The Reality of Fear

(Excerpt from my soon-to-be-published book, Just One Step: The Journey to Your Unstoppable You)

Last week I wrote to you about feeling lost or stuck and the reality that being stuck is a choice. I also closed out my thoughts with a few comments on fear – the importance of honestly assessing it and taking action despite any fears. This week I want to continue focusing on fear because the more you bring your fears into the light, the less power your fears have over you.

As we’ll discuss in Chapter 15 (Just Be Present), when you’re truly present you will not experience fear (conscious or unconscious), since fear cannot exist when you are in the present. Yes, the fear exists in the present (you feel the fear in the moment), but only when you are unwilling or unable to be in the present. When you’re present, you are not looking into the future and anticipating possible negative outcomes (the source of fear). It’s naïve, however, to believe that you can always be in the present so that you never experience fear. The question is not whether you experience fear, but how quickly you recognize it and move through it.

In addition, there’s a process that you can use to assess your fears. First, go looking for the fear and assume that fear is playing some role in whatever you’re facing, whether it be indecision, stuckness, lostness, uncertainty, doubt or procrastination. If you don’t assume fear’s existence and impact, then you’ll likely convince yourself that you’re not afraid and thus miss the key factor that will help you to move forward by bringing your fears into the light.

Second, honestly assess the fears. What are they? Go deep with this question. For example, if you say that you’re afraid of failing, go deeper into the question by asking why you’re afraid of failing. We all fail and we all know it; however, it’s easy to believe that we have a fear of failing. In reality, we all have different fears of failure. For some, it’s a fear of the judgment of others – not that you failed, but that you’re a failure. For others, it’s a fear that if you fail you’ll lose people in your life. In fact, your deeper fear might not be the loss of people, but the ultimate fear of being alone. For others, it’s the fear that a failure will feed their already existing “not enough” story (that they’re a failure, that they’re worthless, etc.). We avoid failing for fear that our psyche cannot take another failure that will confirm the not good enough story inside us. Keep going with your questions about what you’re afraid of so that you truly understand the fear and its depth. Only then can you take the next step in assessing and moving through your fears.

Third, ask yourself about the likelihood of that which you truly fear. Start with the superficial fear (e.g. failure, making a mistake, looking bad) and carefully assess how likely each of the feared outcomes is. You’ll nearly always discover that the likelihood of the feared outcomes is pretty low, and this alone can help to release some of fear’s hold on you. Then go to the deeper fear questions, and in doing so you’ll discover two things. First, you’ll see that the likelihood of these deeper fears becoming a reality is extremely low or even minute. Second, you’ll discover that your fears are largely unfounded and that you’re more committed to your desired future than to protecting yourself by allowing the fear to hold you back. For example, when you face the truth that you have a fear of being exposed as a fraud because of your own self-worth issues, you’ll discover that the fear is less about others and more about yourself. Once you realize that your own insecurities are the sources of your fears and hesitations, you’ll often find that you’ll own more of your own power through the confidence that you’re enough. Your own not enough stories can keep you stuck because they’re unconscious, and when you bring them out of the shadows into your conscious you disempower them and empower yourself. 

Fourth, ask yourself what you control and what you don’t control about the situation, challenge or opportunity where you feel afraid. You’ll certainly find that you control very little (in fact, only yourself) and that most everything is outside of your control. Initially, this is a difficult truth to accept, but ultimately it will empower you with the reality that you have control over everything that matters – YOU. Yes, you have the ability to influence other people and situations; however, that influence comes from your choices and the ways that you show up (or don’t show) up with other people and in those situations. It all comes back to you. While you may not like this truth in the beginning (no more blaming here), it will bring you to laser focus on the only person that matters – YOU. Now, you can focus your time, attention and energy on what you’ll do (or not do), what you’ll commit to (or say no to), which direction you’ll head and the many ways that you can show up for yourself and influence and impact others. This process of assessing control (or more accurately lack of control) is an important part of navigating through and past any fears you might have.

Finally, we come down to action. There’s an old proverb that goes like this:

Question: There are three birds sitting on a fence, and one decides to fly away. How many birds are still sitting on the fence?

Answer: Three. Deciding to fly away isn’t the same as flying away.

Action is what takes all of your thinking, assessment and discernment and makes it a reality. Action is what puts the wheels of change into motion. Action is required to change your current reality. Yes, sometimes that action might be to do nothing (or to say no), but even a decision to do nothing is a decision (and an action). The question is whether you’re choosing not to do something (a conscious choice) or defaulting into no action (indecision). No matter how good your assessments may be, they must be followed by conscious action in order to move forward, and especially to move beyond feeling stuck and lost. I’d made all sorts of assessments and discernments in the woods in Spain, but I’d still be sitting there if I hadn’t made the choice to choose a direction and to keep walking –  always one step at a time.

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