“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” Bertraud Russell
Seth Godin is big on overriding your fears and getting stuff shipped (completed and off your desk). He’s issued a challenge – #YearInReview What did you ship in 2010? which is a great way for you to take a look at what you did get shipped last year.
We all shy away from, and so don’t ship, things that trigger our fears. Which means once fear is triggered it usually keeps us from getting to the level of success we desire.
Fear is an interesting thing, isn’t it?
A lot of what I see written about fear talks about fear as the enemy. But fear as a really important tool. For instance, it can save your life. And, it can be your guide toward things that really matter to you.
In Write Yourself from Naked to Free, one of my earliest posts on Zencopy, I wrote:
Fear is awesome. When you try and write from those painful places so you can share, you are likely to find yourself shying away because you are afraid. Make yourself plow forward and dig deeper rather than turning around. Somewhere long ago I read, “Turn and face your fears or they’ll climb over your back.”
The trick with fear is to distinguish between practical fears that are healthy for you (stay away from that hungry lion), and fears that are don’t serve a good purpose and hold you back (I know I’d make more money if I could handle public speaking, but it’s just too scary).
Once you make the commitment to stop running away when fear calls your name, you are much more likely to be able to create a path that takes you toward the type of success that truly matters to you.
Make 2011 the Year You Let Fear Help You Succeed
So, here is an exercise to help you jump into an awesome year of fear.
1. Create a list of 3 of your healthy practical fears and why that fear is good for you.
2. Create a list of 3 unhealthy fears and why that fear is not good for you – what is it keeping you from having?
3. List 5 crazy reasons why you must, above all else, let unhealthy fear rule your life and keep you from success (this is the time to poke a little fun at yourself).
4. Now, consider something general you are afraid of that you know is holding you back (for instance, public speaking). Now, take just one small aspect of this that you will do TOMORROW and write it down. For instance you might write down “go up to a complete stranger and begin a conversation.” Or start even smaller if you have to – “smile at a complete stranger” or even, “write a story” that features you doing public speaking.
5. Do #3 for 5 days running, and each day push yourself a little more into the fear zone.
6. Once you’ve completed your 5 days of “training,” select one specific thing you’d really like to ship (complete) this year and that you haven’t been able to tackle before because of your fear response. Now, starting with the final specific goal in mind (giving a public talk on blogging at the XYZ convention) and using the “baby” steps like in #4 above as your guideline for how big the steps should be, write down the small steps it would take to get you from here to there.
7. The next step would logically be to follow the steps you wrote down in #6. So, I encourage you to do that. Or, option 2, you can put this aside and wallow in all the fears that come up – just make sure you read the story below before deciding which you’re going to do.
I’m going to leave you with a story. About a year ago one of my twin boys very much wanted to pet a pony. He’d never been close to a horse before, and being not quite 5 years old meant he was way smaller than the horse. The fear he experienced was strong – his body started shaking and he cried. He asked me to pick him up, which I did, figuring he wanted me to walk him away from the pony. No, he wanted me to just stand there holding him.
I don’t know exactly how long it actually took for him to reach out his little hand to first touch that horse, but it seemed like an hour. I could feel his heart pounding through his body and see the tremors in his hand. But afraid though he was, he forced himself to reach out inch by inch and, finally, to touch that horse. The result was instantaneous – exhilaration and pure happiness. A dark cloud had passed and the sun rose on his face. He’d done it! Success! And his accomplishment rendered me silent with awe.
He wanted to touch that pony so much he was willing to override his fear and move forward.
Now I ask you, if a 4 year old can feel that much fear, AND DO IT ANYWAY, then what’s stopping us?