Fear keeps many people from being everything they created to be, from achieving their potential, from realizing their vision for themselves, and being able to spend more time working in their purpose. For many, fear is the biggest impediment to fulfilment in their lives.
What’s the definition of fear?
Fear is an unpleasant emotion cause by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.
The key part of that definition is two words: the belief.
Some fears do have to do with something really causing pain or being a threat, but many of our fears are simply the belief that there will be pain or a threat. It’s not real, but we allow those beliefs to get in the way of us being able to do the things that we want to do.
So, if this belief can stop us from achieving our goals, why we were created with fear as one of our emotions?
If you’re walking through the woods and all of a sudden you see a mama grizzly bear and two cubs, if you’re smart you’re probably fearful and wanting to get away from that. Likewise, if you come across of burning forest fire, you probably will be at least a little scared of that.
When it’s not just the belief, but there really is something that’s a threat to you, fear is a good emotion to have because it will keep you alive. It’s a healthy emotion. It’s helpful in that case. That’s good fear.
But the bad kind of fear is when there’s not actually any danger and the fear keeps us from realizing our potential. Those kind of fears—the ones about things that won’t really harm us—they’re a barrier to us reaching our goals. It’s the belief that there is danger that keeps us from moving forward. Those are the fears that we generally need to overcome to be able to have fulfilment in our lives and achieve the things we want.
Where does fear come from?
- Danger. As we just discussed, these are the real situations where it’s justified to be fearful. For example, if the captain of your airplane announces that the plane is going down. That’s a situation of real danger.
- Facing uncertainty or the unknown. When you don’t know what’s coming, your mind can play games that make it seem worse. That’s a belief that makes you fearful rather than reality, because the reality is unknown.
- A prior bad experience. This can be your bad experience or someone else’s bad experience that you’ve witnessed. For example, a person who has been through a horrible divorce is so scarred (and scared) by it that they won’t date again.
- Ignorance and lack of understanding. This is where your belief is built on a lack of understanding and causes fear, like when the people in Columbus’s crew believed the earth was flat so they were afraid of sailing off the edge of the world.
Allowing fear—or indeed any negative emotions—to stop us from doing things we want to do in our lives is being a slave to that emotion. When you allow fear to grow up like a weed, that fear is really your master. A slave is completely submissive to the master and has no free will. Fears make you a slave because they diminish your freedom.
Fear and The Four Freedoms
Dan Sullivan talks about four freedoms: freedom of money, freedom of time, freedom of relationship and freedom of purpose.
Joe worked in Real Estate and one of the biggest problems agents have is the fear of making prospecting calls. This is called, “call reluctance”. How does this fear impact the four freedoms for an agent?
Freedom of money: if you’re afraid to get on the phone and make your prospecting calls, you’re not going to do as many deals and you’re not going to have as much money. That’s going to stop you from having the freedom of having the money to do what you want to do.
Freedom of time: often people have a big plan but because of the fear they spend two hours on Facebook instead of prospecting. Fear leads to procrastination and if you’re procrastinating you’re losing your freedom of time because your time is being diminished.
Freedom of relationships: if you’re afraid to do your prospecting, that’s fewer people you will interact with. In turn, that’s reducing your sphere of influence, and shrinking your comfort zone, and ultimately reducing your freedom of relationships.
Freedom of purpose: if you’re doing all of those other things—you don’t have money because you’re not making calls, you don’t have time because you’re procrastinating and you don’t have the relationships that could be built by going out and prospecting—that’s going reduce your ability to work in your purpose. Fear has limited your freedom in those situations.
The biggest problems many people have with their fears is they avoid them or they won’t even admit that they have fear.
Lying to your self only makes it worse. Admit your fear—there is no shame in being afraid. Every one is afraid at some point. In fact, there is great strength in admitting you have a fear. Hiding it, avoiding it, ignoring it, pretending it doesn’t exist? That’s a sign of weakness. If you try to hide from it or pretend it doesn’t exist, it causes you to have less freedom and it keeps you from achieving your goals and your dreams.
Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is being afraid, but doing it anyway.
There is nothing to be ashamed of in being afraid. What you should be ashamed of is if you’re afraid and you don’t face it or you won’t even admitting you’re afraid. When you refuse to deal with that fear it rents space in the back of your head and becomes a stronghold in your life to keep you from doing what you want to do.
It’s time to figure out how to get past your fears. Joe has six strategies to help you overcome the fears.
Strategy One: Reframing
Physiologically, your body reacts exactly the same to fear as it does to excitement. All of those extreme sports people doing all kinds of crazy stuff don’t realize they are physiologically terrified because they’re so excited.
One way to reframe is to just say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so excited I get to do this,’ instead of saying ‘I’m so scared I have to do this.’ You trick your mind into being excited instead of scared.
Another way to reframe is to use the Fear vs. Danger scale. Take whatever you’re afraid of, admit to yourself you’re afraid, admit your level of fear and fill in on the left side of the scale between 0 and 10 what you’re fear level is. Then go to the right side, which is the danger level, and be honest about what the danger level really is. When you look at it and say, “well, there is no danger, there is no reason to be fearful,” that allows you to have the courage you need to attack whatever that fear is.
So reframing is taking your mind and shifting it from fear to excitement and or taking what you think your fear level is and comparing it to the danger levels, so that you can reframe what it looks like to you and make it something easier for you to attack.
Strategy Two: Strength in Numbers
If you’re afraid of something and you can find someone else to do it with you, that’s always a way that can help you to take that leap of faith instead of sitting there scared by yourself. And if you can find someone who’s not afraid of it to deal with it with you, that’s great. Or if you have someone else who you know is not going to chicken out at the last second, who is afraid of it as well and the two of you do it together, that is just a great way to overcome the fear. It will help you to push through it by having that buddy to do it with you.
Strategy Three: Find a Mentor
Whatever you’re afraid of, there is a good chance somebody else has already confronted that fear and lived to tell about it. If you can find somebody else who’s already succeeded in what you’re afraid of, you can learn from them how to do it and use that as your springboard to being able to face the fear yourself. That’s exactly what Joe did in starting this podcast—he learned from podcast guru Paul Colligan, whose book gave Joe what he needed to push through and start doing the podcast.
When you find that mentor it doesn’t have to be someone you know. It can be someone who has written a book, who’s got a blog, who has a podcast or videos on YouTube. Or it can be someone you know who had success tackling whatever fear is in front of you.
One key thing: all you perfectionists out there, don’t get caught in paralysis by analysis. Don’t be studying so long that you never do anything. Lots of people spend so long studying their fear, they never actually attack it, so find the minimum you need to do and then dive in and do it.
Strategy Four: Develop a Powerful WHY
A WHY in your life, a reason why you need to get through that fear that is so powerful the prize for achieving your WHY makes the fear pale by comparison. You just say, “I’m going through that fear because this is so important.” What is your WHY? What are your reasons and purpose? Achieving that and living out that potential God has placed in you can help you push through whatever fear you’re facing.
Strategy Five: Lower Your Expectations
There are many people who allow their pride or perfectionism to keep them from doing things they fear. They have this misplaced notion they should be great at whatever they try the first time they try it. So until they know they can be great, they don’t do something and they let fear of it not going well, or the fear of not being perfect, to stop them from facing that fear. When you do that, you diminish your life. You can get so much joy and satisfaction from trying new things. You need to be more childlike where you know you’re not going to do well the first time you do something.
If you’re facing a fear and you’re afraid you’ll fall on your face the first time you try it, just get it over with. Then you get the bad one over with to start getting better. Lower your expectations and quit expecting to be perfect.
Strategy Six: Do It Scared
Whatever it is, just resolve you’re going to jump in and do it. What’s the worst that can happen? Check out Tim Ferris’s TED talk on YouTube about Fear Setting. He says, I’ve got this fear. What are the worst things that can happen if I do it? And then you look at that list and make another list of how to mitigate those things so they won’t be as damaging if they do happen. That allows you to get to a point where you’re able to go ahead and push through the fear, do it scared and realize that it’s not as bad as you thought it would be.
The Benefits of Stepping Out
If you follow one of these six strategies and face your fear, there are two main benefits. Firstly, it’s rarely as bad as you think it will be! Secondly, that sense of accomplishment you get from pushing through a fear creates great momentum in your life. When you do something and bust through a fear, do it again as soon as you can because it creates muscle memory which means the fear will never have power over you again. Attack the fear, face it, defeat it and get that muscle memory.
Sometimes, we have fears we can’t handle by ourselves, that we need help with. A good sign you’re in a place where you might need help beyond just these strategies is when you feel like there’s no way out, or you feel like there is no hope.
To get past all of that, be humble, turn to God, turn to others, admit it and ask for help. When you have that kind of fear, where you feel like there is no way out, where you feel you have no hope, that is when you have to see your pastor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, or a professional counselor. That is where you have to humble yourself and get the help you need to get past those things. If you’re having trouble determining where you are at, Joe recommends the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety, which professional counselors use to determine the anxiety level of their patients.
If you go through that with whatever fear you’re dealing with, you can see whether you have moderate anxiety or severe anxiety. If you are in moderate to severe, you know that probably you need more help than just your friends can give you or you can find on your own. It’s a great tool.
If you’ve got fears like tall weeds in your life, you need to do whatever it takes to chop them down and get them out of the way because they are limiting your fulfilment in life. They are limiting your success, and they are diminishing your freedom. So do not let fear stop you from being the best you can be.