Don’t give a voice to your dread, but learn all of the available strategies for silencing fear and moving beyond its shackles. You must be willing to risk failure in order to succeed.
Another part of fear I want to discuss is the feeling of dread. For many, the feeling of dread spawns the negative verbal response, “I’d rather die than ___” Fill in the blank. Although we are exaggerating, the feelings are still very strong. Verbalizing them only makes them more real. Do not give your dread a “voice.”
We see dread as an upcoming event that we are not happy about and it breeds feelings from the fear list. You are told on Monday that you must prepare a speech to deliver on Friday. You might begin to dread that day arriving. This will certainly put a limiting level of stress on you for the entire week.
This feeling of dread comes in many levels. For example, you could:
- Dread going to the dentist
- Dread spending time with certain family members
- Dread a meeting with your employer
- Dread your annual performance review
- Dread tax season
- Dread an upcoming event
- Dread flying 17 hours in economy class
I believe and live the philosophy that you can do what you want to do. I decided long ago that I would be doing what I want, when I want, where I want, why I want, and with whom I want in spite of my fears of failure, rejection, or judgment. I didn’t accept the traditional plan of high school, college, job, and career. I chose to risk living life on my own terms. Here is one seemingly negative realization – perhaps the biggest fear out there – that I have used to help maintain a positive focus when faced with dreaded failures and mistakes:
We are all going to die
This may not seem like a positive way to view life, but it has been one of the strategies I have used to overcome the fear of taking risks. I do this by using reminders (preferably comedic) such as this:
Don’t take life too seriously; you won’t make it out alive.
Recognizing and acknowledging that no matter what we do or don’t do we will die, takes the power away from that ultimate dread. I decided not to allow the fear of death to hold me back from doing what I wanted to do, because I’m going to die anyway (and so are you), so why not enjoy my life?
Now, that doesn’t mean I want to rush toward my own demise, or that I have some macabre death wish. I want to live as long as possible; remember we have already discussed taking informed and strategic risk by being prepared. I am thoughtful and careful, I plan, prepare, strategize, and approach life positively.
If I want to jump a chasm over the Grand Canyon, I study the situation, I plan the jump, I exercise to make myself physically fit enough to do the jump, and I only jump when I know I will succeed. Only if I had a death wish would I just decide on the spur of the moment that I was going to make a risky jump with no preparation.
What goes on outside in your external world can be used to brighten or darken your day. What movies, books, or notes can you review to bring the realization that these so called BIG problems are not so big after all? Something as simple as having a positive reference on your fridge can work wonders. For any of our dreads, anything we fear, there are methods of mitigating that fear. There are always things you can do to lessen any possible negative outcome.
REALLY big deals are really not so BIG if you learn to think about the bigger picture. The more narrow the focus, the bigger the image of fear. Turn the binoculars around!
This focus on a more important wide angle image has always helped me to bring life into perspective. One of the reasons that fear has control of us is because we make simple things complex. We make little issues into really big issues and sometimes even if we don’t, we allow others to do it for us. By reminding yourself that almost any mistake you make really isn’t that big of a deal compared with the scope of life, you can relax and say, “what the heck” and go for it. The world is a big place and has been around a very long time. Scientists believe Earth to be close to five billion years old. Can you even fathom that amount? The average human lifespan is currently close to 70 years of age, and if you’re one of the selected few, you might make it to 100. Either way, you just don’t have time to waste on SMALL inconsequential issues.
In the scope of life, what we fear, the mistakes we have made, and the bills we haven’t paid, just aren’t that important. The world will go on. We tend to make things such as guilt, regret, revenge, worry, and doubt seem really big, and by doing this, our fear list blows up like a balloon. Although this book is full of life strategies, here are a few things to ponder:
Relax through gaining clarity
I know that for me when I am going to speak to a large audience, the more clarity I have about the company and the people that will be attending, the better. If I can do anything to help bridge that gap of unfamiliarity, it will increase my chances of feeling calm and relaxed, which will keep stress at bay and I will be able to maintain my confidence. Unless they are an audience of fanged blood-sucking vampires ready to attack me, I will survive the experience. Maybe they will even like me, enjoy my presentation, and give me a round of applause.
I consider this a strategy of clarity. The clearer I am on how I can better serve my client, my audience, or my students, the more comfortable I will be when delivering my speech. If I know very little about the goals, the organization, or its people, it will be more challenging. My imagination has more room to roam and grab onto fears. With clarity, I can perform or teach regardless, but I still remember that in my early days, this was a major issue: removing dread from the equation. Do your utmost to create clarity.
When in doubt, figure it out
Going into something with an unclear feeling – a fuzzy picture – will be a perfect window for stress to come flying in. So shut the window and close the drapes.
The following are some techniques for changing the view.
If you were on your death bed, what would be most important to you? Would it be your credit card debts? Would it be that 30-minute dental appointment? Would you be lamenting that you didn’t spend enough time in the office? What would you think about? If you owed one million dollars, but were going to die in a week, would you care about the debt? Imagine suddenly learning from the doctors that your cancer had disappeared. Would you still care that much about your debt, or would you celebrate your life? What if you knew that the very government that makes you feel guilty about your debts is in fact in debt itself?
Going into debt is a business strategy used by many large companies. Sam Walton, of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, was no stranger to massive debt. At the time of this writing, Wal-Mart is the largest grocery chain in the U.S. and earns revenues of over $400 billion.
More than likely, your blown up issues of ______________ (fill in the blank), are not going to hurt the world. Do your best, but don’t lose sleep over something that doesn’t matter in the long run.
If you are freaking out about only having between 70 and 100 years to live, consider how much it has increased over time. A Neanderthal had about 20 years to live out his or her dreams. What will you do with your extra 50-80 years? Hopefully, not be frozen in limbo, but moving forward toward your dreams and goals, knowing that by keeping things in perspective, you can overcome your fears.
Pretend you are using a photo editing program or a camera lens. Make a negative image (experience) dark, out of focus, and distorted. When you see something with your own eyes it is associated with reality and far more authentic. So, you want to take the unpleasant experience and make it as hard to visualize as possible (disassociated). Turn the sights and sounds of the memory down and change the story as much as possible – destroy it. I explain how to do this in much greater detail in the NRG and CMT sections of the book.
Distancing follows the adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Having trouble dealing with a current issue that makes you feel horrible? Well, find a way to distract and or distance yourself from the emotion. This is often only a temporary solution, but it might be enough to buy you some time to really deal with the problem on your own terms and/or when you have the strength to do so. Put the issue in a mental closet and shut the door.
Looking down – a Bird’s Eye View
Imagine looking down at yourself from Heaven. From there, you can cheer yourself on saying, “If I was down there, I would do it.” Think about a time when you watched a shy, hesitant character in a romantic movie and you say to yourself, “Kiss her, you fool.” Or you might have thought, “If I were that character, I would do it.” Well, you are the main actor in your own life. You are also the Director. Do it. Do it now!
When something grabs a hold of your chest and gives you that feeling of anxiety that almost makes it hard to breathe, try a little holistic releasing. Without worrying about what the answers are, ask yourself the following questions when the feeling arrives:
- What can I do to let this go?
- When can I let this go?
- Where do I need to be to let this go?
- Why should I let this go?
- Who do I have to be to let this go?
Simply ask yourself those questions, in the mirror or in your mind. Imagine the positive answer. Rinse and repeat for at least two minutes. Feel free to adjust these questions to your own situation. The great thing about the above exercise is that it can work on a subconscious level.
Too old to act
Project your imagination forward in time, and visualize yourself as someone too old to tackle any of your goals. Perhaps you are rocking peacefully on a porch, with nothing much to show for your life. A grandchild is asking what would you have done differently with your life? What do you regret not doing? Perhaps you are having trouble making a decision in the now. Think forward 50 years and ask yourself if you would be disappointed if you didn’t take action. This can help you to realize what is important and what risks you really should be willing to take before your life is over.
Sometimes it is best to adjust to the cold water by jumping into the swimming pool and forcing yourself to adapt quickly. This will not only force you to learn to survive, but it will teach you to act quickly. Most often the pause we take before we take action is the one thing that will hold us back. Action anxiety can often be avoided if you don’t think too much about your fears – no sticking your toe in the water – just jump right in and adjust as you go.
Many people deal with their own fears by helping others deal with theirs. By taking a mentoring approach, you show others and yourself that you can do it (and have).
You may also seek out help from others in order to help ease you into the challenge. Watching others succeed is also helpful. We talk more about modeling and adapting new positive beliefs later in the book.
Train yourself mentally to deal with your fears in a confident manner by using the techniques of anchoring and triggering explained later in this book. Practice acting for the role so that when it arrives, you are prepared. This is something that comes quite naturally to most of us; playing the “what if” game.
Too busy to care
If you are too distracted to think about the upcoming fears you will have to face, they won’t control you emotionally until the very last minute, and then you might already be into the moment and past your fears. I know in the past before speaking I would often dread the days prior to my speech. But once I am on stage, I don’t think twice about the issues that plagued me the days before. If this “mentally busy” strategy works for you, be sure to plan plenty of work and/or activities in the hours and days prior to the event you fear.
Learn as much as you can and if necessary, make changes. Simply change and adjust to the situation. This is the hardest skill to master and yet the most important for survival. It is my belief that your ability to adapt will determine your level of success in all areas of your life. Master it, and you are well on your way to courage, confidence, calm, and comfort. Remember Darwin’s advice; it is not the strong who survive, nor the brave. It is the those adaptable to change.
We need to treat time more seriously. It is the ultimate finite commodity and it waits for no one. Whether you are on board the time train or not, it moves out of the station. Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you’ve got. Don’t wait for your boat to come sailing in, for it may not. Get out and make your dreams a reality. Meet and cultivate relationships with new people who will enhance your life. Create dreams and meet your challenges head on. Join a team of hard-working, energetic people just like yourself and build a life style you can be proud of. Make the most of your mind, body, spirit, and the time you are allotted.
Whenever I take on fear breeding challenges that I dread, they give me an internal reward of “I did it.” That feeling of overcoming adversity is the ultimate “high.” The outcome isn’t as important as taking the challenge and going for it. Also, by separating the outcome from the challenge, I am able to see a positive desire to continue pursuing challenges. If I were to continuously associate a negative emotion with the outcome, I would be less likely to continue to achieve. There will always be some outcomes that will be successful, and some that will not. In other words, trying and doing are more important than the actual result (although a positive result is always desired).
For example, whether a person you are attracted to turns you down or accepts your proposal, it should not be associated with your passion to pursue your interests. I explain more about this in Winjitsu Book 3 – NRG.
So, in your quest for excellence, make sure that when you feel that time has arrived to take action, you take full advantage of the moment. This is not the kind of timing where you are waiting for the perfect situation (which may never arrive), but the courage to take note of an opportunity when it arrives, and jump on board that train.
Winjitsu Work Out
Take a fresh look through a wide-angle lens at your fears – face head on the things that you dread. Make a list of them, and then review the many various strategies listed in this chapter. Which strategy do you think will work best for you?