I was recently asked how to overcome fear. I am faced with this question every single day. Whether it is with clients, family, friends or myself, each day fear is met. It must be understood that there are different levels of fears, which Harold S. Kushner describes in his book properly titled Conquering Fear. Fear can be a simple concern, at times a serious worry, and even absolute panic. The exact question for me was: How someone can learn to act on those actions that they fear the most.
Pre-traumatic Stress Disorder
First before diving into that question let’s come to an agreement that fear is natural; it’s needed to protect us from danger, or dangerous situations. Fear really just alerts us of the possibility that something major is about to happen.
What many of us suffer from is pre-traumatic stress disorder, which doctors describe as, “reliving terrifying moments that haven’t happened yet.” I’ve actually done this myself before. My freshman year in college I was a midshipmen in he Navy ROTC program. That summer after freshman year we were sent to a summer program in San Diego, CA. The night before I was schedule to fly out I couldn’t sleep. Imagined every horrible scenario that could possibly play out, from complications with the flight, to getting there to the possible tragedies that could happen during training. I was so paranoid that I called my superior officers and asked if the trip was mandatory. Obviously, we know now that I was over exaggerating. Actually it was one of the funnest trips I’ve ever been on. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
This pre-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t only apply to military situations. I’ve had clients who were literally horrified of going into a gym full of people. It took me two months to convince one to train outside of his home.
In those situations that are the most foreign to us, we imagine the worst possible outcome, which holds us from taking any action. So how do we get ourselves prepped for the first steps?
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of fear.” – Mark Twain
Since visualizing the absolute worst possible outcome holds us back from taking action we need to work on visualizing better conclusions. Visualization comes from the combination of motivation and expectations. Harvard professor, Howard Gardner, says that motivation is 80-percent derived from our expectations. So, it is what we expect to happen that motivates what outcome we eventually conclude. For the person who constantly expects to fail, they will conjure up a scenario where failure is definite.
It is our feelings that make up the way we think. Whatever emotion we associate with a particular situation will cause for that particular expectation to arise.
What is tricky about the entire situation is that the mind navigates the body, but the body also influences the mind. Tony Robbins has a chart that brings it all full circle. You can see the video that explains this here.
We’ll start with “potential,” which happens in the mind. This is where we get the visualization. Whatever we perceive is our potential to accomplish something dictates how much action we are going to put forward. The amount of action determines the results (this is all the body). Where it comes back to play is after concluding the results. Whatever result we get is what we will now believe, which takes us back to the mind. It is this belief (expectation) that births our perceived potential.
In order to use this model to our advantage, and actually conquer fear, we can attack it from two different angles.
Lead from the Body
The only thing the mind needs to enhance belief is repetition of small wins, which brings confirmation. Once we feel like we’ve conquered one level, we then feel confident that we can move on to the next. This is the reason we are given level option in video games. Get comfortable with the controls on a lower level, and eventually work your way up to expert.
When tackling a fear we can do the same thing. Just tackle one aspect of the situation at a time. When I was working with the client who wouldn’t leave his home to train, I had to figure out what fears kept him inside.
- Lack of confidence in appearance
- Fear of judgment
- Fear of lack of knowledge
So we tackled the appearance first. This client wanted to lose about 80 lbs. My goal was to get him to see weight coming off, so then he would feel better about his appearance. I also bought him new workout gear. After he lost his first 12lbs he began to strut around his garage, this is when I knew that he was ready to go outside and face judgment, if any.
We began to run/walk around his neighborhood so that he was susceptible to his neighbors. To his surprise, he received cheers from his neighbors. They were actually routing him on, not harassing him like he had expected. This then gave him the confidence to go into an actual gym. He didn’t have to worry about knowing how to use the machine’s, that’s why he hired me!
3 months later he is down 60lbs and showing off in the gym. He just needed to see small results to grow his belief that he would have success in transforming his body.
Transforming the Mind
Though we can change our belief by seeing small wins, that process is very long. There are repeated actions that must be taken everyday, and the wins have to come just as frequently or else quitting will be the result.
Transforming the mind only takes a few repeated visualizations of success. Whatever the situation, actually close your eyes visualize yourself succeeding. Then visualize yourself succeeding to an even further extent. Repeat this a few times. See yourself making it through the barriers that you thought you might be your end. Go pass those and see what it feels like at the end. Repeatedly seeing your success will give you the belief that the success is attainable and you will then put forth the actions to obtain it.
I had a female client of mine do this. She paid me the $600 to train with me for 12 sessions, but put off actually getting started. She came up with every excuse to cancel.
We didn’t actually begin training until I made a surprise visit to her home. I took her into her bathroom, had her look at herself in the mirror and imagine the results that she desired. She had to get there mentally. She saw herself dropping the weight, eating better, and not only making it through the workouts, but destroying them. I also had her take her favorite lipstick and write on her mirror these words, “I am a warrior. I will not back down from any challenge.”
All I can say is that she is on fire now. It’s important to see a target and aim for it. To develop your target go here.
What You Can Do Now
“I can only give you the tools to help you make your next decision.” – Tony Blauer
Overcoming fear is a personal dilemma that must be conquered personally. Any skill can be taught by masters of the craft, but it is solely up to the student to then take the lessons from the classroom and apply them to the field. Only then will the notes from the lecture manifest into reality. These tips that have been given, just like any others, are tips and guides that have helped people before you overcome their fears and utilize this natural human emotion to positively enhance their lives. They did it. Yes, you can too.