What is stopping you from getting what you want in life?
A sense that failure – or success – might change your life and that feeling uncomfortable?
A sense that the people around you might disapprove of you aiming for what you want, of you succeeding or failing.
Essentially it boils down to fear. The big roadblock, sometimes the massive wall in the middle of road that keeps you from getting what you want.
How to overcome it? Here's some useful ways I have found so far.
1. Taking small steps
This is good for fear that can seem overwhelming at first.
For instance the strong feeling – it can almost feel like a flight or fight-response – just before doing public speaking or asking someone out for a date. If you're for instance nervous socially you might not feel able to ask people out on dates right away. The fear of being rejected and that others might think less of you if you get turned down can make many of us feel unable to ask the question.
Steps like first just saying hi to people. Or starting to talk more to people online via forums and Instant Messaging. And then trying to be more involved in conversations to exercise your conversation-muscles.
I guess one could say that you gradually de-sensitize yourself to social situations or whatever you are afraid of. Or, seeing it in a more motivating way, building courage and expanding your comfort zone in this part of your life (which is something that often bleeds over to other areas of life too.)
So, identify your fear. Then make a plan with some smaller steps you can take to gradually lessen your discomfort.
2. Getting some concrete, positive motivation
Getting to the stage where you really feel that you need to stop waiting – or need stop reading one personal development book after another – and take action can take some time. One way to get moving is to replace some of your negative thoughts – that creates negative feelings – with clear, positive reasons to get going.
Take 5 minutes. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. And write down all the wonderful ways you can come up with how making this change will improve your life.
Lack of motivation can get you stuck while contemplating how much your life sucks. If you don't become clear on you motivation it can become hard to get going and knowing why you are actually need to change.
Writing down all the wonderful things you will gain in your life by overcoming this fear can be powerful. Focus on those positive things to get motivated and inspired. Revisit your page of paper when you feel discouraged, uncomfortable or afraid. Even if it loses it's inspiring effect gradually, it can be the initial trigger to unstick you. The spark to get you started to take those first actions that sends you into an upward-spiral of thought and action.
3. Seeing failure and rejection in a new light
Often it's easier to not do something because we fear failure and rejection. We may fear failure when starting on a new career-path. And rejection from friends, family and the people around us if we fail. Or we might be afraid of being rejected when asking someone out.
However, as I have written before, the definition of failure we are brought up with in society might not be the best and most useful to have. If you look at the most successful people you quickly notice that they have a different response to failure than the more common one.
They don't take failure or rejection that seriously. They know it's not the end of the world if they fail. Instead they look at each failure and see the good part about: what they can learn from it and improve next time.
They have an abundance-mentality. They know that if their first business-venture fails it feels like crap for a while but it's OK in the long run. They learn from it and then they try again.
If they are rejected for date, do they give up? Probably not. They know that next week or the week after they might find someone else that's interesting and ask them out.
They know that there are a lot of good people out there. That there are a lot of good business opportunities out there. But they have also learned that to become successful at anything you have to fail perhaps 5, 10, 20 times or more.
The morning of day when you learned to ride a bike you fell of it time and time again. But you just brushed yourself of, perhaps cried for minutes or two and then you got up on the bike again. And towards the afternoon, or the next day, you probably started to become pretty good at riding your bike.
The same applies here. You have work on your skills to sharpen them. See failure or rejection not as something incredible negative that might end your life if it strikes. Redefine it in your mind to lessen the negative emotional impact and the fear. See failure simply as feedback on what you need to improve on. Listen to the advice the failure gives you and you will improve.
And success will come.
4. Being in the now
What this means is to keep yourself steadily in the now. Not letting your thoughts and emotions run away to the future or the past. That doesn't mean that you don't make plans, of course. You might think about asking someone out. You make plans on when to do it or perhaps what to say.
But being in the now means to not getting your mind stuck in a kind of psychological and emotional headspace that is placed in the past or future. It means not dwelling on what has gone wrong before and what could go wrong tonight or tomorrow. Such thinking will only create and ramp up your fear to the point where you feel unable to do anything. And just feel like running away.
Instead, make your plans. Then just be and don't think about the future. Focus on the now and what needs to be done now. The future will be the now soon enough. And when you're arrive there it will be much easier to get things done when you have created a minimal amount of stress and fear within your mind.
Whenever you feel fear, your mind is often dragged into a hypothetical, future scenario where you think you might fail. Your brain is over-analyzing a possible situation, which leads for many of us, to a negative, downward spiral of thoughts. This expands and empowers your fear to the point where you become almost paralyzed. So, how do you beat the fear in such situations?
You stop fighting. You surrender.
How to surrender:
Let me explain. By surrender, I don't mean that you should give up and go home.
Instead, when you feel fear then accept the feeling. Don't try to fight it or to keep it out (like many of us have learned throughout life).
Say yes to it.
Surrender and let it in.
Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labeling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes.
I've mentioned this technique in several different articles already. And, yeah, I'm still amazed of how well it works. :)
As you surrender to the fear instead of fighting it the negative energy will pass through you and your body will release it. And you can return to focusing on the now once again.
Focusing on the now not only reduces fear but also increases the chances of you succeeding as your mind is focused, your confidence ain't shattered and your thoughts become clear. It also makes it easier to succeed because when you are in the now you are not that self-conscious – something that quickly can lead to insecurity – but instead focused on the outside world and people you are interacting with.
5. Redefining you, me and reality
To change yourself and overcoming fear you have to be prepared and willing to redefine yourself.
You have to be willing to try these things out for yourself and keep practicing. No one can do it for you. But if you do that you can make what may seem to you to be big progress pretty quickly. And when you get used to it and these things become more and more habitual you will start to do them naturally.
But since it seems that just about everyone is addicted to their own personality, consistent change in behavior will still probably be kinda slow and gradual (with some epiphanies).
An addiction to positivity can lessen the fear in your mind of what might happen in a new, unfamiliar situation or how someone might respond to what you are saying. A negative view of the world can create fear and hold you back. But if you, for instance, become more positive – try the Positivity Challenge! – many of the people you meet will respond in a similar manner. In general, no matter how you think about the world, people are often like a somewhat of a mirror for you.
Change will be hard if you deep down still think: I am this shy or negative or scared person. “That's just who I am”, you tell yourself. “Always have been, always will be”. And will be the truth for you as long as you think it's the truth. If you are prepared and ready to change, you can however rewrite what you perceive as the truth about yourself and your personality, thoughts, actions and emotions.
Something I've recently started to think about and apply is what's called Subjective Reality. Although I don't fully understand it yet – I think – basically what it means is that there is no separation on the world. There is no you and I separated from each other (like in the more common worldview many of us are accustomed to).
Instead we are one.
You might not fully understand it or internalize it – I haven't yet – but just going into a conversation with perspective that you and the other(s) are connected and really just one can be very useful.
When you apply this perspective on the world it's a lot harder feeling fear. Or being mean or unkind. Just like it's hard to do those things to yourself. Without the perspective of separation it seems like you – almost automatically – become calmer, kinder, less fearful and more open. It feels like you are naturally connected to the rest of the world.
Steve Pavlina has written a lot about Subjective Reality, so if you want to explore that further I recommend this link.
As for now and for me, I am focusing mainly on numbers 4 and 5. And I believe I'm just beyond getting started. I can probably deepen the understanding and application of those two points for months and years. A replacing such deeply – socially and habitually – ingrained beliefs and ways of thinking will probably take some time.
So, I'll get back to my thoughts on and experiences with fear in the future.
Now, what are your tips for overcoming fear?