Are your fears controlling your decisions? How many times a day do you find yourself frozen in fear? Do you have a nagging feeling in your stomach? Wake in the middle of the night frighten you forgot to do something? Do you constantly feel that you should be doing more, without knowing what more? Even when you are progressing, you feel miserable (not depression type misery but the kind that comes from self-doubt). The kind of doubt that occurs when you have decided to start a new business, lose more than 30 pounds, learn to speak a new language or start dating after ending a long relationship.
You feel capable and confident in your abilities. You have a goal and is 110% toward achieving that goal. The misery and doubt you feel are related to your passion in reaching this aim. You doubt whether you have enough _________ (fill in your blank space) to accomplish this goal. Maybe you have others depending on your success. Your reputation is on the line. You have a deadline; the money is spent or you have not been on a date in years
Warning Signs and Motivation
I am assured these feeling are entirely normal. We merely need to remember to keep moving forward. Fear is our personal warning sign; it signals that we have stepped outside a comfort zone. The message screams; if we continue along this path expect challenges beyond imagination. These fears are not going anywhere. Even if we succeed at our goals. Fears will continue to haunt us because humans are goal setting creatures. Depending on the importance of the goal, determines the intensity of our fears.
Fear is not something to dread. They are our greatest motivator. As an ex-athlete, I used fear to propel myself to perform at a high level. One of my biggest fears as a linebacker was to be filmed being knocked on my backside. Linebackers play moving forward, so if the backside of my uniform was dirty, I considered that a bad game. The fear of being knocked on my butt motivated me to perform at a higher level.
Fear is one of our most primal instincts; it is rooted in our old brain better known as the parasympathetic system. The old brain is where the flight, fight or freeze mechanism originates. Freezing is often overlooked as a byproduct of the old brain. Most are familiar with the fight or flight syndrome but have you ever heard of someone being frozen in fear or scared stiff. Similarly, sometimes we are shocked speechless and not able to form intelligent thought.
In the west, we are taught that fear is not a friend rather an enemy. The best-selling books by the top selling self-help authors fill book store book shelves with a message of conquering our fears. Fear is the villain because fear keeps us from reaching our fullest potential. We are told to suppress our fears with some type of technique, following the examples of some iconic figures or by subtle shaming.
The problem with conquering our fear is our primary desire of self-protection. Imagine if our goal is to shave 2 minutes off our run time in the mile. After the excitement of the new challenge wears off, fear shows up with a vengeance. What is wrong with your current time in the mile? After all, you are not preparing to run in the Olympics. These are protectionary thoughts. They protect us from being disappointed if we are not successful. In other words, our fear mechanism keeps us from moving outside our comfort zones. If we remain in the comfort zone, we are protected.
The same protectionary mechanisms alert us when we get too close to the edge. Playing it safe has its advantages, for example investing in the financial markets. However, if we are overly sensitive to warning signs, we live too cautiously and avoid any risk. When we are working towards a BIG goal, we might have to ignore the protective warning signs of our fears.
We begin thinking of all the reason how the goal is impossible. The impossible reasons change to we do not have what it takes to accomplish the goal. Some of these are reasoned fears, for example, scheduling challenges, the potential for injuries, and lack of knowledge. You can bet that once our fears show up, self-doubt is not far behind.
Fear reminds us of decision consequences and potential pitfalls. Self-doubt is the killer of goals, dreams and aspirations. The main tool self-doubt uses to kill our goals is the comparison. Self-doubt compares our effort to the stories of the people we have grown to admire. We replay the comparisons repeatedly in our minds. We imagine our heroine (hero) as not facing the challenges we are facing, or if they did, they were much better at overcoming.
Comparisons are the demons of self-doubt because they are false narratives. There is nothing wrong with comparing apples to apples; too often, we compare apples to oranges. For example comparing our current challenge with our heros in their present iteration psychologically depresses us and elevates them. If we are going to make comparisons, we need to compare ourselves with others who are at our current level of development and experiencing the same challenges. When we do this, we realize that everyone experiences self-doubt and that our experiences are par for the course. In fact, it is likely that our heroine felt self doubt on their road to success when facing similar challenges.
Fear as Friend
Fear is a friend; they illuminate the ledges and screams if we are too close. When we find ourselves in unfamiliar surroundings, fear reminds us to open our eyes and become mindful. When that queasy feeling takes over the pit of our stomach (also known as butterflies), fear gentle signal that we are approaching a task that is vital to our success. Sometimes people allow their butterflies to turn them around; butterflies indicate that we need to charge full steam ahead.
Using Fear to Make Decisions
Use your fear as motivation or as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present. All fears disconnect us from the present. Fears are equal to perceived failures (past tense) or a future story related to our worthiness. Everything is possible in the present. Mindful practices force us to focus only on what is happening now. We want to cultivate the practice of making all our decisions based on the now. Stay in the present, moment by moment then observe what happens to fears.
The best selling authors message to conquer our fears. They do not mean elimination nor do they intend to give the impression that we can abolish our fears. By conquer, we should understand our fears and their emotional impact. Butterflies are healthy part of goal seeking, our job is to get our butterflies to fly in formation. Once we are congruent with the messages provided by our emotional signals, we will begin to make desirable changes in our lives.