I am honoured to work with world-class athletes, some who really are the very best of the best, and I also work with some very accomplished businessmen and women who are at the top of their game. One of the key elements of most of these people’s high level of achievement is overcoming fear, or in most instances not even allowing fear to be a factor.
What is fear really?
You may have observed Gazelles in a heard have the sudden sense that there is a lion afoot, felt long before the lion actually appears and attacks. It helps them prepare to flee in an instant and is self preserving in nature.
We too have a built in sixth sense that heightens our awareness of something that may cause us harm. It’s absolutely necessary in order for our species to preserve itself on this planet, and as such, it shouldn’t be dismissed.
However the problem is that we link this sensibility far too often with things that really aren’t “life or limb threatening”. We let this sense attach itself to all kinds of emotional transactions like others expectations, being judged, a need for upward mobility, our position in the pecking order, a chance of embarrassment, and plenty what if statements.
What if this happens? What if that happens?
What if it does? Have you ever really answered that question and connected it to a truly life or limb threatening reality?
Chances are most of the things you are limiting yourself from doing are being limited by the perceptions of a story you hold to be true deep inside you. You perceive that what you fear occurring WILL happen if you do X, and so you don’t do X because the consequences in your mind are dire.
But have you ever really played out the consequences and asked yourself in the worst case, what will the results be? Do those results really matter when you honestly evaluate the possibility?
Say for example you want to buy a home, but you’re not sure you have enough money, and even if you have enough money, you’re not sure you can make the payments on a monthly basis, and even if you can make the payments on a monthly basis, you’re not sure the bank will give you the mortgage you seek, and even if the bank will give you the mortgage, you’re not sure the house you can afford will be adequate based on what you perceive your friends think you should own, and even if it is adequate, you’re not sure the one you can afford is in the right neighborhood and people might not think you’re making a good decision, and on and on!
The point here is that at any one of those intersections in decision making the only thing stopping you is you! You are assuming things, presuming things, and presenting things to yourself in a manner that is judgmental and biased by your own stories that you hold deep inside.
Fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, these are all just manifestations of our personal story.
And the first thing you need to recognize is that it IS all just a story. You can re-write your story, you can create a new story. But the first thing you need to do is accept that it is all just a story. A story you have been telling yourself for many, many years.
So ask yourself, what are the stories you are telling yourself that drive your fears. Do you tell yourself that you aren’t good enough, so therefore you don’t deserve to have that house, or you aren’t smart enough to know what it takes to create the life you would like to live? Do you stand in judgment of others for fear of being judged yourself?
Really anything we fear doing that is not truly life or limb threatening should be something we meet head on, overcome and move forward. Even when we fail, the consequences are simply learning opportunities. We attempt, we achieve a result, we learn from the result, and we make another attempt and so the cycle proceeds.
I was once asked what were some of my worst failures and in response I said there are numerous moments in my life when one could look upon what occurred to me as a so called “failure”. However in hind sight, most, if not all of these were decision points which resulted in a wonderful future occurrence, things that if I had succeeded may never have come to pass, and yet I treasure them today immensely.
If you look back on many of those types of moments in your own life, chances are upon reflection you will smile at the cascade of positive consequences that occurred after a so-called failure.
So the next time you find yourself in fear, ask yourself, “is this really going to cause me harm?” and if you can’t answer that question with a “quite possibly” type of response, then the next thing you need to do is ask yourself what you truly fear? Chances are it will link to a story and when it does, just make yourself aware of that link. The more you become aware or your stories, the more you can become accountable to them and the more you can rewrite them. If we are not aware, we cannot challenge, we cannot overcome.
So what ARE you afraid of anyway?
Originally published at medium.com