Overcoming fear doesn’t happen instantly or automatically. It is the result of deliberate intention, and conscious action towards doing things that scares you. As a result of overcoming your fears, you grow as a person, and expand the possibilities that surround your life.
Do you recall the last time you wanted to do something so intensely but fear got in your way? We all have those moments when we are enthralled with an idea only to have fear prevent us from moving forward. What can we do to overcome fear from paralyzing us from moving forward with our dreams and desires?
I have always found it interesting how the concept of playing it safe makes many people choose being miserable over being happy.
The interesting thing about the human condition is that the minute we experience pain, we never want to experience it again. So as a result, we do things that we feel will ensure that we do not get hurt. In fact, we will go to further extend to avoid pain than we are to gain pleasure.
For example; you fall in love and you give every ounce of your being to the object of your affection. Things are going well for a while but then something happens and the relationship ends. You feel crushed and you swear to yourself that you will never again allow yourself to be so vulnerable. As a result, anytime you meet someone new, you remember that painful experience and you bring it into the new relationship.
Fear of risk also appears when it comes to the topic of making a living. For some reason there is a belief in the collective conscious that in order to make money, you will mostly likely work at a job that you do not love.
When I was a child, one of my mother’s friends told me to enjoy being a kid because when I became an adult, I would have to get a job in order to pay bills so that I could be responsible. She made it sound as if being an adult was an existence made up of misery and not joy.
Yes, we do have to be responsible for our lives and we do have to pay bills but where does it say that we have to be miserable? I have yet to see proof that we have to be unhappy in order to pay the bills.
“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.”
~ His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
One of the many interesting things about life is that nothing of value was ever gained by playing it safe. Take, for example, the founding of America. Fifty-six men risked their lives by signing the Declaration of Independence. Their act of signing that document constituted treason and it was a serious offense according to the laws of the British Empire. However, they knew that they needed to sign that document in order to achieve independence.
To have a life that you love requires some type of risk taking, and stepping out of your comfort zone to confront some of your fears. Let’s face it, the only sure thing in life is the fact that at some point your heart will stop pumping and this fantastic ride will be over.
When I was twenty-five, I had achieved every single material desire that I ever had. I also felt miserable. There was a huge void in my heart and soul. It scared me and I knew that I did not want the rest of my life to be a reflection or repetition of what I was feeling. So I vowed to change it.
I took a lean of faith, confronted my fears and took action that scared me. As a result, I created a new life that was based on what I loved and believed. I knew in my heart that there was more to life than just money and a title. I wanted passion and meaning. I got it.
The caveat is that sometimes when we change, it will make some people around us uncomfortable. When I decided to change, I had lost many friends. Some of my relatives disowned me and others stopped talking to me.
The loss of friends and relatives was very painful but the rewards were truly worthwhile. I made new friends who ended up becoming more like family than friends. I went from being a miserable person to being a happy person. The void disappeared. My life went from being meaningless to meaningful. It was the wisest decision I ever made in my life.
3 Keys to Overcoming Fear
So how does one go about taking risks and overcoming fear? Here is what I learned and use whenever confronted with a choice between playing it safe or leaping off the cliff into the unknown:
1. Develop Accurate Perception
Most of our experiences in life are determined by our perception. Our perception of a situation determines our thoughts and that in turn creates how we feel about a situation. Thoughts and feelings work hand in hand. Each one influences the other.
People often mistake feelings and thoughts as being the same but they are separate entities. Thoughts often determine how we feel and the opposite is true, too. However, feelings are more powerful than thoughts because feelings usually are what fuels our actions. Feelings bring our thoughts to life.
Let us say something makes you feel scared. That prompts you to worry and that worry then influences all of your actions. It affects how you talk and it even impacts your body. You get the nervous stomach and so on. That all began with a feeling.
The best thing to do when confronted with anything is to view the situation with objectivity and an open mind. Be honest with yourself, too. When you put your emotions aside and can see something independently from what you may think about it, then you can cut through any possible delusion and see the situation accurately.
A few months ago, I decided to launch my own business. For years, I had known that I was meant to be self-employed, it just hasn’t been the right time but that was not the case anymore.
As life would have it, the day that I discovered that I had finally gotten all the financial means needed to make my dream come true, my old job that had laid me off contacted me to come back to work. I was faced with a momentary dilemma. Should I take the steady paycheck or finally go for my dream?
I thought about what my old job was like and how I did not love it and how it made me feel so uninspired. I recalled all the long hours and the miserable co-workers. I also thought about the nice big paycheck and how that would solve a lot of financial stress. All these thoughts made my chest tighten up.
I then thought about my new business and the tightness disappeared. My heart felt joy and freedom even though it was a huge risk, even though it scared me. It occurred to me that even though this new business was just a baby, I wanted and needed to see it through and take it as far as I possibly can.
Instinctively, I knew that if I went back to my old job, it would be a huge step backwards and I wanted to go forwards. I was tired of being at a job that was not in alignment with who I was. I was able to be true to my passion in all areas of my life except for work. The time had come for me to change that. So I called my boss and told him that I refused the offer.
Now to some people, it would have seemed wise to go back to my old job and work on my business on the side. I will admit that does sound like a logical solution but it is also a solution that is rooted in fear.
Fear is tricky. It can disguise itself as being rational but it is not. Fear is like a con artist. It makes you think it is real but it only becomes real when you give in to it.
Yes, I have no idea what will become of my business but if I had gone back to my old job, I still would have had no idea what would happen. I could have easily been laid off again due to the economy or whatever.
When we look at a situation honestly and without fear, then we can see what is at stake and make a decision that is best for us. To some people, I may be crazy but I also know with every fiber of my being that I am on the right track.
2. Believe in Yourself
The interesting thing about overcoming a fear is that you need to believe that you can do it. Doubt is like cancer. It feeds on all the positive, happy thoughts and feelings you may have. Nothing kills a dream more quickly than doubt.
Now the thing about believing in yourself is that you have to have an accurate perception about yourself and the situation at hand (this is where step one comes into play).
For example, I love to sing and dance. It would be awesome to be like Madonna and have 50,000 people dancing and singing along with me. I think that would be an amazing experience.
However, no matter how much I think it would be amazing, there is no way I will become Madonna, because singing and dancing are not my strong points. I would not risk anything on that dream because I know I do not have what it takes.
Yet I am willing to give up a high paying, secure job to launch my business because I believe in myself. My business is based on what I have learned and studied for over thirteen years. I know my subject and field like I know the back of my hand. I have no doubt about my potential and/or talent. I also know that I am capable of learning more and that makes me even more secure in knowing that I am on the right path.
It is easier to take a risk when you believe that you can achieve what you are trying to do.
3. Surrender the Outcome
What usually prevents people from taking a risk is the fact that the outcome is not guaranteed. None of us are able to predict exactly what the future will bring. Therein lies the beauty of life.
Do you really want to know ahead of time what will happen? I realize that a lot of fear about the future is rooted in the concern about whether or not you will be okay.
If there is anything I have learned in my years in search of enlightenment it is this: you will always be okay and you will always land on your feet. You will also have what you need at any given moment. You may not always get what you want but that can be a blessing. For what you want is not always good for you.
When I look back at all my failed romances (and there were many), I am so grateful that none of those relationships worked out.
Things happen for a reason. The Universe is not stupid. Sometimes you will not know the exact reason for years to come. That is why it is important to surrender the outcome of any given situation.
So what does this mean? That means that you give your best to the present moment and trust that it will lead you exactly to where you need to be.
Life has an interesting way of working things out. Your job is to know what it is that you want. Visualize the feeling that you want to have. Many times people say that they want a lot of money. Actually, what they want is not so much the money but rather the sense of security.
So visualize every single feeling that you want to have. Imagine all the details but let go of the timetable and how it will show up. Your job is to give your best at any given moment. The how and the when are not your responsibility.
A small acorn eventually becomes a huge oak tree. It does that without any help from you. The same holds true for you. Plant the seeds, water them and do whatever else you need to do but let things develop in their own way and time.
Parting Words on Overcoming Fear
Shakespeare said that “life is a stage and we each must play a part.” We have the choice whether we want to play our role small or if we want to aim for an Oscar worthy performance. The choice is ours. We get out of life as much as we put into it.
Fear and risk does exist in all aspects of life. However, we become a slave to our fears only when we allow ourselves to be intimidated by it. Fear only becomes real when we believe that it is real.
Having a life that we love is our birthright. We are meant to be our best and enjoy this journey. In Buddhism, it is said that to be born as a human being is the biggest blessing of all. For in human form, we can do amazing things.
So please do not waste the precious gift you have on fear. You are capable of doing wonders. Fear is not the boss of you….you are the boss of it. Decide today that you can and will overcome your fears.