The Fear Factor

Self Help

What is holding you back from achieving your dreams? Chances are that a big part of you is being held back by fear. We all have fears and some of us even let these fears overpower us. Today I am going to give you eight strategies to take control of your fears and your life.

Analyze Your Fear

I recently read The 4-Hour Work Week by author Tim Ferriss. Very early on he talks about fears. He suggests identifying and then writing down your biggest fears. For example, my biggest fear is that I will fail at x,y, and z and that everyone will know it. Right now that specific thing happens to be this very blog.

The next step of Tim’s prescription to fear involves using your imagination. If your deepest fear were to come true, what is the absolute worst thing that would result? I’m really quite good at doing this. I call it “dark fantasy.” My dark fantasy  resulting from the above fear goes something like this: “Everybody hates what I am writing and no one is afraid to tell me so. Every single comment is equivalent to hate mail. All of my family and friends find out that my blog isn’t going well and tell me how stupid I am.” You get the idea.

The idea behind this method is that 1) you will realize that most of your fears are actually pretty ridiculous and 2) that even if your very worst fear were to come true it wouldn’t be all that bad.

This holds true for me. While people on the web can be quite cruel, I doubt that every single reader hates me enough to tell me about it. In fact I might even end up helping one or two people. Also, it is absolutely unfair of me to project those sort of images onto my family and friends. They most likely wouldn’t give my activities a second thought. Even if they do think poorly of me, the majority wouldn’t say anything to me about it.


Baby Steps

This method comes to us via Dr. Leo Marvin, the fictional character from the movie “What About Bob?” Dr. Marvin advises phobia patients to take “baby steps.” If one has acrophobia — a fear of heights — the first step might be to visualize a ladder. Next you would get within ten feet of a real ladder. Then touch the ladder. After you can touch the ladder you would put one foot on the first step, then both feet. On and on you go until you can finally climb to the top. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Just one step at a time.

Although I heard about this method from a movie, I believe it to be a valid real-life method. For my example, starting a blog, I don’t have to have a beautiful professional page, a million subscribers, and a thousand posts right away. I just need to work on the project a little at a time. One day my goal might be to write a post and the goal the next day be to set up a social media account for the blog. Even if I do only a little bit every day, I’m still moving forward and towards my goal.

Take away message — even if you do only one small task a day, you will still be getting closer to your goal.


Re-frame your Fear

Re-framing your fear is really re-framing how you think. To do this you have to take your fear and make it work for you. With this method you are looking for ways to turn your fear into an opportunity.  If you are afraid of spiders, take the opportunity to learn everything you can about them. If you are afraid of social situations turn the invite to the work Christmas party into an opportunity to say “hi” to just one person. My blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts, to learn about computer applications, and a chance to work independently.

The great thing about this method is that you have permission to not be perfect (or to completely blow it — whatever the case may be) because there will always be another chance. Its ok if you get the shivers when you pull out your Encyclopedia of Arachnids or to decide to turn down and invite and spend the night in.You are in control of what opportunities you decide to take. Just be careful that fear is not the guiding factor in decision making. When in doubt jump into action.


Have a Backup

What if? The looming question we all ask ourselves. What if I never get over my fear of spiders? What if I never get to the top of the ladder? What if my blog fails?

Having a backup plan helps to mitigate fears so that you can get started on overcoming your fears. Even if you do fail, it is not the end. If you are still afraid of spiders after numerous attempts to alleviate the fear then just move to New Zealand where there are no poisonous spiders. I kid, I kid. But maybe you could put out spider traps and have a friend empty them for you. If you never get to the top of the ladder consider hiring a teenager from the neighborhood to string your holiday lights for you. If my blog fails, I can always get a job.

The backup plan may not be the ideal but there are ways of working around fears. Its not the end of the world, by any means. The backup plan can even act as the motivating factor to keep pushing forward. The backup plan is never as good as the actual plan, otherwise it would be The Plan. So keep pushing forward!


Talk About It

Isn’t it amazing how much better you feel after finding a supportive shoulder to cry on? We talk to others about our relationships, about a hard day, or even just the poor service at the local shop. Why not find someone to talk about your fears with? This person could be a close friend, a significant other, a trained therapist, or the guy you see everyday at the bus stop. Doesn’t matter who, just make sure that they are happy to listen.

Tell this person about why you are afraid. Tell them about how frustrated you are that you couldn’t squash that spider on your living room wall. Tell them about how you finally got to the third step on your ladder. Tell them when you conquer your fear. You will feel like a champ. They’ll probably be pretty proud of you too.


Get Physical

Have you ever noticed that when faced with fear that funny things start to happen with your body? You might start to sweat, heart starts racing, butterflies turn your stomach, you start to fidget, you can’t think clearly, and the room starts spinning. These are all natural manifestations of the “fight or flight” reaction. Your body is telling you that something isn’t right. Run far far away!

The good news is that you can combat the physical with physical. Exercise will pump up your adrenaline and release endorphins.  Go for a run, do some yoga, get in the boxing ring, dance around a bit, pump some iron. Do any exercise that will rid you of the jitters and get you motivated.

Another thing you might try is to physically lower your heart rate using breath control. Try breathing in slowly for ten seconds then slowly releasing the air for ten seconds. Once you feel calm enough you can try just breathing in and out at a steady pace. I find this to be especially helpful for me. Is it weird that sometimes I forget to breathe?


Reward Yourself

It seems so obvious to reward yourself with a shopping trip after losing weight or going out for a night on the town after a stressful week but we don’t always think to reward ourselves for overcoming fear. When you are able to capture and release a spider, climb your next step, or get my first subscriber, celebrate! Get a manicure, eat out, go to the pool. Whatever makes you happy.

If you set your goal and the reward beforehand then you have something to look forward to. A little motivation. As you meet more and more goals and receive more and more rewards you might actually find yourself looking forward to the next challenge.


Jump Into Fear

When all else fails, this is the go to method. Now is the time to think a little less and do a little more. Put on your big boy/girl pants and just go for it. Take off your shoe, take a deep breath, aim and then smash that spider that has been freaking you out for the past 40 minutes. Count to 10 then climb the steps as fast as you can. For me, just start writing. Whatever it is that you are afraid of decide here and now that you are going to conquer it. There is a time for planning but don’t plan yourself into doing nothing. Jump into your fear! Take action and see what happens!

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