing breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, healthy eating, & other physical & psychological tricks (e-mail me personally for more) that aide us in creating space between ourselves and the fear.
I will end on this (another excerpt from the book): “At one large Company, researchers found that managers who felt the most swamped by job pressure (FEAR) ran teams with the worst performance and the lowest net profits. Neuroscientists have found that fear in and of itself (including financial losses) are actually processed in the same areas of the brain that respond to mortal danger.” In other words, we react to the thought of public speaking or the fear of not landing that dream job the same way our ancestors did to starvation, extreme weather conditions, and sabre-toothed tigers! Be cognizant of this and take comfort in the fact that the fear we face is likely worse than the potential event occurring!
In closing, it is normal to feel fear. Don’t suppress it. Utilize the techniques described above to harness your fears & use them to your advantage!