I’m waiting until the time is right. I’m just not quite ready yet. I’m not 100% certain…
How often have you come thisclose to making a major decision only to have fear talk you out of it?
If you’re waiting for certainty before you launch your business, quit your job, [insert major life decision here], that’s probably not going to happen.
Really big, soul-searching decisions in life rarely come with a 100% certainty rate. That is, in part, due to fear.
Fear can stop us from experiencing some of the biggest life changing moments. It can stop us in our tracks before we reach our potential. Worse than that, it can prevent us from even trying.
But it doesn’t have to. We have a choice of how we respond to fear. When you feel gripped by fear, do you choose to address it and move past it, or do you stay stuck, paralyzed by it?
The truth about fear
Fear has roots in our survival. It’s an innate response that was developed to keep us out of danger and maintain our existence. Fear has kept us alive! However, when all of our baseline needs (food, shelter, safety) are met, most of our fears masquerade as unfounded worries about potential future outcomes.
When we worry we are investing energy in a future outcome that has not yet manifested.
This doesn’t mean that our fears don’t feel real. We experience the physiological signs (tightened chest, upset stomach, quickened pulse) as we would if we were in a truly dangerous situation. But instead of our livelihood being threatened, it’s the ego that’s at play.
When we understand this, and learn that fears are not facts, we can see fear for what it really is: False Evidence Appearing Real.
Fear and uncertainty are normal (and expected)
Fear you will fail. Fear of what people will think. Fear of looking stupid. Fear that no one will care.
If you talk to the high achievers — the people who have risked big and succeeded — I bet they will all admit to experiencing the above fears. The fact is that fear is a normal — and expected — part of making big changes. It is a marker for growth, and shows up in times when we feel stretched beyond our comfort zone. If you’re experiencing fear now, congratulations! You are likely on the brink of something big.
Fear can be a sign we are going in the right direction
One of my favorite books is The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. He says, in response to fear of moving forward in a creative venture:
Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Fear is born out of resistance to changing the status quo. The bigger the resistance, the bigger the fear, and the greater the stakes.
Think about it. The smaller decisions you make in your life carry very little fear with them. It’s the big decisions that carry the big weight of fear. If something is really scaring the $(*% out of you and you are experiencing the weight of heavy resistance, chances are, it’s very important to you.
How to conquer your fear and move forward
By now you’ve realized there’s no getting around fear that comes up when you’re in the midst of a major life change, even if it is a positive one.
So when you are feeling like you want to take a big step forward — in your business or in your personal life — but you are feeling the fear, try these 7 steps to conquering your fear and moving forward:
Name it. Recognize what you are feeling and identify what your core fear is. Understand it. Get comfortable with your fear and embrace it as a normal part of life. Ask yourself, what is this fear about? What is it trying to protect you from? Observe what it’s telling you, and take it as a message, rather than following it down the rabbit hole to anxiety.
Feel it. Wanting to avoid the uncomfortable feelings that come along with fear is one reason we try so hard to avoid it, even if on the other side lies a better life. Allow yourself to sit with your feelings and accept them for what they are. Ask yourself why you’re having such a visceral reaction? What about this is so important to you?
Reframe it. Instead of viewing fear as a negative, something to avoid, or a roadblock, try reframing it. If you knew that fear was a sign that everything was OK and you were on the right path, how would you feel? If you had a choice to view what you are feeling as fear or excitement, which would you choose? How would that change things?
Imagine the upside. You’ve likely spent a lot of time in your head ruminating on the downsides and making a mental list of everything that could go wrong. But how much time have you spent thinking, What could go right? Sit with that question. What good could come of this? What is the best thing that could happen?
Consider the consequences. Sometimes we just aren’t invested enough to go through the work of moving forward. To know how invested you are, ask yourself, what are the consequences of not moving forward? What’s at stake here? How would you feel if you did not make this change? If fear was not a factor, what would you choose to do?
Talk it out. If you feel lost in your thoughts and mentally exhausted by the process, it can help to get a perspective of a third party. Talk it out with a friend or coach to get an outsider’s opinion. Consider this as research rather than persuading you to go one way or another. Sometimes just stating your fears aloud to another person can help you shift perspective.
Take action. You can spent endless hours ruminating on what you are scared of, why you are scared, and tallying the pros and cons. But at the end of the day, we choose what role we want fear to play in our lives. Do you want to let it prevent you from moving forward? Or do you want to own up to it, feel the fear, and do it anyway?
Experiencing fear and resistance is a normal, human response to making big changes in our lives. When we are able to see through the emotion and view the fear for what it really is, we are able to choose how we move forward. The more often we make a conscious choice to take action in spite of fear, the more confidence we gain in our ability to do so.
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