5 Practical Steps to Help You Minimize Fear and Open Up Your Life Today

by Henrik Edberg


Image by Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix) (license).

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“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is holding you back from trying new things and improving your life in big or small ways in your daily life?

When you boil it down it is most often not about anything outside of you. Or that is at least not the biggest reason why you feel paralyzed. It’s the fear that gets to you.

It holds you back from trying something new for lunch, a new place for the evening out or a new hobby because you feel somewhat afraid that you’ll have a bad experience. So you stick to your usual routine.

It holds you back from asking someone for a date or number because you don’t want to risk being rejected or looking like a fool in front of people. So you don’t take the next step.

You stay where you are and new directions in your life remain unexplored.

This is of course very human. But fear doesn’t have to stop you from exploring life.

Now, let me share what I do to minimize my fear and to be able to move from feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed into taking action and moving forward.

1. What is the worst that could happen?

I like this very practical exercise as step number one.

So ask yourself this question. Really think about. Don’t just think about it for a few seconds. Sit down with a pen and piece of paper, your laptop or cellphone. Write it all out and think about what the realistic worst-case scenario would be.

Then write down a plan for how you can come back from such a scenario.
This step brings clarity, defuses fuzzy fears and helps you realize that you can most often bounce back pretty quickly even if the worst-case scenario somehow becomes reality.

If that only works to a degree move on to the next step…

2. Share your fear with someone.

By sharing your fear you can relieve inner pressure. By just keeping it on the inside it’s easy to build it up into this massive nightmare and extremely dangerous thing.

By sharing and by getting some input from a levelheaded friend or family member he or she can help you to alleviate the fear and inner pressure. And you can gain a much healthier perspective on things again.

If you don’t have someone to share it with or if that only works partly too then move on to…

3. Accept the fear.

It is a natural impulse to try to deny the fear when shows up in your life. Perhaps you try to not think about, you try to push it away. Or you tell yourself that you need to focus like a laser beam on the positive.

I have found that in many cases it is actually better to just accept that fear – or whatever is left of it after having worked through step #1 and #2 – is here right now (although it can be hard to sometimes convince your brain that this is a good option as it wants to deny or reject what is).

By accepting that you feel this way you stop feeding more energy into the fear and you stop making it strong. After a few minutes of fully taking in this uncomfortable feeling and accepting it then it starts to lose steam. It just seems to float away and you feel more open and relieved feelings bubbling up within.

4. Tap into curiosity and focus on the upsides.

By now, most of those fearful feelings are often pretty small and they tend come and go. You have processed much of that inner tension and resistance.

So you are now at a good point to start focusing on why you want to move towards what you have feared and to open your mind to what you can find out there.

Take out the pen and paper and ask yourself:

  • What is the opportunity in this situation?
  • What are the potential upsides I want and can have by taking these actions?
  • What are the potential upsides in one year if I start moving on this path? And in five years?
  • And how will life be in five years if I continue on the path I am now?

The answer when it comes to what you eat for lunch or if you want to have a new hobby may simply be that life becomes more fun, healthy, fulfilling and filled with newness and more surprises.

The answer when it comes to taking action to make a date happen, to get a new job or to take another direction in college could be that your life changes completely.

5. Take a small step forward. Take it slowly if you like.

You don’t have to go all in at once in many cases. Think about how you can move in small steps and slowly towards what you want. Just dip your toes in at first if that feels more comfortable. The most important thing is that you start moving and that you take action, not how fast or how much action you take at first.

If you for example want to start your own business work on that in the evening while still working at your day job or staying in school. Don’t let thinking like “I have to go all in and take huge risks” hold you back.

Or if you want to try something new today just tell yourself that:

Just for today I will try [insert something you want to try]!

You just have to do it today. Not ever again after today. You are not signing up for some huge commitment.

Tomorrow you may continue on that new path. Or you may not.

By not making this into a huge thing you have do but instead just a small step, that you can take and get done as slowly as you like, it becomes so much easier to do what is most important at first: to put yourself in motion.

Then, along the way, you can take bigger leaps if you like and speed things up. You will learn through successes and failures (and realize that you won’t die if things don’t go your way all the time). You will quit some things and continue doing other things.

But first, make it easy on yourself to take the first step.

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{ 42 comments }

Keri May 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Number 1 is what I use all the time. It sounds like a cliche when you ask someone, but when you REALLY think about it, and force yourself to image all possible outcomes, it works amazingly. Plus you can get yourself to laugh at all the ridiculous, over-the-top outcomes you imagine that would never actually happen.
Thanks for another great post =)

Poul Andreassen May 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Thanks for the kind words.

Punita May 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Hi Henrik,
Thanks for another great post.
For me No.4 and 5 have proven to be quite helpful. I have a knack for taking bit of risks and trying to explore unchartered terrains. I think it adds the zing to my life and makes my life meaningful again. Though I have never tried to follow the first three points, still I think it will be worth a try.
My only concern is to keep my interest level upbeat and not fall back into the rut again. I want to work on that seriously.
Thanks
Happy Living….

savannahjan May 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

This was a great article. And timely. I am almost certain it’s time for a change in my life. But I am definitely scared of it. I think I will try to focus especially on #4.

Thanks for a great post!

ariana May 6, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Hey Henrik,

I completely agree with you on number 3, we must accept in order to let go. I play piano and when I have to go up and play in front of people I get nervous, but I tell myself to accept the fear and nerves and when I go up to play I notice that I am a lot calmer.

Marlon @ productivity bits May 7, 2011 at 11:09 am

Henrik,

#2 always works with me. I have my lifetime partner, my lovely wife, so that makes it easy. We always have fear. We are going to have some things to fear as we go along life.

Justin | Mazzastick May 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Henrik,
I feel fear as an energy block in my heart chakra. What I do is check in to see if the fear is real or imagined. 99% of the time it is imagined and I just do the thing that I want to do.

Jussi May 9, 2011 at 10:19 am

I am so glad that I found your post. I have been unsure of this topic fo some time and you have enabled me to understand it a whole lot better. I really appreciate it. I’ve tested from 1 to 5 and it’s just amazing how they work!! Thank you Henrik!!

Henrik Edberg May 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Awesome, happy to be of help! :)

EJ Hunter May 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I think of the whole conquering fears thing as taking little bitty baby steps around the fears. Attack it with the whole… ‘hey, I’m going to just do this one little thing’ and accept the proximate behaviors until finally getting to the real behavior.

Out of curiosity, though… with telling someone about the fear, wouldn’t that be some of the underlying problem when there’s hesitance? We’re afraid of what our friends would think, and we’re afraid that there’ll be that loss of acceptance… Thank you for the great post. :)

Henrik Edberg May 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for the comment and for sharing how you go about overcoming fears. Regarding telling someone about a fear, the key for me has been to tell someone that I feel I can share such a thing with, someone who I know wouldn’t think less of me or not accept me because of this fear.

EJ Hunter May 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Aah! There’s a whole world of rational and irrational fears that come along with telling the friends, for me. I’ve fretted.. even though we’ve done things that are much worse in the scale of it.. that I might find that one little thing that would push them over into hating me forever. Completely silly and irrational, perhaps. Thank you for responding to me – you’re giving me warm fuzzies.

gmat1984 May 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Very nice…
I like it.

Abhi May 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Good one. Thanks for this.

Henrik Edberg May 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Thank you everyone for sharing your own insights on how to handle fears in life. I really appreciate all the tips!

Sandra / Always Well Within May 10, 2011 at 6:18 am

These are helpful steps for conquering fear. I think often we are not even aware of the fear because we are so accustomed to operating within our usual routine. I find awareness to be the first step. As you suggest, I also feel that accepting the fear – as you describe – is very powerful. It’s wonderful when it start to bubble away! Thank you.

Henrik Edberg May 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Very good point that we are often not even aware of some of our fears. Definitely something worth keeping in mind as we move through our daily lives. Thank you for sharing!

Nicole Riebe May 10, 2011 at 10:45 pm

This article was really interesting to read!
#4 definitely helps me out whenever I need to embrace a situation going on.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this yet, but there is a new channel being launched all about health, wellness, philanthropy, and positivity.
Reading this made me think of it..and from your words, I really believe that you will enjoy it…
http://anthus.com/

Henrik Edberg May 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Thank you for sharing your favorite among these strategies and for letting me know about the new site.

Caelyn June 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I feel so much happier now I unredsatnd all this. Thanks!

J.D. Meier May 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Beautiful insights.

A mentor of mine once gave me a powerful tip that works for yourself and others … just call it an experiment.

In that particular context, it was about bootstrapping a new business idea, and calling it an experiment helped the stakeholders get over the idea that we would be heading down uncharted territory.

Henrik Edberg May 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Good one. That’s a helpful reframe, thank you for the tip and for sharing how it helped you.

viktor May 11, 2011 at 11:17 pm

A lot of things are more clear now… thanks for the post!!

Henrik Edberg May 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Happy to be of help!

Tyler J.Logan May 12, 2011 at 1:54 am

Great points here! I really agree with you concerning number 4! I believe in order to stop the fear, we must stop feeding into it and start writing down the upsides to it, and then start focusing on that! It’s a good help who want to get out of fear! This is a great post for me to think about to focus on the upsides! Thanks so much!

Henrik Edberg May 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Thank you, glad that you found the post useful.

Lotus Food, Ltd. May 12, 2011 at 7:51 pm

It’s a pleasure to discover your blog, which is filled with great advice and wonderful information. We’ll certainly be checking in frequently and sharing some of your positive ideas with our followers.

Thanks,
Lotus Food

Kate May 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Like always your posts rocks!

Kumar Abhishek May 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Its good.. Thanks for this.

Kumar May 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Very nice…
I like it

Peter Buzzrain May 13, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Hello Henrik, new reader here.

I can relate to number 2. It does make me feel better to share my fears.

Naveen Kulkarni | planetnaveen.com May 14, 2011 at 10:10 am

Hi Henrick,
I liked the article especially point number 1.” What is the worst that could happen”.
We should think of worst but give our best.
This reminded me of my article called “How to Liberate from Fear” which I wrote on my blog sometime ago.
http://www.planetnaveen.com/2010/12/liberate-yourself-from-fear/

Thanks so much for these practical tips

Mark May 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I think the most critical step is the third one listed — and I think accepting fear is what so many struggle with, as if it’s almost wrong to be fearful.

I still struggle with this, but I am getting better! Anyway, great post.

Tony Edwards May 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I used to be very afraid of public speaking. Number 1 on your list above was very helpful for me to overcome this fear. The list of potential outcomes really made the level of fear I felt seem unfounded.

It is key to put your fears in perspective, and take small steps to move beyond them.

Now speaking to groups is a large part of my job, and I enjoy it.

Amelie de Vera May 16, 2011 at 9:55 pm

This reminds me of a quote: “Fear is often greater than the danger itself.”

Most of the time, there’s no danger. It’s the fear that creates the danger. We think so much of fear. Fearing this and fearing that. But in actuality there’s really nothing to fear about. It’s just our doubts and insecurities. We should learn to be more confident and brave.

Agatha Tefora May 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Share your fear with someone -It doesn’t feel right though for me. I was taught to keep emotions to myself. Going outside the shell would be difficult but I know it’s worth the try.

TheHappyOne June 4, 2011 at 7:06 am

I agree with you that we have been conditioned to keep our emotions to ourself, but recently when my husband was away and I had to tackle a precarious situation faced by my teenage son, I opened up with my husband (though reluctantly as he was half a globe away) and Lo Behold! it helped me a lot. I faced the fear (of my son breaking down), shared it and started taking concrete steps to overcome and here I am a regular visitor of this Positivity blog.
Thanks Henrik

Baker May 19, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Nicely written. I believe once we accept the fear and continue to push forward with it, a lot of growth can occur. Def seen that in my own life.
Excellent post!

Jennifer May 23, 2011 at 7:05 pm

It’s so hard to understand why some things cause us so much fear. The first step though is understanding what it is we’re actually fearful of since it never is the actual object, action, or person, but what it could mean if we failed to overcome it.

PeaceLover May 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Thank you so much for this post. I am currently blogging about my journey toward inner peace, at worldpeaceisinevitable, and fear is something that certainly stops me from getting there!

Namaste

Geraldine May 31, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Oh, this is such good advice, I needed to read this. I have a long held dream that I’ve wanted to pursue for years but fear (among some other obstacles) has held me back far too long. I’m going to go through this list and use it. I want to do this and I know I can. Overcoming fear is a big part of making that happen. Thank you!

http://www.takeahappybreak.com

Social Natural June 29, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Once again…another great post Erik! Thanks.

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