Sunday, April 20, 2014


Fear. It paralyzes and cripples, transforming us from confident and capable to insecure and incompetent. Fear. We give it an inch, it takes a mile.

While fear has its purposes in our reality - propelling us to action in times of actual danger - it often has too much of a hold on our lives. Fear has the power to stop us from chasing our goals and dreams, even before we start. Fear has the power to isolate us when what we need most is relationship. Fear has the power to push us to live according to others' principles and expectations instead of our own.

So what does it mean to be fearless? It is NOT never feeling fear. Fearlessness, rather, is having the wisdom to recognize fear's limitations and the courage to push past it in pursuit of the greater things in life.

I am convinced that this is the battle in life most worth fighting. We face fear in both the big choices and the small everyday tasks. But life is too short to let it overcome us. I've identified five principles that help me embody fearlessness:

1. Give yourself permission to take only the first step - When we find ourselves avoiding a task at hand, it is usually because fear has a grip on the situation. Will we be able to do it –and do it well? These thoughts can prevent us from ever initiating the task (and as much as we wish it would, procrastination doesn’t help eliminate the fear). What I find helpful is to concentrate only on a low-risk first step. If it's a difficult email to write, I give myself permission to just write the first draft. If it’s a complex pursuit I am not sure I can successfully complete, I give myself permission to only create a strategy. Typically, after I start to explore the situation through this low-risk first step, I become more comfortable with pursuing it in full.

2. Evaluate the real risk – The problem with fear is that it is often unreasonable. We easily jump to catastrophic thinking that is well beyond the actual worst-case scenario. I find it helpful to break down the scenario to analyze the actual risk. What I often discover is that it is not as bad as I initially imagined, and that there are steps that can be taken to reduce it even further. For example, I may imagine that if I took a leap, I could fall flat on my face, my friends would mock me, and I would forever be doomed to be a failure. Not realistic. (My friends are better than that!) The truth is that while I could fall flat on my face, I would then have friends who help me stand up, brush the dust off, and keep moving forward.

3. Distinguish between fear and intuition – Sometimes we have a bad gut feeling because we know, perhaps subconsciously, that a given pursuit is just not right for us at our core. Perhaps it’s a business venture, and we just can’t shake the feeling that we will fail if only for the reason that actually doing it will drain us of energy and make us unhappy. When I am considering options for life decisions – both big and small – and I find myself with a sense of foreboding, I analyze it to understand why. What am I afraid of losing? What would I gain if I am successful? And even, what would I lose if I am successful? Sometimes I find that what I would gain if I am successful is not what I want at all – and that I would lose things that I value in the process. In these cases, this sense of foreboding is not something to overcome – it’s a strategic influencer on my path.

4. Once you take the leap, don’t look back- Often times taking a risk in facing our fears means putting ourselves out there and being vulnerable. There is often this moment after we first take the leap, that we are extremely exposed and not sure whether we will succeed or fail. If we hesitate or back track in that moment, we will likely fail. Not only that, we may fail in the spotlight, leading to further cycles of fear in our lives. In those critical moments, where we have just propelled ourselves into a new path with momentum, we must find our inner strength and press on until we find solid ground. We must choose to believe that the exposure and risk is temporary and that we will make it to the other side.

5. Have a little faith in humanity (and surround yourself with humanity that you have faith in) - We are not in this world alone, and sometimes the support of others will surprise us. More than that, psychology studies reveal that we are designed to need each other for our own well-being. My first step is to surround myself with those I know have my back. I actively seek out “good people” to join me on my life’s journey. The second step is to let down my walls long enough give other people the opportunity to surprise me with their support. In many cases, while some people have indeed let me down, the reward of gaining unexpected support is invaluable – and it further propels me to take face more fears.

The pursuit of fearlessness is an active battle. Each time I push past a fear to achieve success, I discover a little bit more about myself … I find a piece of me that was hidden from my view. Over time, this loosens its hold on me and gives me more confidence to take another leap. And the reward, I might add, has well been worth the risk.

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