Overcoming fear is a top priority for almost every client I work with. While it may not be the apparent reason a person hires me, it is usually at the root everything. Take for instance a person looking to start a new career. There are many factors involved in learning a new skill or finding a new job, but the actual leap is where most people hesitate. It’s common for the mind to resist taking any kind of risk, especially one that involves money or relationships.
The survival instinct doesn’t want us to change course unless there is a situation that it feels needs to be avoided. Even when you have made up your mind to make a change, there are doubts and uncomfortable feelings that come along with it which can cause stress and uncertainty.
So, how can you help yourself be brave in the face of your fears?
Use your brain to your advantage!
Face your fears mindfully: Many times the fear of something is worse than the actuality but when fear takes hold of you, even small things feel huge. Sometimes it feels like you would literally die if a fear came true. This seems like a good reason to avoid things that you’re afraid of but psychologists have found that if you face your fears in a controlled environment, or in small doses, your brain will actually be less afraid (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy uses this formula).
Now, I’m not suggesting that you go right out and do something that you dread just to “cure your fear!” and this is not for overwhelming anxiety or a phobia (please find a therapist if you are experiencing these). But, you can use your imagination and mindfulness to help quiet your fear monster. Here’s something to try: Set a timer for three minutes. Allow yourself to sit with your fear and focus on your breathing. When the fear comes up, say something to yourself like “I can feel this now because I am safe and I will be okay” or something that affirms your strength and courage. After the three minutes is up, do something that is enjoyable and will hold your attention (have your morning coffee; do some exercise you love; call a friend). Do this on a regular basis and see if you notice a difference when the fear arises! I bet you will!
Imagine the worst-case scenario: Sometimes you need to think of the worst to realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem. For the sake of this exercise I’ll use the example of the fear of failing in changing careers. What would the worst-case scenario be? I imagine all of the hard work and struggle I have finding a new job. I don’t find one after looking for a year. I run out of savings and I have to go work at a job I hate. I still scour the want ads but no one is hiring. In fact, the whole field that I wanted to move into has dissolved. I am stuck working at the job I hate. I get fired from that job because I am so upset that I can’t have my dream career that I don’t meet the standards at work. I have to go live with my annoying cousins in a house with ten people. I collect unemployment because no one will hire me since I’ve been fired from my last job and I eventually end up being the crazy old lady who walks around town mumbling about my lost fortune.
Now, Dear Reader, I hope you’re chuckling at this point but I also want you to know that I was thinking of what would realistically happen should that fear come true. Notice that when I started predicting what would happen I did not include sudden death. When I read back over the description of the downward spiral I can see in how many ways it just doesn’t ring true. If I’m a person who has the determination to go through a career change in the first place then it stands to reason that I would also have the power to find some way to make things work. Many times, when you are afraid of something, you don’t think logically. Instead, you buy your fear story hook, line and sinker and go straight to feeling like you’re an old crazy cat lady. The next time you have a fear cropping up follow the thought out to its end. See how much less scary it would be if you don’t just skip straight to sudden death!
So there you are Dear Reader, the next time your brain goes haywire with fear use it to turn itself around and do things anyway!