The turning point that led to the creation of this blog was the realisation that I was letting fear run my life. It dawned on me that relinquishing control of my life to fear was not the wisest of moves. I came to understand that whilst it can be difficult to face and overcome our fears it’s not beyond the realm of possibility and when we do, life gets a whole lot better in so many ways.
1. Learn to recognize fear
It is my believe that all things come from a place of love or fear, which means much of the time there is a good chance that what’s going on for us is based in fear.
As a life coach, I am often presented with problems such as procrastination, laziness, boredom or feeling stuck. To my mind these are all just different ways of talking about fear. It is my experience that if we find ourselves struggling to move forward, feeling stuck or constricted in any way, you can bet your bottom dollar that lurking somewhere in the shadows is our good friend, fear.
I’d even go as far as saying that anything that doesn’t feel good, open, expansive or free-flowing is coming from a place of fear. Knowing this doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll immediately know what is behind that fear or why we might be feeling fearful, this might take a bit of further soul-searching.
Action: Have a think, meditate or journal on the areas in your life that don’t feel good. The parts of your existence that feel constricted, negative, stressful or where you feel resistance. It might be around your diet, family, work, social life, relationships – it’s important not to miss anything out. It might be an idea to do this work using a wheel of life exercise*.
2. Shine a light on fear
Once we understand that fear is the cause of our suffering, inaction or unhappiness, we have an opportunity to really look at precisely what it is that we are scared of and the true nature of those fears. I recently had to explain to someone whose first language isn’t English what the term ‘facing fear’ meant and in describing it I realised that essentially it means exactly that, turning towards our fears (rather than away from them, as many of us do) and looking fear straight in the eye.
All too often fear gets free reign over our life, precisely because we turn a blind eye and it’s when we’re not looking that fear gets the opportunity to wreak havoc or take over control of our lives, simply because we have failed to do so.
Action: Open a notebook and write at the top, Things that I’m afraid of and then write. Don’t think, judge or edit, just write. I’d suggest doing this exercise first thing in the morning when you are still feeling a little sleepy. I find writing in this state, when my defenses are lower, has helped me to have some of my best aha moments. I’d aim for at least 1000 words but don’t stop if the words are flowing.
3. Make friends with fear
Fear is often seen as a negative emotion, but actually over the years I’ve come to appreciate fear in many ways. Aside from the obvious fact that fear can help save our lives when we’re in real danger, fear has also helped me to see where I’m resisting something in my life, avoiding taking action, facing up to something or making much-needed changes in my life. When I can welcome fear as both a messenger and a teacher, I can benefit from my fears rather than be dominated by them.
Action: If you don’t have a gratitude journal or a gratitude practice, it might be worth starting one. I don’t have a formal practice but I feel grateful everyday for the things in my life, both positive and negative. Try to find time in your day to express gratitude for your fears and what they are trying to show you.
4. Don’t let fear decide
As with most things in life, we may not have total control over what happens to us, but we do have control over how we react. The same is true of fear. Fear isn’t something we can eradicate from our lives, it’s always going to show up, you can trust me on that. The good news, however, is that we don’t have to respond to fear in the same way that we always have.
“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ” ~ Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
When we get intimate with our fears, when we’ve take the time to uncover them and understand them, next we have a choice. We can look fear in the face, listen to all that he has to tell us and then politely and graciously choose to go our own way. Fear doesn’t get to decide, unless we let him. What happens next is entirely up to you.
Action: Next time you are feeling fearful, ask yourself what would love do now?
5. Take a leap of faith
What makes overcoming fear so difficult is that it often requires putting our faith into the unknown. As humans, we hate uncertainty but ironically the only certainty in life is that everything changes. So if we can start to get comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty then taking a leap into the unknown needn’t feel so bad. I’ve made progress on this through meditation and my growing understanding of and appreciation for Buddhist teachings.
But failing that, I often ask myself what do I really have to lose? Sometimes the answer is big, it can be love, a friendship, security or wealth but having faced a few fears in my time, I also know that what sits on the other side of fear is often far greater than that which we fear losing. And the pain of losing what we might, is almost always less painful than the pain of living in fear.
Be aware that sometimes just before we leap, people around us might chip in to tell you that what you’re planning to do is crazy. I certainly experienced this, both before I quit alcohol and before I quit my job to go traveling (two of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life). As if we didn’t have enough to contend with, often we’ll come up against other people’s fears and their projection on to you. Watch for this and remember you have every right to ignore these fears also.
Action: Leap (and the net will appear).
I’ll leave you with one final point. Remember that fear lives in hesitation, restriction, anger, apathy, indecision, jealousy and all other places that don’t feel good. Make it your mission to take back control of your life and operate from a place of love. If you like this post please don’t hesitate to share it using one of the buttons below and feel free to share your thoughts on fear by leaving a comment.
* Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want further details on completing a wheel of life exercise.