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“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s one of most common reasons people procrastinate on taking action toward their goals. We fear failure, or rejection, or being embarrassed, or disappointing or angering other people, or getting hurt. So we play it safe and avoid taking risks or trying new things.
Fear is natural. But where does it come from?
The answer is that it comes from US – from our own minds and imagination. it’s important to remember that, as humans, we’ve evolved to the stage where almost all of our fears are now self-created.
We scare ourselves by imagining negative outcomes to any activities we pursue or experience. But just because we imagine these things happening, that doesn’t mean they WILL happen, or that they will be as painful as we think.
That’s why psychologists like to say that fear stands for “Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real.”
Because fear is all about what MIGHT happen – not what WILL happen.
The good news is, since we are the root source of our fears, that means we have the power to overcome them.
Instead of allowing ourselves to imagine a worst-case scenario and be a victim of our fears, we can take control of our own minds and consciously decide to visualize a best-case scenario instead.
Here’s a simple exercise to help you gain more control over your fears – and show you how unfounded they really are.
These are not things you are afraid of, such as spiders, but instead, the things you are afraid to do, such as skydiving.
Your list might include things such as: leaving my job, going back to school, talking to my spouse about our relationship, asking for a raise, and so on.
Once you have completed your list, restate each fear in the following format:
I want to ____, and I scare myself by imagining ____.
I want to start my own business, and I scare myself by imagining that I would go bankrupt and lose my house.
I want to talk to my husband about our relationship, and I scare myself by imagining that if he knew how I really felt and what I really wanted, he would leave me.
By completing this statement for all of the things we are afraid to do, you can see how you are the one creating your fears by imagining negative outcomes in the future.
I want you to take the last part of that statement – the fearful outcome you imagined - and transform it into something positive.
“Instead of scaring myself by imagining that I will go bankrupt and lose my house, I will work hard to do whatever it takes to make my business a success.”
“Instead of scaring myself by imagining that my husband will leave me, I will work with him to cultivate greater love and intimacy in our relationship.”
Do you see how each of these statements flips the fear on its head and transforms it into a powerful positive vision?
I encourage you to try this for yourself – and transform all of your fears into empowering visions of success!
After you complete this exercise, you will still experience fear from time to time. It’s part of being human. But to help you in the process of overcoming fear faster, I have seven strategies to share with you today:
Thoughts produce emotions – so if you want to change how you feel, change your thoughts. Whenever you feel fear, retrace your mental steps and observe what you were thinking.
What thoughts led to your feelings of fear? Once you identify them, it will be easier to resolve them.
You can’t rid yourself of negative thoughts simply by not thinking them. The Law of Replacement dictates that you can’t replace something with nothing – you have to replace it with something else.
So when you notice yourself experiencing a negative, fear-producing thought, replace it with a positive thought instead – like I did in the exercise I just showed you.
For example, if you want to become a best-selling author, be on the lookout for thoughts like, “What if publishers reject my manuscript?”
Instead, visualize what will happen when a publisher DOES accept your manuscript and agrees to bring your book to market.
Observe the physical sensations you experience when you think a fearful thought. You may feel fear as a sinking feeling in your stomach, a tightening in your shoulders and chest, or an elevated heart rate.
Notice what you feel and then consciously replace them with sensations you’d rather be experiencing.
Focus on how positive emotions, such as peace and joy, show up your body – as a rush of warmth or a tingle of delight. Imagine yourself experiencing those sensations instead, and your fears will be neutralized.
Utilize affirmations to create a more positive, success-oriented mindset. Affirmations are powerful statements that describe the reality you want to create – and they are a powerful antidote to fear.
Here’s how they work: Imagine the reality you would like to create then form a positive statement that describes it as already being achieved. For example: “I am so happy and grateful now that I am a New York Times bestselling author.”
By stating it as already being achieved, you create a tension between what you are saying and experiencing physically, and what your mind knows to be true.
Your subconscious doesn’t like this tension and will begin to work overtime to resolve it, prompting you to take more action and become more aware of resources that will help you achieve your goal.
As you practice your daily affirmations, you may find yourself thinking, “What if this doesn’t work?” If that happens, I encourage you to ask yourself instead,
“What if this does work?”
“Why will this work?”
“How will it work?”
By shifting your questions to focus more on action and solutions, you will find it easier to maintain your forward momentum.
Take this affirmation for example:
“I am so happy and grateful now that I am a New York Times bestselling author.”
When you include a positive emotion in the statement – such as happiness or gratitude – you open yourself to experiencing that emotion in your body, giving your affirmation far more impact.
Just as the emotion of fear can paralyze you, intense positive emotions can motivate you toward greater success.
A practical – and often overlooked – strategy for overcoming fear is to make sure you’re not risking more than you can afford to lose.
To grow and achieve greater success, you have to risk something. Just make sure that you can bear the loss if you don’t succeed the first time. My advice is to begin by taking on smaller challenges and work your way up.
If you want to start your business but you need a guaranteed income each month to pay your mortgage and stay out of debt, maybe run your business as a side gig until you have enough clients to quit your job for good.
If you’re starting your first job in sales, call on prospects or customers who will be the easiest to sell to. If you’re eager to take on new responsibilities at work, start by asking to do parts of a project you’re interested in.
If you want to run a marathon, start slowly with a simple “couch to 5K” app. Master the skills you need to learn, move through your fears, and then take on bigger challenges.
You’ve overcome countless fears to become the person you are today, whether it was learning to ride a bike, driving a car, or kissing someone you liked for the first time. Taking risks and opening yourself to new experiences is always a little scary.
But when you face your fears and take action anyway, you build up confidence in your abilities.
The situation you’re facing now and how your fear is manifesting may be different than what you’ve experienced in the past, but you already know how to overcome your fears. You’ve spent a lifetime doing it! So I encourage you to follow Emerson’s advice and do the thing you fear.
It is the best possible way to grow as a person and achieve more success in life. Every successful person I know has been willing to take a leap of faith even though they were afraid. Because they knew that if they didn’t act, the opportunity would pass them by.
Recognize Fear For What It Is: a mental trick your ego uses to protect you from the negative outcomes it imagines. You create your fear and you have the power to dissolve it as well.
Think about something that you’re afraid to do. Now replace that fear with:
I want to ____, and I scare myself by imagining ____.
Then transform the second part of that statement into a more positive outcome by saying,
“Instead of scaring myself by imagining ____, I will ____.
Repeat that to yourself a few times and see how you feel.
Learn how to reclaim your happiness and reach your goals without feeling stress with my Positive Thinking Guide. Discover how to overcome negative thoughts and feelings with ease.