Two weeks ago I wrote about why pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is necessary for meaningful growth, and this week is all about facing the fears that are stopping you from doing just that. When you start taking steps out of your comfort zone and toward your goals, your fears are going to come out of the woodwork one by one. They are going to slow you down and distract you, and the only way to deal with those fears is to face them.
Have you ever wondered why you are afraid of public speaking, heights, or financial insecurity, but the person next to you isn’t? The truth is that we create fears for ourselves, both subconsciously and consciously. Some are learned, while others are passed on to us from important people in our lives. Let's use the fear of water as an example.
Perhaps your grandmother nearly drowned while swimming in the river. She developed a fear of swimming in rivers, and never went in one again. When she had children (your mother), she made sure that they never went near the river and were taught how dangerous they were. Growing up in that environment, your mother didn’t question it, and then shared the same lessons with you. If you don’t question the fear, the pattern will continue.
Your brain wants to keep you safe, and your fears are one way it keeps you tucked securely in your comfort zone. If you want to grow and achieve new things, you’re going to have to face your fears. Here are three ways to do it.
1. Recognize & Understand Your Fear. Awareness is essential at any stage of growth, so the first step to conquering your fears is to name them and trace them back to their beginnings. Grab a piece of paper, and write down all the things you are afraid of. Next, write down beside each the “antidote” for it. What could you do to overcome that fear?
Using the river example, you would write “I am afraid of swimming because my grandmother nearly drowned and it was passed on to me.” Some potential antidotes would be to take swimming lessons, spend time near the river when others are swimming in it, or go river rafting. I remember in Guides, the first thing we were taught before our rafting trip was what to do if you fell out of the boat.
You could call this the “common sense approach”. Take a step back from your fear and look at it from a different perspective. What would you tell a friend if they came to you for solutions to overcome the fear?
2. Get Busy. Dwelling on your fears isn’t helpful, and one way to kick them out of your mind is to keep yourself occupied. When you have something more important to do than be scared, your insecurities will fade into the background. Of course, simply ignoring your fears won’t make them go away. So, take it a baby step further and get busy taking action on conquering those fears.
If you’re afraid of public speaking but know it’s an important step in achieving your goal of owning your own business, start putting yourself in safe situations where you can practice public speaking. Go to a networking event in person or online where you’ll have to introduce yourself, or join a speaking group like Toastmasters.
With every step you take, your courage grows and your fear dissipates. Every little step you take will keep building on the one before it, and soon your fear will disappear.
3. Stop Scaring Yourself! We can do a great job of psyching ourselves out. When you tell yourself you’re scared, you’re going to be scared! Fear begets more fear, and a great way to stop that cycle is to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
If you were rejected for a job you really wanted, it’s okay to feel sad and disappointed. Instead of spiraling into fear, and telling yourself a story about how you aren’t good enough or why you didn’t deserve the position anyway, search for the lesson or opportunity. For example, maybe the position wouldn’t have been a good fit (which the interviewer saw), and now you are open to a more fitting opportunity in the future. Or maybe you learned some lessons in the interview that you can take to the next one. Perhaps you could ask the interviewer for insight into why you weren’t selected, or how you could have prepared better.
When you put things in perspective like this, you can see how your fears can sometimes be irrational and allow your emotions to cloud your judgment. If you’re stuck in a negative fear cycle, try journaling or talking it out with a friend. This is a situation where belonging to a group with like-minded people can be really valuable.
By shining a light on your fears you'll be able to see them for what they really are. Perhaps there's an opportunity just waiting for you to recognize and take advantage of it. Leaving your comfort zone is a fear most of us have, but you’ll never discover the wealth of opportunities that lie just beyond it if you don’t try.
If you're ready to step out of your comfort zone toward your dreams, please join me in one of my Design Your Decade workshops. They're held on Zoom so you can join from anywhere, and they're completely interactive. There's nothing like the power of a group to help you clarify what you really want and where you want to go. We'll evaluate 2022, get clear on your big goals and dreams, and decide what you want to focus on for the year ahead. These two hours of your life will set the stage for moving forward toward your Extraordinary Life. Sign up here.
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