What holds us back? Time and again, it is fear of some kind. In the novel, The Alchemist, Brazilian author, Paul Coelho, pits his Andalusian shepherd against 4 obstacles. They are fears. Fears we all face.
Coelho says the obstacles to following our dreams are: that we’ve been told it’s impossible, that we will hurt others by focusing on our dreams, that we will face defeat, and that we will actually realize our dreams.
While I agree that we face all these obstacles or challenges,it occurred to me that these are specific symptoms of the real fears that tug at the roots of our desire to make our mark on the world.
In the 20+ years I have been working on what gets people moving and what stops them, I have become convinced that the average person’s fears fall into 3 categories:
- The fear of annihilation of the self or the psyche, including our physical safety and of the chaos of the unknown
- The fear of isolation, including rejection, criticism and ridicule
- The fear of inadequacy, including failure, defeat, weakness and even mediocrity
The particular circumstances can mean an intermingling of the 3 classes of fear, making it is hard to clearly discern which is the most powerful at any one moment.
The prescription, however, is similar for all 3 types of fear. In no particular order, the most valuable tools for conquering fear are:
“Get a Grip” or “Mind Control”
In her seminal book, “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway“, Susan Jeffers says: “It is reported that over 90% of what we worry about never happens.”
She goes on to say that if having a polyanna attitude makes you and everyone around you happier, so there is simply no reason not to adopt one. Besides, positive thoughts and words make us strong. Cultivating optimism is a tremendous antidote to fear.
Take Action – Do Something
Research has shown that we are wired to be active. In fact, when we are completely inactive, we create problems. Taking action stimulates us. It motivates us. Interacting with our environment and having an effect on it, however small or unrelated to the fear we are experiencing, we feel competent, even powerful – or at least efficacious. Sometimes it takes a little courage.
Even if the situation is so completely out of your hands, you can “act as if” and gain a feeling of being empowered. At the very least this will change your body chemistry and enable you to start thinking more clearly.
Reach out – Get Support
Fear can make us want to withdraw, to pull back and resist contact with others. Very often, this is the worst thing we can do. It leaves us with only our own thoughts and robs us of the opportunity of fresh and creative solutions and the relief of distraction.
The support of strong and encouraging people can, however, go a long way in helping us to overcome fear. Even simply being able to share your fears with others can lighten the burden. The important thing is to stop interacting with negative or non-supportive people.
Fear is virtually unavoidable. It will turn up in many different disguises. If you want proof that you can conquer fear (or at the very least get through it) you only have to recognize that you have experienced fear in the past; probably many times.
And yet here you are!