How to not let fear get the best of you

We have all had those moments of fear. We are considering making a large life change, and then immediately start thinking of the negative outcomes and ramifications to our actions. The voice in our heads tells us all the reasons why it would turn out terribly. We start getting so afraid and anxious that we eventually think “Nah, screw it. It isn’t worth it.”

Fear is actually a naturally protective instinct. Back in the caveman days it could protect us from getting hurt when we were going to do something stupid or were in a dangerous situation. However in today’s modern day world, fear can often only serve to hinder our ambitions and living the life we want.

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I will give you a few good examples, and maybe you can relate them to something going on in your life right now. The first is one that I have discussed in previous posts: my desire for a completely new life direction, and the fear that stalled it for years. It all started when I graduated college, and had a big idea to start a kitchen to home cupcake delivery service. This was back when cupcakes were getting to be trendy. I even bought business books on how to start a small business. Instead of pursuing it, though, my rational brain kicked in and my fear of failure and not making any money took over. I dropped my dreams faster than a hot cupcake tin and started applying to local businesses just so I could start working and bringing in some income.

Cut to me a few years later—which happened about a year ago—and I was still equally unhappy and unsatisfied. I never took any steps to pursue anything I truly desired in life, and my creative soul was being crushed behind a desk. Then I had an awakening. Or maybe an epiphany. Divine intervention, perhaps. Whatever you call it, my soul woke up. One day, while sitting in a meeting, my inner self voice literally said, “What am I doing?” I was so shaken that I knew I needed to make a change. I decided I was going to start a blog. I had started (and failed) with a blog before, but I knew in my heart this was the first step in making a change in my life. I was terrified that no one would read it, that it would be a failure and a waste of my time. The fear was real, and the more steps I took to starting a blog, the more real the fear became.

Even after this epiphany and working hard on my blog for over a year, I still couldn’t let go. I applied (and got) a job in public health to suit my degree, because that damn rational voice kept screaming about me about what a waste it was to not use my degree, and that I couldn’t just up and quit without a financial safety net.

For me, it took having a baby to ultimately reassess my priorities. It forced to me to look at my life and decide what was important. I still face my rational voice and my fears, although not daily, and they are nowhere near as loud anymore. You don’t have to have a baby to move forward with your life. There are several ways that I would cope with my fears and allow me to make progress—even if progress looks like baby steps!

1. Develop the outcome

Once of the scariest things about the unknown is, well, the unknown. When our ideas are developing in our heads, it is easy for fear to push its way in like an angry elephant and stir up so much anxiety that we stop developing our ideas and simply turn the other way. When I was planning my cupcake business, I should have developed the business plan and read my books. Instead, I let fear run rampant and abandoned the whole thing before it even started. Work on your ideas and plan until it becomes a tangible road map that you can follow with realistic steps so you can start walking your journey. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: write it down. Ideas become a lot more focused on paper, and we can start actually working through them instead of letting them swirl around in our brains. Fair warning though, sometimes when we develop our plan all the way through we find out some or all of it is unreasonable. That’s okay, use the tools you learned and keep going. No one ever gained anything from being perfect, they gained it from failed experiences.

2. Research, research, research.

To make an informed decision and to create a solid pathway, we need to be educated. Instead of blindly researching (which can be good), make sure to include some real life in there, too. Consult someone who has had the experience you are looking for. When we learn from people who have “been there, done that,” we can glean practical experiences and techniques that we may never have even thought of. Just be aware that you will never know it all, and you will always not know what you don’t know until it springs up in your face. So…

3. Don’t panic, roll with the punches.

We like to think we are totally in control of our lives. The reality is that God and the universe have a pathway created for us, and it is up to us to work hard and follow it the best we can. Ever hear that phrase “It will be what it will be”? “Que sera, sera”? It’s pretty true. My experience blogging has been very up and down and not at all what I expected it to be. In the last several months I have learned that things have a way of working out, and I need to trust in the process more (more about this concept to come, but a post for another day…). I have panicked and even had serious bouts of anxiety that were so extreme that my body started reacting to it. I knew that could not continue, so I found ways to deal instead. I am a work in progress, but am a lot better at rolling along with the waves and zen-ing out when these bumps in the road do happen.

4. Work through the fear.

You may be that kind of individual who is gripped by the fear of the fear and get paralyzed by it. Instead of trying to cut the head off of the fear-hydra (because we all know what happens to a hydra when that happens), try working through the fear. If I start a blog and want it to eventually be part of a business that becomes a career, my fear grip would be “I will never succeed and make no money and then I can’t pay bills and support my family.” That is quite a leap, wouldn’t you say? Work through the fear by breaking it down. If I start a blog and it fails, then what? No love lost. That’s it. At the current moment my blog isn’t my livelihood is it? No, I am doing it for funsies. So there is really no need to get so amped up. As it develops, and if I am fortunate that eventually I can build a brand around what I’ve created, I will overcome those fear grips at the time they arise. But right at this moment, the only thing that fear is doing is stopping me from even starting. It might not be great. But what if it is?

5. Tell yourself to stop it.

Seriously, I am not kidding. This tactic doesn’t work for all fears and for all people, but sometimes I really benefit from stopping my thought mid-sentence and just saying “Stop it.” By acknowledging an irrational fear and stopping it from spiraling out of control, I regain a grip on what I was thinking of in the first place and can pick up where I left off. “Oh noooooo, but what if –“ NOPE. STOP IT. Work through your idea/dream/calling/whatever it is, and develop the plan (see step 1). I can tell you first hand you really will not get anywhere with all of the “what ifs,” what you will get is a whole bunch of wasted dreams and years lost. Start on it now, so that in a few years you have either made progress, or have joyfully failed and picked yourself back up again and set off on a new path.

But who knows? Maybe I’m the crazy one–

STOP IT.

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