How to Turn Fear Into Action
A strategy to conquer that 1 fear that keeps nagging you
Is there something in your life that you’ve always wanted, but never attempted because you were too afraid? Have you ever felt too stifled to try something because of the potential for failure or pain? Fear can be a crippling experience.
Like it or not, if you are a human, you’ve got fears. It’s a natural human condition. But not everyone deals with them in the same way. In this article, I want to dispel the myth of overcoming your fears and provide a new strategy to conquer that 1 fear that keeps you from turning fear into action and potential.
A fear is a response mechanism to a certain event. This is all happening on a subconscious level; before we even have time to think about it. Unfortunately, our response to fear is stacked against us. Thousands of years ago, fears helped us to survive the primitive years of human existence. Today, we are experiencing the same fear mechanism, even though we are living through the smartest and most developed society ever. Does that mean we can’t do anything about it?
It is important to understand that fears are natural, they are important, and they guide us. At their most basic level, fears are there to keep us safe. Although you and I aren’t going face to face with a sabretooth tiger on a daily basis, the fear mechanism is still ticking. It may not be the best at understanding what’s truly dangerous or not, but hey, it’s definitely reliable.
Without fear, we would not be where we are today. In a way, fear has helped us with some of our most important decisions. Like what’s right and what’s wrong. What should be avoided and what should be acknowledged. So are fears bad? Not necessarily. No matter what, they’ll be there for us. What’s important is what we choose to do with fear.
Step 1: Learn to Acknowledge the Fear
Fear originates from needs. If your needs aren’t being met, it can lead to seeking approval, acceptance or protection. Seeking approval may seem like you just want the best for yourself, but it’s actually happening because of the feeling of not receiving enough. This tension between feeling the pain and missing this pleasure is what causes us to buy into our fears and go for that short-term satisfaction of avoidance rather than facing them.
Fear also originates from a feeling of lacking something. Feeling inferior or a sense of perfectionism, for example, can stem from the desire to be appreciated by someone you love, look up to or respect, yet that feeling is not received. To cover up that feeling of hurt and lack, it is common to seek protection from getting hurt even more. That is why fears are sometimes characterized as ‘paralyzing’.
So, in order to protect ourselves from the pain of fear, we make decisions to avoid them, which bring temporary pleasure, but even further pain. The incremental benefit of avoidance is more pleasurable than the perceived benefit of facing the fear, but the combined pain of avoidance and not facing a fear is actually greater than the pain of facing a fear. Avoidance, therefore, is a temporary mask.
The avoidance is trying to protect you – from the feeling of being inferior, from feeling like you don’t size up, the feeling of losing something, and the list goes on. But remember, fears are natural. They are important in understanding how we feel and how we truly value our self-worth. Accepting the fear can be painful, but it’s important to accept it so we can actually learn from it (and get some use out of it!).
Step 2: Feel the Pain of not Following Through
It may be hard to take the action to face a fear but there is something far worse to consider. Just imagine what would happen if you never decided to face your fear. This is the greatest pain of all. As mentioned earlier, the short-term pleasure of avoidance temporarily covers up the pain of the fear. But this short-term gain is masking the even greater pain of never following through, stopping you from feeling the ultimate pleasure of achieving your goals and dreams.
Call it a reality check, call it the cost, call it leverage – it’s the idea of getting yourself to a point where enough is enough. Because the alternative is the most disgusting, horrible, sickening feeling of living a life with one foot in and one foot out. You deserve better than that. You owe it to yourself to take the road less traveled to a place where you will one day look back and be so proud of yourself. It’s not even worth contemplating this or sugar coating this. It is what it is. Take the plunge or live in regret. Feel how it will impact you, your friends, your family, your work, your body, your destiny.
With this firmly implanted, things can only go up from here.
Step 3: Understand the Benefits of Facing Fear
It’s important again to mention that fears aren’t necessarily bad, even if they get in the way. Studies show that when researchers studied animals who were simulated to have no sense of fear (after removing the amygdala in their brain) they would not get bothered at all and have little to no reactions to anything. Is it realistic to live without any cares? Is it even safe? Rather than trying to overcoming every fear you have, a better approach is to live with it and handle it on a consistent basis. After being aware of your fear, begin to understand what would happen if you face the fear you have head-on.
Pressure often seems way bigger than it really is. It’s almost like living in a life-sized action movie. When life is perceived this way, the environment seems way more extreme than it really is. The story we often play out when we’re scared is the worst possible scenario. This is what inhibits us because there seems to be no way out. Once you’ve taken the time to accept this, begin to consider a more realistic scenario to what may happen to you.
There may not be a perfect cure, but consider a way it could be handled a little bit better. And give your fear a reality check too. In the thousands of years of human existence, this fear must have been felt by someone else, albeit in a different way. There’s a good chance that someone has found a way past it. Begin to consider better alternatives to the outcomes you currently fear. Remember, most of the time the results aren’t half as bad as you thought, and there must have been someone that has experienced the pain before. Using this along with your awareness will help you take a step up to see the forest for the trees.
Take that further and establish a plan for yourself, such as with a ritual, habit or lifestyle change that will support this new view. Then go even further and consider the results of actually facing this fear. Who would you be? What would you be able to do? What could you accomplish? How would this feel? Just like how the anxiety from a fear can snowball, so can the benefits and the beliefs in the person you will become by facing it.
Stop focusing on the way things were and start looking towards the way things can be.
— Pat Mazza (@evolutionmentor) October 9, 2018
Step 4: Create and Live your Plan of Action
With these techniques, a fear is no longer a hindrance. With these techniques, it becomes a catalyst. A catalyst forward towards the things you’ve always put off or always wanted to do but never did because some silly voice inside your head told you that you probably shouldn’t. Rather than becoming paralyzed by fear, you can now begin to dance with the fear.
Like working out any muscle, repetition is so important. Keep using these skills so your reactions to fear remain sharp. Remember, fear comes on you from the deepest parts of your limbic system. Once you’ve thought about fear, it’s already too late. Stay one step ahead by continuing to do things outside your comfort zone – comfortable or not.
Here are some of the cues I use as a sort of ‘reframing guide’ to help keep the idea of facing fears in mind, and the benefits that will accrue by facing them and not avoiding them.
* Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow
* I never fail because if I at least learn something new, then I have succeeded and gained some experience for the future
* Fear is a guiding force, not a hindrance
* When I lean into fear and my palms start to sweat, when my heart starts to beat – I feel alive
* What will people say about me at my funeral?
* There are no problems – only solutions
* If I win I’ll be happy. And if I lose I’ll be wiser
* One life. Do something about it
* My past does not equal my future
* I learn from the worst and listen to the best
* No more tomorrows. Today is the day
Imagine the life you’ve always dreamed about but never actually followed through on. The life you wanted but felt you could never get because the things in your way felt way too insurmountable. Now imagine the life you’ve dreamed of, but now you’re working towards it, things are happening, and you finally get to a place where it becomes a reality. Where fear makes you feel alive. Doing things that you once thought were impossible. This is a life of turning fear into action. I hope you have taken away a new strategy to conquer that 1 fear that keeps nagging you. You got this ?